Op-Ed Empower Women to Foster Freedom

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The Trump administration’s W-GDP initiative will help 50 million women in developing countries realize their economic potential by 2025.

An exhibit celebrating female entrepreneurs in Hyderabad, India, Nov. 28, 2017. PHOTO: NV/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK
An exhibit celebrating female entrepreneurs in Hyderabad, India, Nov. 28, 2017. PHOTO: NV/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

Texas Border Business

Ivanka Trump
Ivanka Trump

By Ivanka Trump

On Thursday President Trump will sign a memorandum establishing the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, or W-GDP. This new initiative will for the first time coordinate America’s commitment to one of the most undervalued resources in the developing world—the talent, ambition, and genius of women. This initiative aims to help 50 million women in developing countries realize their economic potential by 2025.

President Trump’s 2017 National Security Strategy of the United States recognized women’s critical role in achieving global peace and prosperity. Research suggests that the more women are excluded from full participation in a country’s economy, the likelier it is that the country will be involved in a conflict and respond to a threat with immediate violence. When women are free to thrive, they bring national stability, as well as more jobs and economic growth. Expanding women’s economic participation has the potential to boost global economic output by an additional $12 trillion by 2025.

This number represents far more than an economic boom—it represents millions of lives full of promise: mothers who could provide for their children, daughters who could be the first to graduate from high school, and young women who could start businesses and create jobs. This is the future we can and must achieve together.

W-GDP establishes an innovative new fund at the U.S. Agency for International Development to support proposals that enable women to succeed in the economy. The president has directed USAID to allocate an initial $50 million for this new fund. This fund will implement the administration’s new strategy of foreign assistance, which emphasizes investments that produce measurable results and help recipient countries become self-reliant. It will also facilitate complementary private-sector investments to achieve our shared goals.

The economic empowerment of women shouldn’t be viewed as a “women’s issue.” Smart development assistance benefits families, communities and nations. By investing in women, we are investing in a future in which countries can support themselves by unleashing the potential of their own people.

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W-GDP establishes a cohesive three-pillar structure to support governmentwide programs and partnerships. Pillar One will advance workforce development and vocational education for women. This includes tailoring education and training to growing industries, creating more ways to connect local businesses to the global marketplace, leveraging technology and best practices to fuel productivity, and supporting women in job entry, re-entry, retention and promotion to management and leadership positions.

Pillar Two will empower women to succeed as entrepreneurs. Women own or run more than a third of all small and medium-size enterprises in emerging markets, yet the United Nations has found that less than 1% of spending by large corporations on suppliers is allocated to women-owned businesses. A recent study by the International Finance Corp. notes a $1.5 trillion gap between the credit female entrepreneurs in developing countries need and the financing they receive. Initiatives launched or championed by the Trump administration, such as the 2X Women’s Initiative of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the World Bank’s Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, are already mobilizing more than $4 billion to invest in female entrepreneurs.

Pillar Three focuses on eliminating the legal, regulatory and cultural barriers that prevent women from participating in their local economies. According to the World Bank, more than 100 countries prohibit women from working in specific industries, which means 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men. In 18 countries, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working and earning their own income. In many more, women are unable to inherit land or open bank accounts without permission.

Advancing greater equality and opportunity for women is a crucial area in which Republicans and Democrats can find common ground and pass historic bipartisan legislation. The last Congress enacted and the president signed the bipartisan Women, Peace and Security Act; the Build Act; and the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act. These laws will make a difference for generations to come.

Over the last year, I have met with more than 200 partners—nongovernmental organizations, private-sector companies and members of Congress. Their feedback has been integral to the development of this initiative. In the coming weeks and months, I will continue to build partnerships and work with members of both parties to advance women’s economic opportunities, promote female entrepreneurship and lift barriers to full economic participation.

As the Trump administration launches W-GDP, we ask leaders everywhere to join us as we work toward a future in which women in every society can achieve their full potential and foster greater freedom, peace and prosperity around the world.

Ms. Ivanka Trump is a senior adviser to the president of the United States.

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