Every year on March 8, the world celebrates International Women’s Day. This annual event seeks to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of women, while also highlighting the need to accelerate women’s equality. Women are half of the global population yet are more likely than men to suffer from extreme poverty, the effects of climate change, and hunger and malnutrition – disparities exacerbated by the global COVID-19 pandemic. The impacts of the virus significantly increased the need for unpaid care, a role disproportionately filled by women, and made their jobs nearly twice as vulnerable to the pandemic as men’s jobs.
International Women’s Day is a valuable reminder of America’s global leadership role in supporting women and girls to live healthier, safer, and more prosperous lives. Here are some of the ways the U.S. Government works to show leadership in global gender equality and empowerment initiatives.
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
Through USAID, the government, with bipartisan congressional support, has funded decades of women’s equality and empowerment initiatives, recognizing the multiplier effect of impact these programs have on a society.
For example, the Trump Administration created and dedicated resources to the first ever whole-of-government initiative designed to economically empower women through the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) initiative. The initiative focused on three pillars: women prospering in the workforce, women succeeding as entrepreneurs, and women enabled in the economy. Since the W-GDP initiative was launched in 2019, over 600,000 women have participated in workforce development programs, with more than 2,000 women-owned and led businesses receiving loans or alternative financing. Leveraging bipartisan support, this initiative advanced legal reforms in Pakistan by establishing a system for issuing National Identity Cards, which is fundamentally important to increase women’s access to the formal economy.
Further, the Biden Administration is leveraging USAID to promote women’s economic empowerment through the MujerProspera (WomenProsper) Challenge aimed at holistic and impactful solutions to economic prosperity for women in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. USAID is expected to issue up to 14 awards, each valued between $150,000 and $500,000 to advance women’s economic security and address harmful gender norms. USAID also works to address gender-based violence through thought leadership and technical programing. These initiatives not only help women support themselves economically but also provide safety, agency, and empowerment.
U.S. International Development Finance Cooperation (DFC)
Also supporting women’s economic empowerment is the DFC’s 2X Women’s Initiative. As the Initiative states, “The world’s largest emerging market isn’t a country or region; it’s the world’s women.” The initiative specifically aims at unlocking financing for projects that are owned by women, led by women, or provide a service that empowers women. The agency has already leveraged over $7 billion in investment funds and aims to catalyze an additional $12 billion by 2025. The 2X Women’s Initiative has already seen success in Vietnam, Nepal, and Sub-Saharan Africa. In Vietnam, DFC financing is supporting Fulbright University Vietnam’s expansion with a new campus in Ho Chi Minh City that will serve more than 1,000 additional students. Similar investments in the African Healthcare Network in Sub-Saharan Africa have expanded access to affordable and quality dialysis care. The agency specializes in investments in global development that are impactful for U.S. foreign policy and generate returns for American taxpayers. Beyond the 2X Women’s Initiative, the DFC invests in women’s equality by applying a gender lens to all projects to ensure women will benefit.
Office of Global Women’s Issues, Department of State
The Office of Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. State Department was established to empower women and girls in U.S. diplomacy, partnerships, and programs. It is led by the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues who also serves as the U.S. Representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, serving as the U.S. Government’s lead diplomat on all issues relating to gender empowerment and equality. Through initiatives and programing dedicated to economic empowerment, women’s participation in peace and security, and combating violence against women, this Office has been active in supporting women’s empowerment since 1995.
In 2017, the United States became the first nation to adopt a comprehensive law for women – the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Act, leading the world in promoting peace and countering violent extremism. The Office of Global Women’s Issues serves as the lead coordinating office for the State Department’s WPS efforts, including strategies to reinforce the Women, Peace, and Security Act and the United States’ guiding principle of supporting and protecting women to prevent conflict and promote peace. In addition to codifying the WPS agenda, the law requires the U.S. government to develop a government-wide strategy on WPS implementation every four years and implementing agencies and departments to provide WPS-specific training to personnel. Along with greater Congressional oversight over the U.S. government’s WPS efforts, this law ensures there is accountability when implementing a gender perspective across developmental and diplomatic work.
Investing in women’s equality and economic empowerment is not only the right thing to do, but also the fiscally sound thing to do. Recent calculations show that $13 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2030 if policymakers take action to invest in gender-parity improvements, with projects focused on education, financial inclusion, maternal health and more. America’s global leadership is positively impacting millions of women around the world, supporting a safer and more prosperous future for us all.
Check out the COVID-19 effect on women fact sheet >>