Empowering women around the world and ensuring every girl lives up to their God-given potential; and embracing new connection technologies and employing the tools of 21st Century Statecraft. These are two issues that Secretary Clinton believes deeply in and that are inextricably linked in today's society.
Last week, I had the honor and privilege to help lead a delegation of 12 women from the private sector, academia, civil society and government, that compromised the first women's tech delegation. This trip was a chance to learn about the technology needs of West Africa. In many ways, it was more than that: it was a chance to learn from some of the brightest and best innovative women in this time, an opportunity to visit amazing cultures and see the developments of Liberia and Sierra Leone after years of painful civil wars. And being able to visit with women and girls throughout each country was a chance for me to live out one of my own dreams of making an impact on women and girls in the world.
We started in Liberia then traveled to Sierra Leone with a few simple goals: examine how technology is currently shaping and influencing the lives of women and girls; look at how technology could be used to help improve the lives of women and girls; and consider how we realize those improvements.
In Liberia, we had the distinct honor to meet President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf -- the first woman elected head of state in Africa. While we discussed the goals of the delegation, she exclaimed, "We do google!" Our visit was inspiring and eye-opening. We discussed real challenges, such as the lack of access to the internet and the lack of basic infrastructure. For example, there is no electrical grid to keep the country powered. President Sirleaf told us Liberia is meeting these challenges head on and shared with us some of the growth that is happening. An undersea cable is expected to be available in Liberia next year, and we hope to be a source of information and provide recommendations as they examine the regulatory framework that must be implemented and how we can help promote open access to all.
We were awed and speechless, as we listened to the Mayor of Monrovia's dedication and perseverance to help the city clean up. She garnered a laugh from the delegation as she proclaimed, "there is money in dirt." One of her signature issues is working to clean up Monrovia, and it is evident when you drive down the streets. Together, we hope to work with the Mayor of Monrovia on a variety of ideas to help provide digital training and capacity building for some of the unemployed young women in Liberia.
The trip was whirlwind. It would be nearly impossible to do justice to each meeting we had, each site we visited, and each individual conversations that occurred. But one event in Freetown, Sierra Leone, captures the spirit of the delegation and its message of empowerment. We met with women entrepreneurs who, to our surprise, did not yet know one another. By the end of lunch, we pledged to help them build a business incubation center to help expand access to economic opportunity. More importantly, the discussion about the role women can play in invigorating a society and boosting the community inspired these women to join together as a group. As we left that afternoon, I watched as they circulated a piece of paper so everyone could write down their phone number and together they could start their own business women's association and network. At an all girls high school in Sierra Leone, where girls are daring to dream big and be anything they want to be, the delegation members promised one another that we would work together to help ensure they can keep their small, yet vital computer lab alive.
We made commitments as a delegation, but we also each made personal commitments. The people we met inspired each of us to act. The tech delegation was what I had dreamed it to be. It brought together the Secretary's commitment to empower women and girls with the tools of 21st Century Statecraft.
The delegation as a group joined together and penned a joint piece, I hope you will take a moment to read as the group reflects on the week and our commitments to Liberia and Sierra Leone's women and girls here on The Daily Beast.