Remarks by Ambassador Lisa Peterson Closing Ceremony – GBV Girls’ Coding Workshop

Good Morning,

I want to congratulate you all on completing your first coding workshop!  I can tell that Shiselweni is going to be a leader in building Swaziland’s next generation of coders and software developers.  If you follow the news, you saw that last week in Durban, hundreds of world leaders, innovators, and development experts attended the World Economic Forum on Africa. This year’s agenda talked about economic equality, youth unemployment, food safety, and technological solutions to the continent’s challenges. At the Forum, there were several African women who are building and running their tech businesses. Their success started with identifying a problem in their communities, believing that they could help solve it, and acting to turn that belief into reality. So I want to highlight a few of their stories for you, just in case you doubt whether a young Swazi girl from Shiselweni can do the same.

Angel Adelaja, from Nigeria, launched Fresh Direct Nigeria in 2014 to provide fresh fruit, vegetables, and meats to urban communities without access to farm land. She uses a method of growing plants without soil, also known as hydroponics, coupled with old shipping containers to create stackable container farms. These farms use less water than traditional farming and produce a 15-times higher yield. Her business is environmentally-friendly, cost effective, and sustainable thanks to technology.

In South Africa, Aisha Pando started a domestic cleaning service in 2014 that matches workers with the right customers using high-tech algorithms, which I’m sure you learned about this week. The company has created employment opportunities for more than 3,000 domestic workers in South Africa and has boosted the status of those working in this important industry.

Charity Wanjiku is saving Ugandan schools a lot of money by creating more cost-efficient solar panels. Her company recently installed the panels at a local school, which is already seeing great benefits. The power bill was reduced by 30%, ensuring that students’ lessons on IT skills continue without delay. As an added benefit, the solar panels also capture fresh rainwater for the school’s vegetable garden.

These women are no different from you. Their ideas have become reality because they prioritized education and learned new and innovative skills. For this week’s coding workshop, or hack-a-thon as it is called in the tech world, you learned about the disturbing trends and impact of gender-based violence here in Swaziland. This is a deadly problem – and one that will likely be up to your generation to solve. By agreeing to participate in this coding workshop, you are on your way to creating the life you want. Your willingness to expand your mind and learn the language of coding can have a profound impact on you, your families, your country, and the world.

You have worked in teams on your projects. This builds important leadership and cooperation skills. You have practiced public speaking. To stand before your peers and teachers is daunting, but perfecting your ability to deliver a speech and persuade others will serve you well in every aspect of life. You’ve analyzed data and worked on mobile application design – these skills are in high demand for employers today.

The lesson in all of this is to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. If you have the chance to build your skillset, as you have this week, seize it. Competition for jobs is not going to get easier; therefore, the more you distinguish yourself from others, the better your chances are to succeed. Youth have incredible, untapped power and the numbers are only growing. In Africa, 70 percent of the population is under 30 years old. Half of these youth are unemployed. So, how are you going to do things differently?  What skills do you need now to ensure a brighter future for yourself?

I want to leave you with a quote from American author and motivational coach, David Schwartz, who wrote the book “The Magic of Thinking Big” more than 30 years ago. He said that, “successful people are just ordinary folks who have developed belief in themselves and what they do.” It is that simple.  All of us here today believe in you and we are counting on you. My sincere hope is that you will continue to believe in your ability to change the world.

Thank you.