Remarks at the Iftar Roundtable

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Fatimah Jinnah Women's University
Rawalpindi, Pakistan
August 1, 2013

The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.

AMBASSADOR OLSON: So Mr. Secretary, all of these ladies are alumnae of various programs (inaudible) had with the United States. And many of them have actually studied in the United States (inaudible) other programs. Shah went to Thunderbird.

MS. RUKH: Yes. I went to Thunderbird in 2011. Luckily I got a chance to be a part of that Project Artemis fellowship program for women entrepreneurs. The program was in collaboration with U.S. State Department and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women.


MS. RUKH: Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program.

SECRETARY KERRY: On really, Goldman Sachs.

MS. RUKH: Yeah. And it was held in Thunderbird for two weeks. And the program was really amazing, the design, because the two weeks of very intense, comprehensive business studies we have learned there.

SECRETARY KERRY: And what were you studying?

MS. RUKH: Business management, financial management, business plans --

SECRETARY KERRY: Good for you.

MS. RUKH: -- and then –

SECRETARY KERRY: How many students would go there?

MS. RUKH: From Pakistan? We went nine women.


MS. RUKH: Nine women.

SECRETARY KERRY: (Inaudible) from here or --

MS. RUKH: From Pakistan. That program was meant only for Pakistani women in (inaudible).


MS. RUKH: Before that they are doing that for Afghanistan and --

SECRETARY KERRY: This is 2011?

MS. RUKH: In 2011.

SECRETARY KERRY: And now you’re still here though? You’re still at the University?

MS. RUKH: Yes. I’m here still.

AMBASSADOR OLSON: You actually run your business here.

MS. RUKH: Yeah. I’m running my own small business with the firm name SmartTek. And I’m into the nontraditional business here, which is interior designing, renovation, and construction businesses, which is 99 percent is a male-dominated field here. And women being in this field are not very easy (inaudible). But somehow I have managed to get good opportunities here too. Started with a very small setup of just one employee, one telephone line, one fax machine. And (inaudible) office was my mobile, just like my (inaudible) going to clients, getting business.


MS. RUKH: Now we have offices in (inaudible), also in Lahore, side office in Karachi also.

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh my gosh. How many people working for you?

MS. RUKH: On a permanent basis, we have around 20 employees. It’s a small-medium enterprise. But on project base, we have obviously labor and architects and other supervisor leaders.

SECRETARY KERRY: Did you start it in your apartment or your car or where --

MS. RUKH: Yeah. In my car.


MS. RUKH: In fact, my office was my car (inaudible). (Laughter.)

PARTICIPANT: So she had mobile office. (Laughter.)

MS. RUKH: Yes. And I was keeping just one man in the – sharing one office, one desk, kept one man over there. Okay, if any call come just answer yes, (inaudible). (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: How quickly did you do this?

MS. RUKH: We started somewhere around 2007, 2008 with you can say ended up in the year hardly 3,000 U.S. dollar revenue. But by now we are working with the army, hospitals, and the educational institute, with the (inaudible) government hospital, designing for their designing and renovation and construction. And we are doing a project like 250,000 U.S. dollar.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s so exciting. That’s amazing.

MS. RUKH: Yes. That’s (inaudible). And the best thing is that our company is majorly owned by women, and all the key positions are held by the women – the management side, architect, the design consultant and the supervisor, they are all women.

SECRETARY KERRY: So you discriminate against men? (Laughter.)

MS. RUKH: I’m fighting against men. (Laughter.)


MS. RUKH: Despite of all the resistance from the family and the society and --

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s incredible. That’s really wonderful. It’s very exciting.

MS. RUKH: Yes.

SECRETARY KERRY: Very, very exciting. And I know it’s hard, too.

MS. RUKH: Yeah, it’s really hard. It’s really, because it --

SECRETARY KERRY: I want to meet the others just a minute. We’ll come back. Who else is starting a business? Anybody else?

PARTICIPANT: No, we are still --

SECRETARY KERRY: You are all studying, still studying?

MS. SAHAR: Yeah. I’m teaching – no, I’m teaching. I’m --

SECRETARY KERRY: You’re teaching? (Inaudible.)

MS. SAHAR: I lecture and (inaudible).

SECRETARY KERRY: So you’re finished with university?

MS. SAHAR: Yeah, I’m done.

SECRETARY KERRY: How long have you been teaching?

MS. SAHAR: For the last four years.


MS. SAHAR: Yeah.

SECRETARY KERRY: But you went here?

MS. SAHAR: Yeah, from the – I’m also alumnae from the (inaudible) University. And I went to U.S. for under the (inaudible) exchange program, the partnership between the South Asia Institute from the University of Texas at Austin, and (inaudible) university


MS. SAHAR: I was one of the pioneer group that went there.

SECRETARY KERRY: So you went to Texas?

MS. SAHAR: Yeah.

SECRETARY KERRY: Did they make you a Longhorn? (Laughter.)

MS. SAHAR: No, they haven’t done that.

SECRETARY KERRY: You didn’t have to come back (inaudible)? (Laughter.)

MS. SAHAR: Yeah. We have participated some – in some of the events, but not that.

SECRETARY KERRY: How about you?

MS. MOHEEN: Well, I’m a student of – final-year student of Fatima Jinnah University.

SECRETARY KERRY: How many years is it, four-year?

MS. MOHEEN: Yes. It’s my final year. And a B.S. in Environmental Science, and I am --


MS. MOHEEN: Sorry?

PARTICIPANT: Environmental science.

MS. MOHEEN: Environmental science, yes.

SECRETARY KERRY: Environmental sciences, excellent.

PARTICIPANT: Yes, I want to become an environmentalist.

SECRETARY KERRY: Good for you.

MS. MOHEEN: So I’m from the very small village of (inaudible), that is the most beautiful region of this country, I guess.

SECRETARY KERRY: Where is that?

MS. MOHEEN: It’s northern part of Pakistan.

PARTICIPANT: Up in the mountains.

MS. MOHEEN: Mountains.

SECRETARY KERRY: Are you all from here or --

MS. MOHEEN: (Inaudible.) Yes, Karakoram ranges. The second highest peak, K2, that lies in our region.

SECRETARY KERRY: K2, it’s right there.

MS. MOHEEN: Yes, exactly. The Silk Road, it’s going through in --


MS. MOHEEN: -- our region. Yes.

SECRETARY KERRY: Fantastic. I was up very, very close to there when we took assistance up after the earthquake.

MS. MOHEEN: Oh, okay.

SECRETARY KERRY: And we were flying up in helicopters and landing very close – a big river, very steep valley, I remember.


SECRETARY KERRY: It’s beautiful.

MS. MOHEEN: Because – yes, yes, it is.

PARTICIPANT: She is the first woman who is going to get a degree in her village.


MS. MOHEEN: Yeah, I am the first female, or first – I’m the eldest daughter in my family. So I’m the first female, like, getting a university, college education. I’m graduating from university, so I think it’s really the matter of proudness.

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s so exciting.

MS. MOHEEN: Yes, it is. So --

SECRETARY KERRY: How did you – did you just wake up one day and say, “I’m going to go to university,” or did your parents --

MS. MOHEEN: No, no, no.

SECRETARY KERRY: How was that?

MS. MOHEEN: Yes, let me explain. My father is a retired secondary school teacher. He was my great motivation, and he really wanted me to get a higher education at university. So he really tried his best. He supported me, he helped me, he encouraged me. Because of him, my parents are here in this state. And one of the most exciting parts (inaudible) global (inaudible) exchange program. So --


PARTICIPANT: Yes, exactly.

(Call to prayer.)

PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)

PARTICIPANT: It’s a call for prayer.


PARTICIPANT: Yeah. It’s when break fast.

SECRETARY KERRY: And you get to break it immediately?

PARTICIPANT: Yes. (Inaudible.)

PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY KERRY: And now you just dig in?

MS. MOHEEN: (Inaudible) thank you so much.

SECRETARY KERRY: So your father used to help you with the homework at home?


SECRETARY KERRY: And he motivated you and pushed you?


SECRETARY KERRY: How many kids were in your class up there?

MS. MOHEEN: In the village I have like 20 to 25.

SECRETARY KERRY: 20 to 25 kids?


SECRETARY KERRY: In the whole school?

MS. MOHEEN: Yes. Then after my 7th grade, I move to hostel because there was no high school.

SECRETARY KERRY: So that was the only way to continue to learn.

MS. MOHEEN: Yes. I shifted hostel and still now I’m living in hostel, like, far away from my home. So, yeah, I have --

SECRETARY KERRY: But it’s exciting, it’s worth it.

MS. MOHEEN: Yeah. And being a part of this institution, doing my studies, I got to learn about this Global UGrad exchange program. So I have been there --

SECRETARY KERRY: So where did you go?

MS. MOHEEN: Pennsylvania.

SECRETARY KERRY: Pennsylvania. My wife would be very happy. (Laughter.) Good for you. Where --

MS. MOHEEN: Yes. So it’s a really good place --

SECRETARY KERRY: -- in Pennsylvania?

MS. MOHEEN: Sorry?

SECRETARY KERRY: Where in Pennsylvania?

MS. MOHEEN: Huntington.


MS. MOHEEN: It’s just near State College.


MS. MOHEEN: Yeah, exactly. I have been there.

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s cool. Did you like it?

MS. MOHEEN: Yes. First I was kind of disappointed because it was so small town – (laughter) – but when I started living there I really enjoyed the time. So, yeah.

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s so great. And you were there for one year.

MS. MOHEEN: No. It’s just one semester.

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, one semester.

MS. MOHEEN: Spring 2012, yes.

SECRETARY KERRY: And what do you want to do with your environmentalism, your environmental studies or practice? What do you hope to do?

MS. MOHEEN: Well, I am doing my research project final, that is solid waste management, on my own area – Gilgit, Pakistan – because no such study has been done on that particular area.

SECRETARY KERRY: What are you going to study? What is it you’re looking for?

MS. MOHEEN: I am looking for like different physiochemical parameters like (inaudible) because of the hazardous waste water’s effect on soil, on vegetation, on, like, public health and all these aspects I’m looking for.

SECRETARY KERRY: So you’ll do a soil analysis and --

MS. MOHEEN: Yes, soil analysis, vegetation analysis --

SECRETARY KERRY: Great. Water --

MS. MOHEEN: And I’m also conducting survey, public survey, and I’m asking them if they are satisfied with the current situation of solid waste in the city or not. And – yes.

SECRETARY KERRY: I love it. I love what you’re doing.

MS. MOHEEN: Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m a big environmentalist, so I really like that.

PARTICIPANT: We have a very vibrant environmental science department here.

SECRETARY KERRY: You do. That’s exciting.

MS. MOHEEN: Yes. Really good department.

SECRETARY KERRY: Tell me about yourself. What do you --

MS. NABILZADA: I am studying at Fatima Jinnah University, and I am in the Bachelors of Education department.


MS. NABILZADA: And I’m halfway done through it. And this program is introduced by USAID and it’s a wonderful program. How did I end up coming to this program is when I was done with my high school, that was the time that I had to decide which school I had to choose for my --

SECRETARY KERRY: Where are you from? Where did you go to school?

MS. NABILZADA: From Islamabad.

SECRETARY KERRY: Right here, Islamabad.

MS. NABILZADA: Yes, Islamabad. And that’s --

SECRETARY KERRY: So you had a big high school.

MS. NABILZADA: Yes. (Laughter.) Then I was involved within the community-building activities, and that is when I realized that I want to bring change for my community, I want to do something. And I used to always think that our education system is not perfect and we need to improve it. So I thought I can – by becoming a teacher, I might be able to make some change in it. So then I heard about this program for my father, and then I enrolled in it. And --

SECRETARY KERRY: Good for you.

MS. NABILZADA: -- I’m a scholarship holder. And one thing that is --

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s so great.

MS. NABILZADA: -- very unique about this program is that you don’t have to wait for four years to get done with your degree and then go to your – to the actual classrooms and teach. Like, only after the second or third semester, we go to any one of the government schools and we teach for ten days. So that’s like (inaudible) goes hand in hand. And then we come back, reflect on the challenges we faced, and what other teaching methods we can use in future.

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s really smart. We have some colleges, certainly in Boston particularly, where you do what’s called a co-op, where you go out and you do a job similar to what you want to do, and then you come back and you work at it that way, which is great.

MS. NABILZADA: That’s very effective.

SECRETARY KERRY: It’s very effective, yeah. But that’s very exciting. And you went to school in the States?

MS. NABILZADA: No. I was here.

SECRETARY KERRY: You were here all the time.



PARTICIPANT: It’s an unusual program that we have here. We actually fund scholarships within Pakistan through USAID.

SECRETARY KERRY: Okay. All right.

PARTICIPANT: Yes. I wanted to show you when we were coming down that the USAID has funded an entire smart classroom for us and a built-in grant for the disabled students (inaudible).

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s great. Good.

PARTICIPANT: And it’s a very popular program. It has revitalized the education department, I think, in this university, and 16 universities are collaborating with --

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s so great. Yeah.

PARTICPIANT: So it has really put in a new spirit into it because people are more keen to come into education and it’s not a (inaudible) choice anymore, it’s a --

SECRETARY KERRY: Where do you hope to teach? I mean, what level do you want to teach?

MS. NABILZADA: Younger level. (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Younger level . . .

SECRETARY KERRY: I mean, what level do you want to teach?

PARTICIPANT: Younger level.

SECRETARY KERRY: Younger level, okay.

PARTICIPANT: Very little.

PARTICIPANT: Exactly. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Very good. Good for you. Boy, that takes patience.

PARTICIPANT: It does. (Laughter.)


PARTICIPANT: I really enjoy working, yes.

SECRETARY KERRY: And do you live here at the school or do you go home?

PARTICIPANT: No, I live in Islamabad. I drive.

SECRETARY KERRY: So you get to go home.


SECRETARY KERRY: You drive back and forth every day.


SECRETARY KERRY: So you’re part of the traffic jam?

PARTICIPANT: Yes. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: And you’re – tell me about yourself.

MS. YUSUF: I’m Maha Yusuf and I’m a chemical engineering major at National University of Science and Technology. I’m a final year student of chemical engineering. Last semester I received this one-semester exchange scholarship to the University of Mississippi in U.S.


MS. YUSUF: Yeah, I went to Mississippi. Mississippi is a little different from other states of the U.S. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: No. (Laughter.) How’d you find that out? I want to know what you found was different.

MS. YUSUF: It’s a little different, but I was overwhelmed with southern hospitality.

SECRETARY KERRY: But how did you know it was different? Did you go to the other states?

MS. YUSUF: Yeah, in my Thanksgiving break I got –

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, you traveled around.

MS. YUSUF: -- as far as New York and Boston.

SECRETARY KERRY: It’s definitely different from those. (Laughter.)

MS. YUSUF: It’s different but it’s --

SECRETARY KERRY: But it’s great, isn’t it? It’s fun.

MS. YUSUF: Yeah, it’s fun. It was really nice.

SECRETARY KERRY: Where were you in Mississippi?

MS. YUSUF: The University of Mississippi.

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, that’s great. That’s fabulous. Yeah, Ole Miss. That’s a great place.

MS. YUSUF: Yeah. It’s good, it’s – yeah.


MS. YUSUF: So I did research over there for the dean of veterinary on nanotechnology. I was making an advanced carbon resolvent for CO2 capture. I hope you understand what that means – (laughter) – as far as CO2 capture.

SECRETARY KERRY: I know all about carbon capture.

MS. YUSUF: Yeah, that was – I was – when I came back, I did effort so that my school would sign an agreement or MOU between the two universities, so I continued that as my final year project.


MS. YUSUF: Yeah, between those two schools.

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s so incredible. Good for you.

MS. YUSUF: Yeah. It was out of my own personal efforts that I made the --

SECRETARY KERRY: It’s just amazing.

MS. YUSUF: And I also joined Engineers without Borders at Ole Miss, and then came back and I’m initiating a similar chapter in Pakistan that’s even getting international attention.

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah. That’s huge. That’s great. Now, how about your English? Did your English improve significantly over there, or did you speak as well before you went?

MS. YUSUF: I guess it improved a lot over there.

SECRETARY KERRY: It improved a lot over there.

MS. YUSUF: Yeah. So right now I’m in my final semester and I got a job. I got a job in (inaudible). I’m one of the really few female drilling engineers (inaudible) has hired for Latin America’s new market.


MS. YUSUF: So yeah, they have placed me in Colombia.

SECRETARY KERRY: So you’re going to Colombia?

MS. YUSUF: Yeah, and I have to go for offshore drilling operations or maybe on land rig. I know it’s kind of tough, but it’s weird that I like it.

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s so cool.

MS. YUSUF: Yeah.

SECRETARY KERRY: How’s your Spanish?

MS. YUSUF: Well, I suck in languages. (Laughter.) My language doesn’t work very well.

SECRETARY KERRY: You learned the word “I suck” in languages. (Laughter.) Anyway, good for you. You’re going to do brilliantly. That’s really fantastic, yeah.

And your business is now how big a business?

MS. RUKH: It’s (inaudible) medium enterprises, because we don’t have a large number of people on a permanent basis in that organization. It’s --

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah. How hard is it to start a corporation here, just to start up a business? Is there a lot of paperwork? Is it complicated?

MS. RUKH: Yeah, for a woman it’s really difficult because they have entirely different challenges to face in comparison with a man, because --

SECRETARY KERRY: Is that right? Really, there’s a difference?

MS. RUKH: Yes, there is a difference. I mean, if you go by legalities on the paper side, they are same for a man and woman. But for a woman to go about those to access – especially for the access of financing from the banks, it’s really difficult for us to get those because we cannot meet those requirement, the legal requirement, keeping some assets or some other collateral. We cannot meet those requirement --


MS. RUKH: -- because normally in our culture there are not – assets are not in the woman’s name.


MS. RUKH: So we cannot have those kind of – and then the interest rates are so high and, I mean, these are the challenges.

SECRETARY KERRY: So they’re hurdles, they’re difficulties.

MS. RUKH: Very difficult to start.

SECRETARY KERRY: Now, how do you work through those hurdles? What would you do? Would somebody help you, or did you just plug away?

MS. RUKH: I just – I started with my own personal resources, with my friends and a few other groupings. And we never got any funding from any of the sources, but I mean, after attending this Thunderbird program, the (inaudible) woman told me this, and she helped me a lot with getting access to the finances and having a lot to --

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, that’s great. And do you now – do you get business through word of mouth or do you advertise?

MS. RUKH: No, we – until now, we are doing with the word of mouth, and then last year this – we went to Dhaka, to this South Asian Women’s Symposium weekend at there. And that really gave us an opportunity to meet other businesswomen in this region to share our businesses and ideas, and their products they’re bringing here and then produces here.

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s great. Pretty exciting.

PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Beg your pardon?

QUESTION: If you’d like to taste the (inaudible).

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, sure, I never refuse food. (Laughter.) It’s pretty good. All right, I’m going to have another one of those dates, actually. Thank you very much. Would you like one?

PARTICIPANT: Thank you very much. This is very traditional food for opening (inaudible).

SECRETARY KERRY: Now why is that? Tell me.

PARTICIPANT: Because it is rich and energy-giving, I think.

SECRETARY KERRY: Ah ha. A lot of protein.

PARTICIPANT: Yeah. It’s not spicy.

PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Which is spicy? And this is what?

PARTICIPANT: These are called pakoras --


SECRETARY KERRY: Potatoes with onions?

PARTICIPANT: Onions. Yeah. And some vinegar --

SECRETARY KERRY: And that’s the same?

PARTICIPANT: Yeah. That’s the same. (Inaudible) samosas. These are stuffed ribs, potato with chicken and chili beans.

SECRETARY KERRY: Great. And that looks sweet. Is that sweet?


SECRETARY KERRY: That’s what I thought.

PARTICIPANT: Can I have a try, Mr. Secretary?

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah sure. I’m going to have a little of each here. Thank you. That’s good. (Inaudible.)


SECRETARY KERRY: So, well, Pakistan is the largest Fulbright Program of the United States. We have more Pakistani students. We have about 10,000 Pakistani students that come over to the United States. It’s amazing. Huge number. Really huge number. And didn’t you find that, when you – those of you who went – did you find --

PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY KERRY: It’s a very big program.

PARTICIPANT: I’ve been to South Asia and (inaudible) and found that many individuals understand – they speak (inaudible). I think there are almost 500 Pakistani students (inaudible).

SECRETARY KERRY: So do you think – is Pakistan changing in terms of – let me ask the question this way: What’s the biggest challenge that Pakistan faces in your judgments?

PARTICIPANT: In my opinion?


PARTICIPANT: Education. Yeah.



SECRETARY KERRY: Because there are so many young people?

MS. YUSUF: Yeah. There are so many young girls out of school. I come from very small town (inaudible) but it’s a very small town. So there are so many girls out of school, so it’s – I guess that’s the biggest challenge I find (inaudible) facing (inaudible) increase and improve education. (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY KERRY: So what made the difference for you, do you think? How did you wind up progressing to be a chemical engineer?

MS. YUSUF: Chemical engineering is – I mean, it’s a different field, it’s a difficult field especially for women in Pakistan. Most of the girls, even in the U.S., there were very less classmates of mine chemical engineering. (Inaudible) you have to work on (inaudible) --

PARTICIPANT: But why did you decide to take this? Why did you choose this field?

SECRETARY KERRY: How did you get into it? Why --

MS. YUSUF: Since my high school I have been very attracted to aircrafts and aerospace. I wanted to be an aerospace engineer. I was very good mathematics and I switched (inaudible) chemistry (inaudible). I wanted to be either aerospace engineer or chemical engineer, but my father wanted me to be a doctor. Because you know it’s normally tradition that girls who do good in school here, your parents want them to be doctors, because you don’t have to work in pants, you don’t have to work in (inaudible) and (inaudible) stuff like that. So it was really hard to convince him that I want to be an engineer because that’s my passion. I guess now --

SECRETARY KERRY: But you did convince him.

MS. YUSUF: Yeah, I did convince him. So he’s proud of me now.

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s so cool. That’s really very exciting. But was he the influence behind you? Were both your parents pushing you in school?

MS. YUSUF: Yeah, both my parents. I mean, they gave me freedom to choose whatever I want to do and everything, so I chose this. Your parents are the biggest motivation, I guess.

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah. Is that true of everyone?

MS. MOHEEN: So I’m also like from a very small village, so I think these exchange programs have really changing our minds and our contribution towards our community.


MS. MOHEEN: Like, I am doing – I was, like, medical student. My parents wanted me to become a doctor. So these are kind of traditional degrees – engineering and doctor, and you have poor options (inaudible) but we don’t know about other fields. So I – unlucky I couldn’t get into that medicine, and I came here (inaudible) and get into this environmental sciences. And I’m so proud and I’m so satisfied this time that I was in the right field.

Whenever now I go to my village and I am with some other students, I made a student union. So we give a mentor to other girls and other students, younger students, that there are many other fields, there are many other opportunities – scholarships – so they can go to like United States when they are part of a university in Pakistan. Like even I am getting scholarship from (inaudible) university, an EPA scholarship, because I think if I couldn’t get this scholarship, I couldn’t study later on. So, yeah, these kind of exchange programs are really helping students in Pakistan, I guess.

PARTICIPANT: Also, I guess they kind of give us an opportunity to portray a different image of our country over there.

PARTICIPANT: Yeah, exactly.

PARTICIPANT: So it’s – when you go over there and you live with Americans and meet the common people, so you get – also it’s for us – you get a different, I mean, impression. I mean, it’s not what Hollywood shows of us. (Laughter.)


PARTICIPANT: Yeah, it’s --

PARTICIPANT: And what media shows us, yeah. So it’s changed, yeah.

PARTICIPANT: It’s handled different, and especially for them as well.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I tell you, I’m very, very impressed. And I think it’s interesting, because each of you has had this special input from your parents, which makes a lot of difference. A lot of kids don’t – aren’t lucky enough to get that, and so there’s a real divide early on. But the other thing is you’ve also pushed against a sort of resistance, because you’ve just been determined to go and do this, which is very fitting with the image of Muhammad Ali Jinnah --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- and Fatimah Jinnah.


SECRETARY KERRY: So this is well named, isn’t it?


PARTICIPANT: Yeah. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: But it’s really appropriate, and I – we’re excited about it because one of the things the United States strives to do, and President Obama is very, very passionate about, is increasing educational opportunity. And he has a special initiative to try to do that in Latin America, a special initiative to try to do it more in South Asia, Southeast Asia and so forth, South Central Asia. It’s so important, because ultimately, you’ll make the difference --

PARTICIPANT: Yes, exactly.

SECRETARY KERRY: -- in terms of making smart decisions about governing, about leaders, about choices, all these things. It’s so important. And you will affect the next generation and you, right?

PARTICIPANT: (Laughter.) Absolutely. We are doing --

SECRETARY KERRY: Now, you’re teaching older people?

MS. NABILZADA: Yeah, I’m teaching the older ones, but one thing that these women will learn is how to question. After coming to these classes and after graduating from this university, it means they have the ability to question.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, you learn how to think.

MS. NABILZADA: Yeah. You learn how to think, or at least ask about something.

PARTICIPANT: Yes, exactly.

SECRETARY KERRY: Ask questions.

PARTICIPANT: At Fatimah University, we’ll (inaudible).

MS. NABILZADA: And we stand for (inaudible).

SECRETARY KERRY: Asking the right questions is half the battle.

MS. NABILZADA: Yes. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: No, I’m serious. I didn’t learn how to ask the right questions till I went to law school – (laughter) – I’m ashamed to say. (Laughter.) But it really makes all the difference. It sharpens your view. And you’ll never see any issue the same way again, right?


SECRETARY KERRY: It’s always different. Anyway, I unfortunately have to excuse myself because I have to make an important call back to Washington. And that’s part of what I have to do, telephone calls. (Laughter.) Any question you want to ask me before I run away?

PARTICIPANT: Tell us about your daughters. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Tell you about what?

PARTICIPANT: About your daughters.

SECRETARY KERRY: My daughters.

PARTICIPANT: Yes. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, thank you. I’m very excited about my daughters. I have two daughters, and one is a filmmaker.

PARTICIPANT: Oh, that’s cool.

SECRETARY KERRY: And she’s living in New York and she’s working on always finding the film property or the next film, and it’s a very hard business.


SECRETARY KERRY: A very hard business. You’re always looking for the money to support the film and make things work, and it’s – nothing easy about it, but she really works hard. And she went to a director’s school in California, to the American Film Institute, and learned directing and producing and all of that. So she loves film.

And my other daughter is the mother of my first grandchild.

PARTICIPANT: Oh, wow. That’s great. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Very important.

PARTICIPANT: Very important, it’s very important. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: But also, she is – she’s a doctor. She’s an intensive care, critical care doctor, a fellow in critical care.

PARTICIPANT: Must be hard.

SECRETARY KERRY: And she has two jobs in one. She works – she does the Harvard Mass General Hospital Global Health Program.


SECRETARY KERRY: So she’s involved in bringing global health capacity mostly now to Rwanda, Uganda, to Africa, Bangladesh, a few places, and they’re very involved in – they’ve started a new Peace Corps program which brings doctors to build health capacity – not just to take care of people, but to leave a sustainable healthcare system behind them when they leave. It’s an interesting idea.

PARTICIPANT: It sounds like it.

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah. So they’re busy. You all remind me, each of you – (laughter) – you want to get things done.


SECRETARY KERRY: Anyway, so thank you for letting me brag about my daughters. (Laughter.) I appreciate it. I am really grateful to you. This is very special and really nice for me to --

PARTICIPANT: Thank you so much for your visit to us.


SECRETARY KERRY: -- very, very nice for me to share the beginning of Iftar and break fast, and I’ve left you a lot of food. (Laughter.) Are you going to sit here and eat for a while? (Laughter.)



PARTICIPANT: Yes, we are.

PARTICIPANT: Not for a while, for an hour. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: But I wish you – every one of you doesn’t need a lot of luck because you’re all amazing, but I wish you luck, and come – if you ever come to Washington, come say hello, okay? (Laughter.) And --

PARTICIPANT: If security allows us. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, you can do the interior decorating and somebody --

PARTICIPANT: Yeah, sure. Well, first time when I went to State Department, when I entered, I said, “Oh, lots of work needs to be done here.” (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR OLSON: You got that right. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Okay. Okay. I’m on it. I got it. Thank you.

PARTICIPANT: I thank you for the opportunity.

SECRETARY KERRY: All right. Thank you very, very much. Thank you. Thank you.

PRN: 2013/T11-09