At IESC, we work around the world to strengthen the private sector, guided by a mission to improve people’s lives by expanding access to economic opportunity’for everyone. In many of the places we work, women still struggle to achieve full participation in the economy, and therefore have a hard time improving their lives and those of their families. To exclude the talent, labor, intelligence, and creativity of half the world’s population is an absurd notion any way you look at it. We are committed to growing strong resilient economies that can withstand tumult and crises, be it disease, natural disaster, political instability, or armed conflict. To do that, you must have the participation of half of the world’s people.
Malika Qanih, the first woman owner of a pharmaceutical company in Afghanistan–Sun Pharma.
This year, the themes for International Women’s Day are ‘Be Bold for Change’ and ‘Women in the Changing World of Work.’ I am regularly inspired by the women we work with around the world. Women like Malika Qanih, who is blazing a path for women in Afghanistan, as the first woman owner of a pharmaceutical company in Afghanistan. She started Sun Pharma just five years ago and now has dozens of employees and an expanding product line. Where she struggled to put food on the table before, she now owns a home and her children are enrolled in good schools. Malika understands what we all know to be true, that ‘when women are economically empowered, the whole community and family are empowered.’
In the coming days, in honor of International Women’s Day, we are sharing stories of women around the world who are powerful agents of change. Many of them still struggle against personal, cultural, societal, and legal impediments, but in spite of these challenges, they are changing the way the world works. In blogs and stories written by our team members in the field and here at our home office in Washington, you will learn about, among others, an ambitious inventor in Tanzania, a group of women in the Dominican Republic who are transforming a community with chocolate, and an American immigrant and IESC volunteer who is mentoring women entrepreneurs back in her native Mali.
I am heartened by our women beneficiaries around the world, who succeed in spite of great challenges. I also am glad that IESC has been able to play a modest role over the past 52 years in helping half of the world’s population benefit from economic growth. To everyone here and around the world, I wish you a happy International Women’s Day.