Harnessing Innovation for Women's Empowerment

Women on a phone

USAID is committed to fostering innovative development solutions that have a broad impact on all people. 

We are harnessing science, technology and innovation to increase men and women’s health and well-being. Technology also holds great potential for reducing gender gaps and empowering women and girls.  For instance, high tech tools such as the internet and cell phones, as well as low tech innovations such as clean cookstoves, have the power to improve women’s safety and health, increase economic productivity and reduce unpaid labor.

Using science and technology to help change social norms and stereotypes can help reduce gender disparities.

An example of  applying information and communications technology (ICT) to empower women is the mobile phone.

Cell phones have increasingly become powerful tools for accessing:

  • Healthcare
  • Banking services
  • Agricultural and commodity pricing information
  • Literacy training
  • Educational and employment opportunities 

World-wide, approximately 300 million fewer women than men own cell phones.

USAID is partnering with the Australian Government Overseas Aid Program (AusAID), Visa, and GSMA, the leading mobile phone operators association, to reduce by half this mobile phone gender gap.  The mWomen Partnership is providing technical assistance to mobile operators and NGO’s to reduce the barriers women face to using and owning mobile technologies, including literacy, perceived need for mobile phones and technology, the cost of handsets and mobile services, and traditional attitudes about women owning productive assets.  

Through the The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. USAID is supporting research into how people can use improved stove technology and how indoor air quality and sanitation interventions can improve the environment and promote economic opportunities for women. The alliance, a public-private partnership, is working to improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change by helping create a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions.

USAID is also utilizing innovative means to empower women’s leadership in science. USAID and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation support the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) program which strengthens the research and leadership skills of African women in agricultural science.  Through AWARD, women are empowered to contribute more effectively to poverty reduction and food security in sub-Saharan Africa. AWARD Fellows benefit from a two-year career development program establishing mentoring partnerships, building science skills, and developing leadership capacity. 

Last updated: July 16, 2015

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