The first day of the George W. Bush Institute’s African First Ladies Summit, “Investing in Women: Strengthening Africa,” featured a conversation with First Lady Michelle Obama and Mrs. Laura Bush moderated by Cokie Roberts, as well as panel discussions that highlighted empowering women entrepreneurs through technology and improving agricultural outcomes for female farmers. The day also included announcements and commitments from several participants.
With support from ExxonMobil, the two-day Summit brings together Heads of State, current and former First Ladies, government officials, academics and representatives from non-profit and private sector organizations around the world to focus on effective investments in women that lead to greater stability and prosperity in countries.
Mrs. Bush delivered opening remarks, available here.
In her remarks, she noted:
“Each First Lady in this room has a unique platform and a podium to speak to the needs and challenges of the people in her country. As Lady Bird Johnson famously said, "A first lady is elected by only one person." Lady Bird Johnson knew that she had a podium and she chose to use it. I know that the First Ladies in this room are using their podiums. You are advocates and agents of change. And none of you needs to do it alone.That is why we are launching a First Ladies Initiative at the Bush Institute. We want to support First Ladies around the world by convening them annually to highlight the significant role they play in addressing pressing issues in their countries. We will provide opportunities for First Ladies to foster and expand effective public-private partnerships.With us, in this room are representatives from foundations, corporations, and non-governmental organizations. They form the backbone of public-private partnerships, the alliances that have been so successful in combatting HIV-AIDS, malaria, and now women’s cancers.A key goal of this summit is to help foster new and expanded public-private partnerships. Over the next two days, we will have opportunities to learn what makes a successful public-private partnership and you'll have the chance to meet many of these representatives so that you might form the foundations of new ones.”
Following her remarks, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Bush’s conversation, moderated by Cokie Roberts, centered around the unique opportunity First Ladies have to spotlight and advocate for important issues, such as education and health. Video of the conversation is available here.
As part of a panel discussion on empowering women through training and technology, the ExxonMobil Foundation and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women announced a new mobile phone technology program for women entrepreneurs in Tanzania. The service – Business Women – is a mobile application that assists women in overcoming barriers to scaling up their businesses by providing essential business tips via their mobile device. Subscribers will receive content on a weekly-topic basis and content will be available to subscribers in either English or Swahili.
“This important service will make a difference to the lives of tens of thousands of women entrepreneurs in Tanzania in the next year, and hundreds of thousands more in the longer term on a global scale,” said Cherie Blair, Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.
The program is targeted to reach 75,000 women. The pilot project launched in Nigeria last year and has already reached approximately 65,000 women. Given the success of the program in Nigeria, ExxonMobil and the Cherie Blair Foundation are hopeful that providing an accessible, relevant and locally-appropriate platform can help address the constraints that Tanzanian women face in expanding and growing their businesses.
Other announcements included Farm Radio International's launch of “Her Farm Radio,” an initiative that will work with radio stations in Africa to develop new programs ideally suited to meet the needs of women farmers. These programs will feature topics of interest to women farmers, be broadcast at a time women farmers can listen, feature women’s voices and address the special information needs of women farmers.
“Modern radio is a powerful tool for helping farmers move from subsistence to security. And we have heard that, with the right ingredients, women farmers can receive great benefits from farm radio,” said Japhet Emmanual, Program Director for Farm Radio International.
“Her Farm Radio” will also include three new projects: “The Orange Flesh Sweet Potato” radio project in Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Burkina Faso, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; “The Demand Driven Participatory Radio Campaign” program in Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia and Uganda, funded by Irish Aid; and “The FarmQuest Reality Radio Program” in Mali, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.