Liberian President Sirleaf at 10,000 Women Graduation
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - December 3, 2010 - Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected woman head of state in Africa, addressed a graduating class of women entrepreneurs during a 10,000 Women graduation in the nation's capital today. Twenty-six graduating women business owners were joined at the ceremony by US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield as well as graduates from the program's first class in the country and fifty scholars currently participating in 10,000 Women, plus hundreds more.
In her speech, President Sirleaf noted that the 10,000 Women initiative “has special characteristics which take into account Liberia’s unique situation” and noted how graduates are already improving their businesses and communities. “As the only comprehensive training program for growth-oriented small businesses in Liberia, the 10,000 Women project has an important role to play,” said President Sirleaf. The graduating women are business owners in diverse industries: agribusiness, education, construction, retail, food service, and beverage distribution, among others.
President Sirleaf acknowledged how a number of graduates are improving communities with their businesses. “Cecelia Pratt is rebuilding schools and clinics. Christine Seyboe Tour is training women to gain employment in the health and beauty industry. And Tina Kpan is training underserved women to sew and is also supporting an orphanage with her business profits.”
Liberia continues to be a country on the mend, as the West African nation endured more than a dozen years of civil war, which ended in 2003 and resulted in the death of an estimated 200,000 people. Economically, the country is among the poorest in the world with a nominal GDP per capita of only USD$239 annually. Many of the 10,000 Women graduates spent time in refugee camps and started their businesses after the war with few or no resources.
“Civil conflicts usually hit the innocent and most vulnerable the hardest, and ours was no different. Women bore the brunt of the suffering with a resilience that will long be remembered and respected,” President Sirleaf said. “By educating and empowering our women, we are ensuring that Liberia never returns to the dark days of conflict and chaos. That is why projects like 10,000 Women are so important.”
The 10,000 Women certificate program in Liberia is 150 hours of business and management training managed by CHF International, an international development organization that works in post-conflict, unstable and developing countries, in collaboration with Cuttington University and the Liberian Business Association. The program includes practical and highly interactive coursework, ongoing business advising by local experts, access to networking opportunities and continuing education in part provided by Women’s Campaign International. Nearly 300 women entrepreneurs will graduate from 10,000 Women in Liberia within five years.