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Lessons from women in Uganda: Chile, take note.

Mary is a small, slim woman no taller than 5 foot 3, but she speaks with a sincerity and conviction unparalleled among people two times her size, and when she does so, the world stops and listens. When you speak to her, her eye contact never wavers from yours as she carefully digests every word, consonant, and syllable that you say. She is a mother, a teacher, a leader, and an entrepreneur (in no particular order, she puts her heart into everything). Her laughter is contagious, her kindness infectious, her spirit uplifting, and her ambition inspiring. She embodies beauty and strength.

Mary (whose name has been changed for anonymity) is a woman that I met last April, who I had the pleasure of working alongside throughout 2013. Five years ago, Mary and her family were living in a mud shack. When a local organization offered to give her a microloan to start her own business, Mary wasn’t sure she was capable of becoming an entrepreneur, but she mustered up her confidence and began her own store, selling bottles of soda for around $0.20 USD in her small village. A few years later, Mary saved enough money from her small business to build a semi-permanent house. She and her family are healthy and financially stable; most of the money she makes now goes towards her children’s school fees to ensure that they receive a good education. Furthermore, she’s now an Assistant Director of the nonprofit organization that gave her the loan to start her business in the first place. She inspires women in three different countries to follow her lead. She is Ugandan, and she is the strongest woman I have ever met.

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