Remarks by Ambassador Lisa Peterson: Black Girls Global Exchange – Happy Valley Hotel

Sanibonani and welcome!

It is an incredible feeling to share the stage with so many smart, young women who are changing the world. This type of intercultural exchange – between the U.S., Swaziland, and South Africa – really underscores one of our main priorities for the U.S. Embassy in Swaziland. As diplomats, we are always seeking to build relationships in the countries where we serve – and learning about the cultures and people that comprise these diverse nations is an important first step.

So, I want to commend Dawnita Brown, Regina Salliey, and their talented group of friends, mentors, and leaders that dreamt up this life-changing experience for these girls. And I also want to thank Glenda Green, our Peace Corps Country Director, for fully supporting the Black Girls Global Exchange. They all deserve a round of applause for making this happen.

When we celebrate Women’s History Month, there are so many incredible examples to choose from. Centuries’ worth of fearless women precede us all.

In the United States, we often think of Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Maya Angelou – pioneers who followed their moral compasses to blaze a trail for women around the world.

Across Africa, there is no shortage of female icons to admire: There’s Miriam Makeba, who fought apartheid and brought South African music to the world. Wangari Maathai was a human rights and environmental champion from Kenya who became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, also a Nobel Prize winner, was Africa’s first woman president.

In Swaziland, there are women like Constance Simelane, who was the first woman to become Deputy Prime Minister.  Judge Qinisile Mabuza was the first woman appointed as a judge in Swaziland and she has an international reputation that extends well beyond this country’s borders.  Medical researcher Lydia Makhubu was the first Swazi woman to obtain her PhD.  And in 2012, Ellinah Wamukoya became the first female Anglican bishop in Africa.

You may look at these women and think they possessed more extraordinary talents, intellect, and resources than you do. But the truth is – most of them didn’t. They simply used their heads and their hearts, and they worked incredibly hard, to make a difference in the world.  The same can be true for you. Whether your heart is calling you to the classroom, the courtroom, or the boardroom, it is your responsibility to follow it. That is where the world needs you. You must start where you are and keep growing.

I wish you all the best of luck on your journey.