Remarks by USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah on the Gender Policy Launch

Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Subject 
Gender Policy Launch

[As Prepared]

I am thrilled to be here today to launch our new policy on Gender Equality and Female Empowerment, an update to a 30-year-old policy that will significantly strengthen our capacity to support women and girls by ensuring our efforts are well-integrated and based in rigorous analysis.

Today's policy owes a great deal to Secretary Clinton, who has fought for decades to elevate the role of women and girls in development. As Secretary Clinton regularly points out to me-political will is important but not sufficient. You need to measure and understand the problem, because it is only the things that you measure and understand that you can change.

And there is a lot we have to change. Despite progress, women and girls continue to face significant barriers to education, business and politics. In agriculture, women make up more than 40 percent of the labor force, but only represent between 3 to 20 percent of landholders. In Africa, women-owned enterprises make up as little as 10 percent of all businesses-and in South Asia, only 3 percent. And despite being half the global population, women comprise less than 20 percent of the world's legislators.

If we can erase these inequities-and put women on equal footing with men-we know that we can unlock human potential on a transformational scale. By empowering women farmers with the same access to land, new technologies and capital as men, we can increase yields by as much as 30 percent-and feed an additional 150 million people.

By empowering women entrepreneurs, we can raise per capital income by as much as 14 percent in countries like the Philippines and Indonesia. And by ensuring women are well represented in parliaments and peace negotiations, we can elevate core development issues like human rights, health care and justice.

Today's launch represents a very concrete, very significant step forward in our efforts to unlock the power of women to transform development. Instead of seeing women simply as beneficiaries, we are ensuring our programming reflects our belief in women as change-agents.

That's why, in just the last year, we've initiated three dedicated empowerment funds in sectors where we see some of the largest gender gaps-in entrepreneurship, leadership and peace processes. Instead of stove-piping funding lines, we are ensuring our investments in gender and empowerment are incorporated across our core development programming.

Earlier this week at the United Nations, I had the chance to launch the Women's Empowerment in Agricultural Index. An exciting new tool to measure the impact of our Feed the Future (FTF) programs on women, according to very specific indicators like income, leadership on marketing boards, and access to credit. After piloting the index in three countries, we're ready to scale it up to all 19 FTF countries and look for opportunities to adapt the Index to other sectors so that we know if we are making a difference for women and girls-whether we're working in land tenure, governance or education. And unlocking the potential of women also means ensuring all our efforts are informed by serious research and real data. That's why all USAID strategies and projects must now be shaped by a gender analysis, information that we will use to form a bank of best practices and development learning that can strengthen the entire field.

Our new policy builds on some extraordinary work we are doing throughout the world to reduce gender gaps and empower women. Reflecting a new Agency-wide emphasis on high-impact partnerships, we're working with a leading mobile operations association-GSMA-to halve the mobile phone gender gap of 300 million women in the developing world.

We've launched a new Counter-Trafficking Policy that strengthens the work we've done with partners like MTV-EXIT to reach 300 million households worldwide and resulted in one stunning story just recently of three boys who escaped servitude on a fishing boat because they saw an MTV-EXIT telephone number flash on a TV screen.

And in Afghanistan, we've worked with the Ministry of Public Health to help the nation achieve one of the largest decreases in maternal and child mortality in the world, remarkable success that is largely thanks to the courage, perseverance and ingenuity of women like Dr. Suraya Dalil, the Acting Minister of Public Health.

But these examples only represent a small sliver of the cutting-edge work our gender champions and human rights experts do every day around the world. In Benin, Cynthia Taha is widely recognized as expert field resource in gender and empowerment. She's worked closely with local NGOs to draft a new law to protect victims of gender-based violence-and send the law before the Benin National Assembly. And she created a network of Mother's Associations to get and keep girls in school. Originally launched in 36 schools, the network now includes 1,300 associations across the country.

And in Colombia, Michele Guttman is leading the effort to ensure we are effectively addressing gender differences across all our work, including expanding access to justice for rural women and supporting land restitution for women survivors of conflict. Thanks to Michele's efforts, USAID/Colombia signed a new Gender Integration Mission Order-one of the very first missions to do so.

I look forward to working with all of you to build on these efforts-to deepen our analysis, strengthen our programming and forge new partnerships. So many of you here today represent communities with long-standing commitments to empowering women and reducing inequality. Private sector players, led by gender champions like Mohammed El-Erain, faith-based communities like Saddleback Church or Bethel University-which I just had the pleasure of visiting, and NGOs who have shown leadership and passion in this space for decades.

Together we can continue to live up to our aspirations-and unlock the power of women to transform development.

Thank you.

The White House, Washington, DC

Last updated: April 14, 2014

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