USAID Administrator Mark Green's and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump's Remarks on a Discussion on the W-GDP Initiative


For Immediate Release

Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email:

SPOKESPERSON ORTAGUS: Hi, everyone. Well, thank you. Thanks everyone for coming today. It's so wonderful to see so many people here that care about women's economic development and prosperity. Of course, thank you, Liz. You are just a dream for this community, and thank you to USGLC for co-hosting this event.

This is actually my first event in my new role as State Department Spokesperson, and I'm so honored that the both of you had me as a part of this event. Just so you know, the State Department is a proud member of the W-GDP program. It's an interagency working group that was established through the National Security Presidential Memorandum. We work with USAID and Ambassador Green and we work to advance the three pillars of the W-GDP which is: women prospering in the workforce; women succeeding as entrepreneurs; and women enabling the economy.

The State Department was also involved in the review of the process for the W-GDP funds awardees, and will continue to engage on W-GDP through upcoming projects such as the International Visitor Leadership Program: Overcoming Barriers to Women's Economic Participation, which will debut this fall.

So, of course, let's get right to it with two of the best people in the world working on these initiatives, and of course, to Advisor Trump. I don't think many people actually know this, that you had a major success in the President's National Security Strategy, which is the first time that you got women written into National Security Strategy -- I have an op-ed on this that all of you can read.

But, earlier this year when the president established the W-GDP Initiative to advance this priority, can you tell us a little bit about why it was important to get women written into the National Security Strategy and how that ties into W-GDP?

ADVISOR TRUMP: Well first of all, happy birthday, Morgan, and thank you for being here.

Thank you so much for your hard work and service, and advocacy for many of the issues we'll be discussing here today over the course of many years, predating your service. And, thank you to Mark who's been just an incredible partner in this Initiative from the earliest days. And, Liz and the whole USGLC team, it was -- you were one of the first groups that we reached out to in a series of very comprehensive listening sessions that helped us to sign this Initiative.

So, stepping back for a moment. We started with the premise that there are unique obstacles and barriers to women in the workplace. We have this at home, and we're fighting those barriers and striving to lower them whether it's the lack of accessible affordable child care in this country, which we're looking to address; paid family leave; all sorts of issues.

But, then when you look globally at the developing world, there is a whole separate set of challenges and unique problems. So, we started with looking at all that had been done previously; what had been successful and where there was a void. And, we launched several initiatives in the earliest days of the Administration to try and fill those voids. So, We-Fi, for example, with the World Bank. Because there was inadequate access to capital for small- and medium-sized female entrepreneurs in the developing world. Later on, we launched 2X with OPIC. We were the first of the development institutions to think about our lending through a gender lens.

So, it was quite novel. I mean we used the G7 in Canada as an opportunity to reinforce that and create a 2X call to action amongst the other institutions, the other countries' institutions; and we're successful in that effort. But, really we took a step back after launching these and a series of others -- WomenConnect with Mark Green on International Women's Day -- to help bridge the international gender divide in the developing world.

When we step back and we say what are the most effective ways and what are the most important ways to economically empower women? And, how can we create a comprehensive, all-of-government approach to doing this? And, that had never happened before. There have never been an all-of-U.S. Government approach to women's economic empowerment. Now, we know it's smart from a development assistance standpoint. And, we know it's critically important, which is often underplayed - it's critically important from a national security perspective, which is why we're very proud of the fact that the President, in his National Security Strategy, issued in December of 2017, had a section on the role of women's economic empowerment to fostering peace and stability.

So, just one statistic that I think is really eye opening: if you look at the countries that scored the lowest on the index for gender discrimination, 80 percent of them had experienced armed conflict in the last two decades. 80 percent. So, when you marry good economic policy, in terms of growth and opportunity and prosperity, with smart defense policy and security policy, then you really get people's attention and that's what we're quite excited for.

So, the President launched W-GDP as his 16th National Security Presidential Memorandum, so there have not been many since this Administration has been in effect -- and we've worked to design it with hundreds of lawmakers, NGOs, advocates in the region, and we came up with the three pillars that you mentioned. The first is women prospering in the workforce. Now, this is helping women with vocational education that will help them secure jobs. But, as importantly, and maybe more importantly, helping them gain access to markets, technology that will fuel the productivity of the existing work women are doing, which is often overlooked. And, the private sector has played a critical role in this regard, because of course, we've all heard of well-intended programs that teach people skills and, after having graduated from those programs those individuals are unable to secure a job, because there are no jobs available.

So, coming in with the private sector on all of these pillars has been important; promoting entrepreneurship, access to capital, markets, and networks. And, then the last one which really there hasn't been a robust push on in a coordinated, cohesive fashion, is, I actually think, maybe the most critical, which is changing the laws that prohibit women's full and free participation in local economies.

So, we've focused on five specific laws. Actually, today we were really excited to applaud and celebrate Cote d'Ivoire changing their marriage law, which will now enable women to inherit property and to acquire property, which was previously not allowed under the law.

This is great work being done on a local level, actually, through funding with local NGOs and advocates in Cote d'Ivoire and MCC. I visited there this spring and reinforced the essential nature of changing this law. But, that's the type of thing that will really create extraordinary transformative change. So, I am excited that today in addition to that great announcement for the millions of women in Cote d'Ivoire, that we're also announcing the awarding of the first tranche of grants from USAID to empower and move forward W-GDP.

So, 100,000 women in 22 countries will benefit. There are 14 projects, each of which have been curated to align with the three pillars that we just discussed. It's $27 million of U.S. Government dollars, but we mobilized $160 million of private sector funds to match and accelerate that from hundreds of NGOs and private sector companies, so we're very, very excited about the private sector and NGO community coming alongside us to amplify and accelerate our work.

So, it is great, and you'll be hearing from some of those recipients today that will help highlight each of the three pillars of the Initiative, and share with us a little bit of the great work that they're all doing.

SPOKESPERSON ORTAGUS: That's incredibly exciting, really great news, especially out of Cote d'Ivoire. Administrator Green, you know, I have a soft spot in my heart for USAID. It was my first job in Washington actually, in the Bush Administration.

So, we know that USAID is, of course, very aligned with the goals of W-GDP as Ivanka just talked about. What are the specific programs that USAID is working on to implement this Initiative?

AMBASSADOR GREEN: Well, so first off, it's a moral issue -- equal opportunity of basic American values that we project through all of our work. It's also a very practical matter. So, Liz talked a bit about PEPFAR and our global health program. One of the best possible ways to advance global health is an educated girl who becomes an educated mother who can pass along life lessons and access services. It's also an economic issue for us, we talk about the journey to self-reliance and helping countries lead themselves. No country is self-reliant if it isn't tapping into more than half of its population.

So, it's a very economic issue for us. So, it is interwoven in many ways in every country where we work and all the programs that we do. I think what we're seeing today is really how we're using our new collaboration ethic to help unlock dollars. We've gone beyond just grants and contracts. We'll still do grants, we'll still do contracts, but we're looking for ways to move opportunistically, to unlock networks, to scale up work that's being done. And, for us, since the call for proposals didn't come until March, and the closing date was in April, and we actually made decisions by June -- that's lightning speed.

And, I think you'll see because it was an all-of-government approach and we still had our expert review panels. But, all of these incentives together has made an enormous difference in a very short period of time. And, so we're excited about what you'll hear about today. We're more excited about the future and what we think this will do if we continue to unlock these networks and build on the great work that so many people in this room represent.

ADVISOR TRUMP: And, just to dovetail on that for one moment, I think it's really important to -- obviously we have a responsibility to the American taxpayer. And, the goal of development assistance is self-reliance, as Mark noted. And, if you're not unleashing the potential of 50 percent of your population, well then it's not going to achieve that goal. So, we think of this as very, very smart development assistance. We also think that development assistance isn't an entitlement. And, you talk about the laws and the need to change laws -- from participating in our economy. But, to the extent we continue to provide development assistance to countries who refuse to make the structural changes that enable women to inherit property, to travel freely, to open bank accounts, to work in the same industries as men.

There are 2.7 billion women in 114 countries globally who are unable to work in the same industries as men. Oftentimes the predominant industries within those economies --

SPOKESPERSON ORTAGUS: Did you say 114 countries?

ADVISOR TRUMP: 114 countries. So, oftentimes, people don't realize how prevalent this issue is and these economic barriers. The reason we've focused on five specific laws -- I mentioned four of them. The fifth is being able to access credit on equal terms as a man in their society.

So, these five laws are just so foundational, yet there are tremendous barriers all over the globe in geographically diverse regions of the globe to each of them. So, we're focused on that because we think it's one of the smartest places we can allocate our time and resources to then creating an enabling environment to make the programs in Pillar 1 and 2 around promoting women in the workforce and women entrepreneurship sustainable and effective over the long term.

SPOKESPERSON ORTAGUS: So, you just mentioned that you've been traveling around the world and viewing these programs. Where would you say that you've seen that it's most effective where women are really grabbing onto these programs and making a change in their country?

ADVISOR TRUMP: Well, Mark and I were recently in Africa together and we saw tremendous programs in both Ethiopia and Cote d'Ivoire. I was very blown away by a village we visited, a three hour drive from the capital of Cote d'Ivoire. And, you saw firsthand, a really great example of a program that USAID worked on with CARE that creates large savings and loans where women come together and form associations and cooperatives, and leverage their collective purchasing power and their collective bounty to gain greater access to markets and to be able to secure the capital they need to grow their business.

So, we saw a very dynamic example of one of those associations. We also announced a new program to create 300 more of them in Cote d'Ivoire with the private sector; the World Cocoa Foundation; and several private companies, Nestlé, Cargill, Mars, and several others.

But, it was really amazing to see this community of women working together individually where they are -- they receive the benefit of their individual work, but as a co-operative where each of their work builds upon itself and creates additional opportunity for the group as a collective. So, it was really extraordinary, Mark. And, I don't know if you'd like to share.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, I think you've captured it well. Again, understand that with each of these grants and each of these programs, we're unlocking -- we're not building things, we're unlocking and tapping into the entrepreneurial spirit that is at the heart of every family of every woman entrepreneur. So, that's really what we are doing. I think it's universal, so what we saw in Africa, but I think it's just as true in Latin America. You have people who are simply looking for a chance. By particularly attacking some of the enabling environment barriers, we're unlocking what is already there.

Last updated: March 30, 2020

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