Remarks at the Launch of WECREATE | Pakistan Center
Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs
Thank you for the invitation to be here today. As Mavra said, I’m Scott Nathan, Secretary Kerry’s Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs. I’m thrilled to be here from Washington to be part of the WECREATE Pakistan launch, and I’m honored to be able to join you as we celebrate this, the first Center in our global project. This is your achievement – you made this possible.
I want to begin by thanking Secretary Ather for being here today—your presence is a sign of the importance the Government of Pakistan places on women’s empowerment. I also want to thank Ambassador Olson and the Embassy Islamabad team for their hard work and support, and I want to acknowledge our many partners who are here today – StartUp Cup’s Sean Griffin, the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council, TiE Islamabad, Change Mechanics, and the Hashoo Foundation. And, of course, a special thanks to Tanya Hiple, our fantastic WECREATE Program Manager. Thank you and congratulations to all of you.
As we embark on this exciting new endeavor to encourage women’s economic empowerment, I’d like to take a step back and reflect on why opening this center is so important. There are so many converging studies – from the World Bank to the World Economic Forum (WEF), from think tanks, universities, and corporations – that show that investing in women is a high yield investment. Societies that empower women and girls are more likely to become peaceful, prosperous, and stable. No wonder the World Bank calls gender equality "smart economics."
Not only does research back this up, it is also basic common sense and just the right thing to do. As women join the economy, they invest their increased incomes in health care, food, and education for themselves and their families, multiplying the effect of their economic participation.
So, how do we help this happen? Entrepreneurship is a driver of economic growth and, more than ever, women are playing a vital role in creating and sustaining successful businesses. In Pakistan today, women are an ever-growing proportion of the workforce, around one quarter, but less than two percent of women in Pakistan run their own businesses. We know that one path to getting a job is to create that job yourself. Small and medium-sized enterprises run by women drive economic growth and create jobs. This is true in my country and it is true around the world. By starting a business, a woman helps herself, her family, her community, and the economy as a whole.
At WECREATE women will have access to the resources they need to start and grow their own companies. Women entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed when they develop support networks with local business mentors and role models who can provide advice and services. And let’s not forget, men and boys – they need to be a part of the process too, because without their support, women will continue to encounter barriers to their success. They have a stake in the success of their mothers, sisters, and daughters, and need to be part of this process.
Islamabad is the first WECREATE center to be launched, but it is only the first stop on what’s looking like a WECREATE worldwide network. WECREATE Centers are currently under development in Zambia, Kenya, Cambodia, and Vietnam, with other Centers expected in the very near future. Once several WECREATE centers are up and running, we plan to connect women entrepreneurs in different countries to collaborate, partner, build capacity, and help integrate their products into the global supply chain. We are confident that this model will spread and we are thrilled that some of our partners are already doing this work. The power of WECREATE is in connecting women around the world and integrating them into the global economy. Ultimately, it means accelerating growth and enhancing economic prosperity, health, stability, and the security of entire societies.
That’s why we are here today. That’s why what all of you have done is so important. Thank you to all the partners and supporters of WECREATE | Pakistan. But most of all, I want to celebrate you, the people of Pakistan, who will be the drivers of change and economic growth for your country. Congratulations and all the best as you make this Center a success.