Women's progress is essential to Central Asia's prosperity, top U.S. State Department officials said at the opening of a three-day economic conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
"Investing in the potential of women and girls is one of the surest ways to achieve global economic progress, political stability and greater prosperity for women and men the world over," Robert Blake, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, said July 18.
The conference, which runs through July 20, brings together women leaders from Central Asia, including Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, as well as Afghanistan to share strategies in support of women's entrepreneurship, the press service of the US Diplomatic Mission to Kazakhstan reports.
In video remarks, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged the participants to "explore solutions that will advance not only economic success but the success of your countries and the region" and thanked Kyrgyzstan's President Roza Otunbayeva for her leadership on advancing women's access to credit.
Blake called on governments in the region to encourage women to "participate equally and to compete effectively in the marketplace and political arena" by providing more access to education and training in market-relevant job and leadership skills. He said the region "will truly reach its full potential with unfettered participation by all citizens, especially women," and with the establishment of cross-border links to spur trade, investment and innovation.
"Investing in women is a high-yield investment," added Melanne Verveer, ambassador-at-large for global women's issues. She said businesses owned by women create jobs and have better growth and loan payback rates than those run by men. In addition, women spend most of their income on their families and in their communities, she said.
Women from throughout Central Asia attend a conference on women's entrepreneurship in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Verveer said that in the region women entrepreneurs are growing in ranks. In Afghanistan, Taj Serat, for example, owns a soccer ball manufacturing business that employs several hundred women and has begun to export.
Verveer also mentioned Kazakhstan's Raushan Sarsembayeva, head of the Women's Business Association of Kazakhstan, who "has trained women through vocational technology programs and placed them in jobs. She pays her experience forward, so others may also succeed."