For Immediate Release
This year marks the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. The global community has come far since that first anniversary, but progress must still be made. Too many countries continue to face gaps in gender quality, women's empowerment, and the welfare of their women and girls. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is committed to overcoming these gaps.
To increase gender equality, we are supporting mechanisms for countries to strengthen women's land and property rights, encouraging policy reforms in partner countries, and working to increase literacy rates. In Kenya, for instance, USAID's Women's Property Ownership and Inheritance Rights Project advocated for women's property rights through local tribal elders, helping widows with HIV who had been previously evicted from their homes to regain control over property.
In Afghanistan, USAID is currently providing more support to improving the lives of Afghan women than ever. USAID has more than doubled spending on women and girls since 2008, tripled our staff on the ground since 2009, created and fully staffed a new gender unit in Kabul, strengthened the capacity of the Afghan Ministry of Women's Affairs, and incorporated women as planners, implementers and beneficiaries of our reconstruction and development efforts.
To unleash the economic power of women in our partner countries, we are collaborating with the GSMA Development Fund in support of the mWomen Program, a public-private partnership to increase women's access to mobile technology. We are also expanding the reach of mobile banking in Haiti to support women's ability to save their earnings, make payments, and access credit building income and assets.
To help protect women and girls from exploitation and gender-based violence in zones of conflict or crisis, we have drafted a new Trafficking in Persons code of conduct, and will dedicate additional resources to build the capacity of our staff and implementing partners.
And to improve the welfare of women and girls throughout the developing world, we're focusing on women and girls in our major initiatives.
With Feed the Future, President Obama's signature food security initiative, we are working to help smallholder farmers-most of them women-grow enough food to feed themselves and their families.
Today, a pregnant woman in Africa is 135 times more likely to die during childbirth than her Western Counterpart. As part of the Global Health Initiative, we have scoured our project data to identify best practices that can lower maternal mortality rates. We have now asked each of our 28 missions in high-burden maternal mortality countries to implement these practices, an effort we appropriately call BEST.
And we are also focusing on own internal strategies. In the months to come, we will update our Women in Development policy for the first time since 1982, providing new guidance for how to integrate gender equality and female empowerment initiatives into project designs and country strategies. A focus on gender equality will become a critical component of our strategic planning, budget allocation, and even our individual work plans. And we will develop new indicators and evaluation systems to accurately measure the impact of our programs and policies on women and girls.
This day is a tribute to the economic, political, and social achievements of women past, present and future; to ordinary women who make extraordinary contributions; and to female visionaries, entrepreneurs, and leaders.
The surest way to meet the global challenges we face is to create opportunities for women around the world to build better futures for themselves, their families, and their communities, and we are committed to doing so.
Last updated: January 22, 2015