WES Country Director, Chema Gargouri (third from left), with businesswomen from MENA and Sub-Saharan Africa during a meeting with Catherine Russell, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State (middle) at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Marrakech, Morocco.

Guest post by Chema Gargouri, Country Director, WES Tunisia

It was an honor to be invited by the U.S. government to participate in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in Marrakech, Morocco, November 19-21, during Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). Three thousand participants from 50 countries attended more than 30 workshops to discuss and learn about all aspects of entrepreneurship such as regional connectivity; social entrepreneurship; smart cities; creating cultures and conditions for entrepreneurship; and innovative solutions to integrate the informal sector into the formal economy, from crowdsourcing to social investing. In addition to learning, sharing and networking, I, along with 14 other women from the Middle East North Africa (MENA) and Sub-Saharan Africa regions, had the privilege to meet three of the most amazing and powerful women in the world – Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce, U.S. Department of Commerce; Catherine Russell, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State; and Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration.

During that meeting, I had the opportunity to speak about the Institute of International Education’s Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) program and its unique approach to women’s entrepreneurship. Despite the many challenges that all women face in making their entrepreneurial journey successful, programs such as WES support women in overcoming the various barriers present. It is obvious that any trip holds good and bad surprises. The WES Centers in the 11 regions of Tunisia exist to equip our women entrepreneurs and make them ready for their own “business trips.”

WES is a program that is meant to celebrate women’s entrepreneurship. Secretary Pritzker stated, “In the U.S., we celebrate our entrepreneurs…the story of America has been shaped by people who take initiative.” We, here in Tunisia, want our present and future to be shaped by men and women who create wealth and jobs. As Secretary Pritzker added, “When women thrive, economies grow.” When WES participates in building the infrastructure of opportunities for women, we are also building a stable society. WES exists to allow women to dream and, as George Bernard Shaw said, “Some look at things that are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?” This was the quote also used by Administrator Contreras-Sweet to end her speech.