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Video message WOMED Award and WOMED Award South

9 March 2022

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted that this year, once again, the Womed Award and Womed Award South can be presented, albeit still in virtual format.

With these awards, we can once again highlight and reward the talent, the creativity, and the resilience of women entrepreneurs, both from Belgium and from countries in the South.

We know how heavily the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown and school closures have weighed on the lives of women. Worldwide, we have witnessed an increase in both domestic violence and mental health problems. Women have constantly been faced with uncertainty about their own health and that of their loved ones. They have had to cope with many unknown factors, involving not only their children’s education, but also the survival and future of their businesses.

In developing countries, women’s ability even to support and feed their families has been threatened. Women everywhere have had to demonstrate perseverance, patience and ingenuity to be able to continue to fulfill their various roles, both at work and at home.

As an Advocate for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, I have made equal economic opportunities for women one of my priorities. Obviously, that implies economic and financial independence, access to credit, the freedom to decide themselves how to use their resources, and the opportunity to start their own businesses. In addition, support from institutions, their communities, their families and other partners is also crucial.

As entrepreneurs and a driving force in the economic development of their society and their country, women play an exemplary role that deserves recognition. After all, women’s success is also that of their families and the people they work with, especially young people. And it inspires other women around them.

Today, we have the opportunity to affirm the importance of these collaborative networks. Thanks to the mutual support they provide, three finalists, three inspiring women entrepreneurs from Uganda, are receiving the recognition that their efforts deserve.

I wish to congratulate each of you for your untiring efforts in surmounting many obstacles to accomplish your dreams. I am impressed by your business spirit, your creativity and your determination. You have clearly shown the way and you have become role models for women and girls in your communities and beyond.

In the choices you have made for your respective businesses - organic farming, and the production, processing and distribution of beekeeping products, with the necessary focus on biodiversity - you have also played a pioneering role in terms of sustainable development. What you have accomplished will contribute to a greater understanding of what sustainable development entails. Your achievements reflect the novel opportunities unfolding in this area, too.

To all women entrepreneurs, I wish exciting new prospects for the future, new encounters and interesting challenges.