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Remarks by the Vice President in a Roundtable Discussion with Women Entrepreneurs in Accra, Ghana

March 29, 2023

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, greetings, everyone. It is my immense pleasure to be with these extraordinary leaders and to engage in the conversation that we will have this afternoon.

This is an esteemed group of entrepreneurs who happen to be women and happen to be doing extraordinary work that really is a model for the potential of all people, but in particular for our girls and women.

And so, I'm very honored to be with each of you today. And I thank you for all that you do and for taking this time.

This group of leaders, their -- their work ranges from healthcare, to agriculture, to retail, to the culinary arts.

And, as many of you know, I have spent a majority of my career fighting for the health, the safety, and the wellbeing of women and girls.

As Vice President of the United States, that work has extended abroad. In fact, in almost every trip that I have taken -- international trip -- from Guatemala, to South Korea, to here in Ghana, I have convened women leaders so I could hear from them and hear their stories in a way that we can then reflect on the role that we have as the United States to uplift those stories and to collaborate and partner as -- as much as we can and also to talk about the status of women in our world.

Because I do believe that a real measure of the condition of our globe, much less of each of our respective countries -- a real measure of the status of our wellbeing is going to be reflected by the status and the wellbeing of women.

And so, for all of these reasons, these conversations are very important. Because the wellbeing of women will be a reflection of the wellbeing of all of society.

As I have said -- and actually spoke yesterday in the speech that I gave -- I do strongly believe women must be able to fully participate in economic, political, and social life. And they must be able to participate equally, including in leadership roles.

Our belief is that the empowerment of women is rooted in the concept of freedom -- in the concept of freedom, a concept that is true to this country and to the United States.

And when I talk about freedom in the context of our conversation today, it is not only the freedom from harm or violence or want, it is the freedom to create one's own future unobstructed, unimpaired.

And I know there are many factors that will impact a woman's ability to survive and thrive. And one of those factors in particular that is the main subject of our discussion is women's economic empowerment.

When we lift up the economic status of women, we lift up the economic status of families, of communities -- and all of society benefits.

And I have seen firsthand an extension of those benefits that relates to the safety of women when they have economic power -- their ability to choose the environment in which they live and to leave an environment that may be harmful to them.

I have seen how economic empowerment of women has a direct impact on their health and, by extension, the health of their family and their community.

The economic empowerment of women relates directly to the ability of that person to engage in innovation in a way that makes real the aspirations, the vision, and the dream that she naturally has.

And of course, there's a direct correlation between policies that are directed at the economic empowerment of women and the general prosperity of societies.

And this is especially true when we think about the digital economy. As I said yesterday, digital services are essential to 21st-century economies, and digital inclusion drives growth for all people. Yet, there is a gender divide in the world.

So, today, to help address this, I am pleased to announce here with these leaders that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, together with our administration, will establish the Women in the Digital Economy Fund, which is a $60 million global fund, which, among other things, will address access, affordability, digital literacy, and gender inequality.

In addition, the Gates Founda- -- Foundation is investing an additional $40 million to support these goals.

Beyond this commitment, I am also pleased to announce a series of other significant private sector commitments alongside U.S. government efforts.

In total, these investments represent more than $1 billion that is being dedicated to advance women's economic participation across the African continent.

These investments spanned from sources that are in the technology sector, financial services sector, and healthcare industries, and will help to do predominantly three things: help digitize women-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs; provide access to capital, healthcare, and education; and combat gender-based violence.

Now, I want to be clear about this approach. There is a subtle but profound difference between an effort to increase women's inclusion and the correlated effort that must be intentional to increase women's leadership.

The focus here is on both inclusion and leadership, understanding that women must have the opportunity and the access to all that is necessary to achieve their goals, their desire, their potential to also lead.

So the investments that I have outlined, we believe, will help build a future where women are not just treated equally but are able to thrive, where women have the opportunity to lead, and a future, simply put, where there will be no barriers for the ability of women to participate in the economy, where they can enjoy freedom from violence and equal access to healthcare and education, and where they can shatter every glass ceiling.

And what we know about that is to shatter a glass ceiling is not without effort and sometimes some pain. Am- --

PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right. Amen to this, right? (Laughter.)

But, oh, isn't it worth it? And none of us have achieved the status and the place that we are at now without a lot of people believing in the potential and supporting that. And that, as it all remains, is the essence and the spirit behind our approach to invest in the natural potential that exists.

So I look forward to talking today with these leaders, and this discussion is only the beginning.

So, with that, I'm going to thank Ambassador Palmer, as well. I have asked her and she has agreed that, going forward, she will, through the United States Embassy here, continue this conversation by establishing what we have named the Ambassador's Advisory Council for Women Entrepreneurs. That deserves applause. (Applause.)

So, with that, we are going to thank the press for their participation. And I will, though, mention in front of the press that the ambassador intends, with this advisory council, to -- to create regular convenings of women entrepreneurs and those who support women entrepreneurs, and to do that work throughout this country in a way that is designed to support, uplift, and help.

So, with that, thank you all. And I thank the press.

Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President in a Roundtable Discussion with Women Entrepreneurs in Accra, Ghana Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/360303

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