Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks at The Dedication Ceremony of Rosa Parks Education and Information Center

Ambassador Robin Reneé Sanders

Dedication Ceremony of Rosa Parks Education and Information Center

U.S. Embassy
February 27, 2008
11 a.m.

Thank you for joining me today at this dedication of our education and information center in honor of a woman of courage – Rosa Louise Parks.

We have already heard from three courageous Nigerian women. Sandra, Ene (Ena), and Lilian, I am impressed by your accomplishments and honored that you are here today.

Today’s event is just one of a series of events both in Abuja and Lagos celebrating our national day this year, with a special emphasis on our diversity as a nation and as a people. Many of you know that in the United States February is African American History Month and March, which we are fast approaching, is Women’s History Month. So I think it is fitting that we recognize the singular achievements of a woman at this particular time.

Rosa Parks, who grew up in a segregated America, was a woman of great courage. She set an example for all who stand up for their rights as human beings and for their rights to participate fully in their societies.

On Thursday evening, December 1, 1955, after a long day of work as a seamstress for a Montgomery, Alabama department store, Rosa Parks boarded a city bus to go home and took a seat in the middle section.

As the bus became full, the driver told her to move to the back to make room for white passengers. Rosa, a woman who had obeyed the law all her life, said no, and refused to get up from her seat.

As brave as she was, her action violated segregation laws, and she was arrested and jailed.

However, her courage that day set off a chain of events that reverberated throughout American society and changed the legal, historical, and cultural landscape of America.

Almost one year after Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery’s segregation laws were unconstitutional. The very next day, Rosa Parks, along with Martin Luther King, Jr., boarded a city bus and proudly took a seat right up front. Because of her courage Parks was nationally recognized as the “mother of the modern day civil rights movement” in the United States.

A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, the highest honor given by the U.S. executive branch and cited as one of the most influential women of the 20th century, Mrs. Parks went on in life to always ensure she helped others who were less fortunate.

She worked tirelessly to motivate and direct youth to help them achieve their highest potential. Rosa Parks saw the energy of young people as a real force for change. It was among her most treasured themes of human priorities as she spoke to young people of all ages at schools, colleges, and national organizations around the world.

Her life was a profound example of courage, dignity, and determination underscoring the importance of believing in yourself, and living by your principles. Mrs. Parks’ quiet singular courageous act changed a nation, and redirected the course of the history of the United States.

Thus, it is my very great honor to dedicate this center to the life and to the legacy of this incredible global citizen – Rosa Louise Parks.

We have commissioned her portrait and a plaque to hang on the wall of this center so everyone who walks in here will feel her spirit and I hope be inspired by her commitment to justice.

And now it is with great pride that I dedicate this center to the memory of Rosa Louise Parks and hereby name it the Rosa Parks Education and Information Center.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks on Launch of Youth Skills Development Program

Ambassador Robin Reneé Sanders


Launch of Youth Skills Development Program
LEAP Africa/Microsoft Nigeria/U.S. Mission Nigeria

Chief Bole Ige Information Technology Center
February 25, 2008
11 a.m.

I am very pleased to be here today to launch this partnership between the U.S. Mission Nigeria, Microsoft Nigeria and LEAP Africa’s Youth Leadership Program.

I am also delighted to be here at the Chief Bole Ige Information Technology Center, which was funded by the U.S. Government on behalf of the American people under the African Education Initiative, a program to strengthen the educational systems and promote democratic processes through linkages with the United States.

In recent years, national and multinational corporations, local businesses, foundations, local and international banks, to name a few, are emerging as new actors in development efforts.

Within Nigeria, corporate philanthropy and activism for change among community, voluntary, and non-governmental groups is growing.

More and more organizations and people recognize the importance of development for achieving peace, security, and prosperity. We often think about development as building things – roads, for example – or creating and implementing political and economic policies. At its heart, however, development means investing in people – providing them the tools to improve their lives as individuals, and allowing them to become more productive members of their families, their communities, their nation.

I am proud that Investing in People is one of the cornerstones of the U.S. Mission’s activities in Nigeria.

We invest in people by emphasizing the rule of law and the accountability of the government to its people; and by supporting sustainable agriculture and diversified economic growth so that people can support themselves and their families.

Improved delivery of social sector services, especially in education not only is vital to the strength of a nation but key for the youth of Nigeria’s future. The U.S. partnership in this area includes assisting Nigerian students to study in the U.S., sending Nigerian scholars to study and teach in the U.S., and sponsoring American scholars to study and teach in Nigeria. This allows for us to better know and learn from each other – something we call mutual understanding.

We also invest in the people of Nigeria by supporting this training center and the American Corner it hosts.

To this end we are very pleased to partner with Microsoft Nigeria and LEAP Africa. Our partnership will build on LEAP Africa’s Youth Leadership Program, which focuses on providing young people with life and leadership skills. This specific endeavor will focus on these skills for young people in Bauchi and Kano States.

We are presenting LEAP Africa with a check for $70,000, about 8.225 million naira, to support the leadership training of 400 young people in these two states--training that will help them to succeed in the workplace including in such important areas as information and communications.

I have been impressed with the range of programs provided by Microsoft and LEAP Africa and proud we can be good partners and good friends in this program. I look forward to building on this endeavor to further invest in Nigeria’s people and its future, and in celebrating our shared values of democracy, diversity and the importance of education.

And now it is my privilege to provide LEAP Africa with a symbolic check for $70,000.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks on Women Empowerment

Ambassador Robin Reneé Sanders

Women and Access to Business Capital – Mitigating the Gender Gap in Nigeria's Emerging Market
National Centre for Women Development, Abuja
February 7, 2008

All Protocols Observed.

It is an honor for me to be with you here today, not only because we are only a month away from Women’s History Month, but also because February is Black History Month, a month that heralds not only the achievement of women in general, but the achievements of women of color in particular. I must also say it is wonderful to be in this center again as I was here when the center was first built in partnership with U.S. Government resources. So we have come full circle with this partnership program today between our two great countries.

Empowerment, Education, and Equality – women are making extraordinary contributions in these three areas … improving the welfare of their countries as political, social and economic leaders…and as vital voices for change. In my own country, women hold such leadership positions as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Secretary of State, and heads of major corporations and small businesses alike.

I am proud to be the first woman to serve as the United States Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where key members of my team are also women -- all working on the three E’s I just mentioned. These three things –empowerment, education and equality – are the foundation of what we are as women, what we want as women, and what we still need to achieve for women and young girls now and in the future.

I know and have seen in Nigeria that women in Nigeria are no different. I am proud to share the dais today with some of Nigeria's outstanding women leaders at all levels of government, business, and social sector levels. And I applaud your support of today's program. But we know that, although much has been accomplished, much remains to be done.

Investing in People is one of the central pillars of our framework for partnership with Nigeria. We understand the tremendous political, economic and social benefits that will result from the further empowerment, equality, and education of Nigerian women and young girls. I would like to take a moment to share with you a few examples of our work in these areas.

Political participation is the cornerstone of democracy, for women as well as men. The U.S. Government has supported, with technical assistance women candidates and aspirants of all political parties through training and networking. We have worked with political parties at the state and federal government levels to promote positive gender policies that encourage qualified women to seek and win elective office. US Government assistance has helped women participate fully in electoral reform issues to advocate for greater participation in the political process.

In the 2007 polls, for example, the U.S. Government helped increase the number of women in various elected positions by assisting with capacity building such as developing gender-specific policies, constituency outreach programs, and having their nomination fees waived. I know you feel as I do that more key frameworks need to be put in place such as a convention like the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which would be a significant step towards further unleashing the political, economic and social potential of the Nigerian women.

As you know, the economic empowerment of women is equally crucial to development. In Nigeria this is even more evident. While major corporations make headlines, it is a country's micro, small and medium sized enterprises that power rapid economic development and serve as the engine of growth – both in the formal and informal sectors – to address the most basic needs of women and the households they lead. The income they earn is vital to their households, providing food, healthcare, and education for their children. Women often, however, lack sufficient access to credit and other business resources necessary to invest in their enterprises and ensure sustained growth for their families and their communities.

Here too my government is providing support through a wide variety of activities, and again, let me share a few examples. We promote agricultural productivity for women farmers through assistance to the Women Farmers Advancement Network – a non-governmental, non-profit organization based in Kano and working across northern Nigeria. We provide technical assistance to microfinance institution partners in Edo and Bauchi States to provide credit and business development support to women in micro and small businesses. Women are also the primary beneficiaries of our Development Credit Authority program, which partners with local banks to ensure access to finance by providing loan guaranties for micro enterprise and agricultural activities.

And there are new ways on the horizon, such as gender budgeting, to help with empowerment. The U.S. is actively supporting gender budgeting, which is recognized as an important socio-economic tool for ensuring equity in the development process by addressing gender issues in public expenditures, and policy commitments.

Development is nothing without compassion. That is why I am especially proud of our support under the U.S. President's PEPFAR program that empowers women living with HIV/AIDS. We have a $15 billion HIV/AIDS program called PEPFAR helping women and orphans.

Women carry a disproportionate care-giving burden when family and community members become sick with AIDS or die from this disease. These burdens often fall on girls and young women, preventing them from obtaining an education and losing the potential for economic empowerment.
Our program addresses these issues and change lives for the better and forever as they ensure that women are able to lead productive lives, support their families and in the end decrease the number of children left orphaned in the society.

We must continue to work together so that the empowerment of women becomes the order of the day. I look forward to building upon the already firm foundation of partnership between our two great nations to advance these issues and provide more equality for women to participate fully in Nigeria's political, business and social sectors. I salute you as women today, I salute you as leaders today, and I salute the friendship and partnership between the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the people of the United States of America.
Thank you.