Op-Ed from Ambassador for Women’s Day

I wish all the women of Tajikistan on this special day health, happiness, and prosperity. The month of March in the United States is Women’s History Month. Students learn about the profound impact that women have had in the United States. In fact, my six-year old granddaughter just sent me her school project detailing the accomplishments of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

It is not just in America that women have made positive impacts, but throughout the world. Today is a chance to celebrate the women who are currently making history. Some of these history makers are obvious; they are the pioneers in their field, going where no woman (or man) has gone before. Others work behind the scenes making contributions to their families, communities, and economies. I have spoken with these strong women throughout Tajikistan, and I am so proud that the U.S. Embassy is able to partner with many of them to make a difference in their communities.

Women throughout the world face discrimination and lower wages. Many women in Tajikistan also face these difficulties without their husbands. As a widow, I know how difficult it is not to be with your husband, and I have the utmost respect for the women of Tajikistan who not only raise families by themselves, but also start businesses and take on other jobs to invest in their children’s educational opportunities. These women are the real heroes.

Recently, I traveled to Khatlon where the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports women who wish to start their own businesses. In fact last year, USAID supported more than 4,500 Tajik women farmers and entrepreneurs with training. This training not only teaches women about how to run a business, but it also connects women from around Tajikistan for sharing ideas, challenges, and successes with each other. I was privileged to visit one training center for weaving traditional atlas, where I met Rohila. Rohila talked with me about her children and how much these new opportunities had meant to her family. She even tried to help me learn to weave.

I met several other women who had also started businesses making dresses and producing seedlings for farmers, and I even met a woman who had opened a men’s barber shop. All of these incredibly courageous women are changing their families’ lives for the better, and the United States is extremely proud to support them.

To all the women in Tajikistan and around the world, you can make a difference in your families, your communities, and your societies. Strong women make strong families, and strong families create a better future and a more prosperous society.

Note on author: Elisabeth Millard is the U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan. She most recently served in Washington, D.C. on Secretary of State John Kerry’s staff. Earlier in her career, she was Deputy Chief of Mission in Astana, Kazakhstan, and Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca, Morocco. The daughter of a World Health Organization official, Ms. Millard grew up overseas and attended schools in Denmark, Sweden, and Tunisia. She studied at the University of Geneva and graduated from the London School of Economics and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Ms. Millard and her late husband have five grown children and six grandchildren. In her spare time she loves to cook, exercise, read and listen to music.