IVLP Alumni Spotlight features U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) alumni as they reflecton the impact of the program and how it has affected their work and lives. Here we spotlight, Ms. Antoinette Botti from Cote d’Ivoire, whose work focuses specifically on empowering women in rural environments. Ms. Botti participated in a large group project on volunteerism, and she recounts below the impact that this program had on her, both personally and professionally.
Visitor: Ms. Antoinette Botti
Title: Business Owner
Country of Origin: Cote d’Ivoire
Itinerary: Washington, DC; Kansas City, MO; Huntsville, AL; San Francisco, CA
IVLP Project: Volunteerism: United We Serve (2010)
What have you been up to since your IVLP experience?
The IVLP program has changed the way I think about my life. First of all, in my personal life I have new-found self confidence and self-esteem. Professionally, I have started a cooperative called ASSÔWÔ (meaning Stand Up), which involves every woman in my village. Our vision is to be the leading company that produces and sells ginger drinks/products from women’s farms and create jobs and training opportunities for them.
Our three principal core values are:
- to invest in agriculture, provide training, knowledge, tools and foster local talent and skills, while simultaneously providing educational and employment opportunities and a better livelihood for women;
- to create a female-empowered skilled work force in rural Côte d’Ivoire; and
- to offer a fair wage to the working women in rural Côte d’Ivoire
Now, I am empowering women and youth in rural area in my country, Côte d’Ivoire, by providing them with job opportunities and leadership tools.
What one lesson that you learned or idea that you gained on your IVLP experience have you started to apply in your organization or your work?
I am now aware that there are a lot of opportunities everyday if you are prepared to see them. While participating in the IVLP program “Volunteerism: United We Serve,” I discovered the powerful impact of making a positive difference while serving my community. I learned about how to empower women in rural areas through training, investment and nurturing local skills and talent, with the goal of providing the women a decent livelihood and access to education, all of which benefits their families. I also learned that volunteering is the best gift you can give to your community, and now I participate in many volunteer programs in my country.
What message would you like to share with the people who hosted and met with you in the US?
Think big, start small. Don’t let somebody tell you that your idea will not work. Be positive and serve your people, your community without expecting something in return.