CENPROMYPE Closing Remarks
Ambassador Jean Elizabeth Manes
Monday October 30, 4:30 PM, Crowne Plaza Hotel
Some years ago I had the opportunity to meet a group of entrepreneurs in Afghanistan. A group of truly extraordinary women. But it made me think that they were not really extraordinary women. They are simply women. Because we are like that. We are used to fighting for everything. To fight for our place. We are used to fighting for things we should not have to fight for.
So when I think of these women, I have to stop and think whether they are extraordinary. They are just women.
One of them founded a software company, another founded her own transport company and another was the captain of the women’s soccer team. And the women’s soccer team in Afghanistan could not play on the same court twice, because they received death threats. They had to constantly change the place where they practiced this sport they loved. And this can not be.
These exceptional women, but simply women, were changing their worlds, their realities, the expectations others had of them, because they had a clear vision of who they wanted to be as people, as women.
But even more importantly because they are women who are laying the foundations on which future generations will stand. I am here now because there were other women before me who fought for the rights that have allowed me to have a place in my government.
It is now our responsibility to support these women by creating favorable conditions so that they can develop and transform their communities. Because it’s entrepreneurs like them that will shape our economies.
In the United States, SMEs represent 99.7% of companies and 48% of employees in the United States work for these companies. And according to the World Bank it is estimated that in Honduras and Belize there are up to 50 SMEs per 1,000 inhabitants.
In Central America, and in the world, there is no sustainable economic growth model without strong support for this sector. There is no other sector that can create employment and respond to constant fluctuations in the market as SMEs do.
And what we have learned from our own experience in the United States is that when women have opportunities and are empowered to be entrepreneurs, they complement the market, because their approach to business and market needs are unique. But we also know that by giving an opportunity to a woman we are changing her family and her community.
In small countries, whether in territory such as El Salvador, or in a population such as Belize or other countries, the main bet for any business must be export. And the microenterprise is no exception. Because business expansion will be almost impossible if you do not think outside the domestic market.
40 years ago when I grew up in a small family business, export was a long-term plan. Thinking outside the domestic market was something that came after establishing itself locally.
But the world has changed.
We live in a globalized era, where technology allows us to connect in a way that was impossible to achieve 40 years ago. It was impossible to achieve 10 years ago. The international market is accessible from the start, and fully virtual stores with digital catalogs are becoming the norm and not the exception. Because the key is to find a niche in the global market, and attract those customers. And when you have this approach, the true needs of entrepreneurs become clear.
How can we make this product comply with international standards? How can we attract a global buyer? What is the niche market that we can satisfy?
And encourage strategic alliances that will allow meeting that objective.
I have had the opportunity to meet many entrepreneurs around the world. People who have a great ability to work materials. Talented and innovative people. Creative designers But rarely, these people agree. And it is even more unusual for them to be one and the same person.
Entrepreneurship does not have to imply the exclusion of business teams. And all these elements are added to the value chain of the product. The modern and global consumer sees beyond the product. They look for added values that align with their beliefs and ideals. Values such as sustainability, social responsibility, creativity and innovation.
And I hope that when you apply all the knowledge and experience you have gained from this conference, you will keep this in mind when you execute your projects. Because it is not about supporting only the ideas that the entrepreneurs already have. It’s about helping those ideas evolve so they can succeed in a global market.
Let’s ask ourselves then: what do we have to do, as governments, as organizations, for these women to transform their communities, their countries?
What do we have to do, so that they can be the leaders of the future but also of the present?
I am very happy to participate in this event. I have confidence that women can change the world. I have this confidence because as women we are accustomed to seek alliances, to negotiate. We learn from an early age, to negotiate in our house and as mothers we negotiate with our children. It is something that is inside of us, to negotiate and to create alliances. That is why I have confidence in you who are leading this important initiative for all women in the region.