USAID Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator Michelle Bekkering on the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence and the Launch of New Women's Empowerment Initiatives

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On-The-Record Briefing

For Immediate Release

Friday, December 8, 2017
Office of Press Relations
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MODERATOR: All right, everybody. Well, first of all, welcome to the Foreign Press Center. My name is Olga Bashbush. I'm a program officer and I cover the East Asia and Pacific Region. But today it's my great honor to present Michelle Bekkering from USAID. She's going to be talking on a very important topic not only to her, but to the Foreign Press Center and to the Department of State.

Every single year we have supported the annual campaign, the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, so this is a topic that's relevant for all of us no matter what country you come from. Please feel free to ask questions. This is a discussion. Michelle is going to give a brief statement, and then Clayton is going to be the moderator and take your questions.

So again, we're a very small group, but please just state your name and your outlet once you have a question. All right?

MR MCCLESKEY: Before we launch -


MR MCCLESKEY: -- and since we're a small group, could we do quick introductions?

MS BASHBUSH: Oh yes, please.

MR MCCLESKEY: Just so we know who's around the table?

MS BASHBUSH: Yes. (Laughter.)

MR MCCLESKEY: We'll start right here. We'll start with you.

QUESTION: No one wants to start.

QUESTION: I'm Thomas Gorguissian with Al Ahram, Egypt.

MR MCCLESKEY: Welcome, great.


QUESTION: Diana Castaneda, NTN24 Colombia.


QUESTION: I'm Tomonori Ishikawa with Tokyo Shimbun newspaper.

MS BEKKERING: Wonderful.

QUESTION: I'm Veaceslav Gheorghisenco from Moldova.

MR MCCLESKEY: Yeah. I had a friend in Moldova. Good (inaudible).

QUESTION: I'm Laura Jagla (ph), communications specialist with USAID.

MR MCCLESKEY: And I'm Clayton McCleskey, spokesperson for USAID. So again, thank you for being here. Very glad to have a friend and colleague, Michelle Bekkering, here. She is the Senior Deputy Administrator in the Bureau for Economic Growth, Education, and Environment, and was with us in India last week for the Global Entrepreneur Summit with Ivanka Trump and the Administrator, Mark Green. So we'll talk a little bit about that and the broader administration's commitment to supporting women around the world.

So over you to, Michelle, to do an opening statement, and then we'll open it up for questions. And of course, we're on the record.

MS BEKKERING: Okay. Well, again, thank you to Olga for arranging this, and to Clayton and Laura our press team here. And I do want to say a fond hello to my State colleague, Rahima Kandahari, with whom I work very closely with and will keep me on the straight and narrow track here.

So again, it is a pleasure to be here today, and I am here specifically to talk about the United States commitment to empowering women and lifting them up worldwide. And this will be illustrated by several of our newly launched initiatives. You heard Clayton mention that we were in India last week for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, and I'm delighted to have an opportunity to give you a bit of a readout of that.

So in too many places around the world today women face barriers - barriers to equality, to resources, to opportunities, and these are just to name a few. These barriers can range from violence at home, violence in their communities. It could be a barrier to credit, to the connectivity needed to launch a business.

USAID is working to break down these barriers to allow women the opportunity to achieve their full potential. So today in particular I want to focus on the issue of gender-based violence, recognizing the toll this takes on women, on girls, on their families, on communities and countries.

Global - excuse me. GBV, or gender-based violence, is a pervasive barrier to global security, to women's empowerment, and to economic growth. It is estimated right now that gender-based violence has cost the world more than 5 percent of its global GDP, having a - excuse me, having a greater aggregate economic impact than war.

And so from November 25 to December 10th, USAID is joining many other countries, agencies, and partners in the international community for the Global Campaign: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence. And as USAID we observe and support these days of activism to prevent violence, to ensure justice for victims, and to find ways to lift women up and to level the playing field both socially and economically.

So as I mentioned, last week I was in Hyderabad, India as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. As you know, this year the summit was hosted by the United States and India. We were pleased to have Senior Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump and USAID Administrator Mark Green representing the United States.

And the theme this year was really special to so many of us in this community. It was Women First: Prosperity For All. And as Ms. Trump said when she addressed the summit, "Only when women are empowered to thrive will our families, our economies, and our societies reach their full potential."

So empowered to thrive is multifaceted. It means to be safe, to be healthy, to be educated, and to have economic opportunities. Women and girls should be safe from the threat of violence in their homes, in their communities, and they should have access to education and health care - the opportunities to live up to their full economic potential.

And despite the recent uptick in entrepreneurial activity among women, as GES so clearly pointed out, there's a lot more work still to be done, particularly in the developing world. In developing countries it is estimated that 70 percent of women-owned small and medium size businesses are still denied access to the capital they need. Nearly one in two women are shut off from the internet, and women are disproportionately more likely to go to bed hungry every night.

We also recognize women face unique challenges related to health and access to education. In fact, in conflict-affected countries around the world girls are almost two and a half times more likely to be out of school than boys.

At USAID, we are working to close all of these gender gaps. Just last week, Administrator Green, during GES, announced a few new programs that we hope will help bridge these gaps. The first is the WomenConnect Challenge. This is a - currently it's a call for other partners. We're looking for private sector as well as other donor countries to contribute funds to help us bridge the gender digital divide. There will - there is also a $2 million commitment from USAID's Feed the Future Program designed to scale up and mentor female agricultural entrepreneurs in Africa to meet the need of the 800 million people worldwide who lack proper nutrition.

We also launched additional funding to help India combat tuberculosis by bringing in greater awareness to the stigma which disproportionately affects women associated with the disease. We had a really impactful, I would say, opportunity last week when we were in Hyderabad to visit one of the clinics and talk to survivors of the disease. And it was tough. It was hard to hear their challenges and what they've gone through, but it also gave us, I think, a lot of great hope for the work that is being done there.

And finally, we were very excited to launch USAID's first health impact bond. This will also be in India, and it's aimed at improving maternal and newborn health. Our goal is to save up to 10,000 lives over the next five years of this program.

So in summary, at USAID we want every girl to go to school, to live in a home and community free from violence, and receive the care she needs to grow healthy and strong.

In closing, I will just reiterate the words of our Administrator Mark Green: Let the 16 days of Activism be a clarion call to eradicate gender-based violence once and for all.

And on that note I will stop here, and I would love to have a conversation with you, answer any questions you have. So --

MR MCCLESKEY: Great. Thanks for that, Michelle. Yeah, anybody have a question to start off with?

MS BEKKERING: I can read more statements. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We had enough. (Laughter.)

MS BEKKERING: I assume you've heard statements before.

QUESTION: Over years at least. (Laughter.)

MR MCCLESKEY: Is it worth maybe talking a little bit about the WomenConnect Challenge?


MR MCCLESKEY: Which is one of, I think, the key announcements. Not so much just the project itself, but why it is that you think that this matters, why it is that we're focusing in on the digital divide in particular, and why Ivanka Trump and others are behind this.

MS BEKKERING: That's a great question. And I think there, if you look at the Trump administration, especially this first year here, you've really seen them take a lead on women's economic development, empowerment, and especially this arena of women entrepreneurial - women entrepreneurs.

And so for us the digital divide, as we've worked with the White House and we've - as we've worked with State Department and our other partners, what we are always looking for are what are the best practices for us to make an impact in this field. And so one of the things we're looking at are, first of all, what is the limitations to credit. And we found that right now there's a $300 billion credit gap for women in the small and medium enterprise. It makes it very hard for them to go up to the next level and scale their enterprises. We all know that once it happens it means more jobs are created, it means we're lifting our communities out of poverty.

Another initiative that you've heard of this year is probably the Women Entrepreneur Financing Initiative. This is definitely something that grew great partnership from other countries.

MR MCCLESKEY: And that was launched at the G20, correct?

MS BEKKERING: Correct. It was announced at the G20 and then formally launched in October during the World Bank fall meetings. I mean, this is something that will be administrated by the World Bank. And it's really exciting because it has 13 partner countries from around the world who are all committed to working together to help - to help really attack this credit gap for women.

So when we're looking at women's economic development, how do we help women in this field, in all of our conversations we're recognizing that technology is - often in every field we look at in empowerment, it's the great equalizer. Technology is offering us, what I would say, an acceleration of impact in areas where change had been taking a very long time. So - and just because I like numbers, I'll give you an example here.

If you look right now at the gap around the world, 1.7 billion women in the developing world are - 1.7 women are still unconnected to the internet. And so if you look at the figures - Intel has predicted that if you could even bring 600 million women online, that could add an average of between $13 to $18 billion USD in GDP to 144 developing countries. So in one sense we look at this as this is a great economic opportunity, but then we're looking at so why specifically are women then not as active and online. And that's where, really, this challenge comes in.

So working with our gender community, our experts, working with our partners on the ground, recognizing there's not a one-size-fits-all model, we're looking at what is keeping women from being connected? And we see there's many things. Some of it the basics of cost. The cost to own not just the phone, but to have the subscription. And then we're looking at internet reliability and access, especially in rural areas. And then other things like social norms; being concerned that having access to a phone, especially for young girls and teens - and we're hearing this in the United States - cyber stalking, bullying, et cetera.

So what we would like to do is actually - and we have now, the administrator has called this global call for action to - and in January - in - excuse me, in early 2018 we'll formally launch the program. And the idea is designed to be a global call for innovation and solutions. We want to hear specifically from women around the world, from young entrepreneurs, old entrepreneurs, whomever, and really get their ideas. What is the silver bullet? What's the magic formula for us getting more women online?

Let me give you an illustrative example of something that we had done in the past, and it gave us really sort of I would say the idea for this. Working with partners, actually, in the - Asia and India, we looked at well, what's happening? And there, they said, well, one of the biggest barriers is cost. And so one of the innovative solutions that came forward is let's twin SIM cards. So if you go into the local - the local market for the same price - and this was us working with the local telecom provider - if you're going to buy a SIM card, if you're going to buy minutes, you're automatically for the price of one going to get two.

Well, what did that do? It drastically changed things, because let's say the man, the head of the household would go home and say, "Well, I have these two cards. Here you go." And so looking at ideas, like, how can we attack affordability?

And then other areas which have been interesting, we talked a lot about with the entrepreneurs that we're funding in India is solar power and how that's become a game changer. How we can provide charging stations in rural villages where, let's say, plugging in your mobile phone might not be an opportunity. So we're looking for these great ideas, and the idea really is - and we heard this time and time at GES - there's a lot of great ideas out there, there's a lot of great solutions and innovation; they need a home. They're really looking for that platform and that nexus to take these great ideas to the next level. And that's what we're hoping for through the digital divide.

QUESTION: Well, okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you know and what do you think about the situation in the former Soviet republics, like, Moldova?

MS BEKKERING: What do I know about? So I actually, early on in my career, spent a lot of time working through the - my previous position, where I worked in a non-profit organization on supporting a lot of the newly formed democracies of the - of eastern Europe. And it was a very - it was a very gratifying experience for me to work with colleagues in - I've worked with a lot of colleagues in Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, et cetera. And I think what's so fascinating is to see even there the leadership role that, if I can look at the former Soviet republics at large, is even the varying degrees, let's say, of democratic development, of economic growth, et cetera, and really watching such a fascinating experience where you have countries, like, let's say, Lithuania and the Baltics who have been such partners, especially I would say I've seen a lot between Lithuania and Georgia and Moldova and Ukraine, and really helping them on those journeys.

You also see - and I can speak for Moldova - you also do see very significantly numbers of women in leadership positions. That does not always equate to the local levels, but we do see that happening. There's a lot of talk, of course, about the Baltics where you've had women presidents for many years - Lithuania, Latvia, et cetera. And so one of our challenges I think at USAID is to recognize - and we do this in the larger development community - the American experience is not going to be a one-size-fits-all model. And you will hear our administrator talk about this time and time again: partners, partners.

So when we're doing work in a region, we want to work with our partners on the ground and really say: What are the challenges that are unique to the situation, and how do you think we can best overcome this? Because at the end of the day, our goal is self-reliance for all countries. Every country wants that for themselves. And so to help work to achieve that goal, we're going to work with countries to put those procedures in place, to work on institution building, et cetera, and to truly be partners in that development journey, recognizing that often those are the countries who are our biggest supporters in other countries.

QUESTION: So can you explain to me exactly what is - what are the main steps that you are taking, talking about, and taking activism against gender-related violence? Because this is the issue.

MS BEKKERING: Yep, absolutely.

QUESTION: I mean, and I don't think the - from my understanding, I don't think the digital gap will solve it anyway. Maybe it will make it worse, sometimes used as a weapon and lead to more harassment and all these things. I mean, what is your vision about it, first?

Second, of course, the rest of the world, whether we like it or not, sitting here, expecting either - both experience, American experience, and Americans' financial support to what is going on. So what do you have as an administration or as an agency to offer them?

MS BEKKERING: So it's a great question. So let's start with gender-based violence. So at USAID - and I think you'll see this across, obviously, the U.S. Government - we're looking at it as a two-pronged approach: prevention and response, recognizing that these two are going very hand-in-hand. What I think all of us in the gender community have realized over the last decades, too, is how evolved of an issue this has become and how pervasive. I think decades ago, when we talked about gender-based violence, we were thinking more of intimate partner violence.

And these were things - we even had a hard time talking in our communities where we were working, because they said this is a private issue. If we're going to talk about it, let's get the religious communities to come in, maybe we'll talk to the schools, et cetera. That's changed now, where we have seen - for instance, today, we have 66 million displaced people around the world, and where we're seeing GBV actually exasperated is in these areas of crisis.

So we look at several things. So first of all, with the prevention, we look at what are sort of the drivers of GBV, especially if we're looking in countries where we're seeing rates go up. So it's working oftentimes - I think - I'm going to go back to my past life again, in Argentina. We were working with women parliamentarians and CSO leaders there, because they had a drastic increase one year in GBV, and looking at: What's causing that? Can we see economic drivers? Is there something going on in society? Or is it - and I'm actually going to tie this in, actually, to digital - is it even just that people are more comfortable now talking about it, and they're actually reporting it?

So the first thing we do is get a sense for what might be driving these numbers. And we look at a holistic approach. We've actually found education, and not just education in advocacy, which is very important, but we look at education, recognizing that for every year additional that a girl goes to school, you can actually see the trajectory to her in later life having better health benefits, less likely - and this is relative - to be a victim of GBV, and also to have better economic opportunities.

We also need to look at regulatory frameworks. This is one of the biggest challenges. So working with countries to make sure (a) there are laws that clearly state, let's say, a woman's equality, and making gender-based violence a crime that's punishable. And that also gets to the response. In a lot of the countries where I worked - and it's truly startling when you talk to women victims, they will say, "Why would I report this? There is no good outcome for me." And I would ask more questions. And I was doing some work in Latin America, and they were saying, "Okay, here's an example in my country today. If I were to - if my husband - if there were an incident of gender-based violence, I would have to go to the police station, I would have to file a complaint, and then we would have to go to court." And I said, "Okay, tell me about that." There's not a family court in this particular situation. The woman did it once. She went to criminal court. She was seated on a bench with people going to trial for murder. It was such a debilitating experience for her, she left the courthouse, she never spoke about it again, she refused to get treatment.

We need to work with judicial systems to make sure that if a woman is brave enough to come forward, there is - first of all, there is justice that - the halls of justice are going to work and offer her opportunities, and then we have to look at services, and USAID is a big believer in that. Psychosocial services. Therapy. Obviously, health is a big thing, especially for women unfortunately who are violated or raped. So making sure that we're looking at it from all areas - not just the physical health, but also treating sort of the mental symptoms.

And then the last thing I would say is - and you had a great question. 

Okay, gender, digital, smartphones, et cetera, how is that going to help? One of the areas where we have actually seen it being - two areas - let me give you two examples, and again, where we've seen this offering us greater opportunities. It's twofold. The one is in connecting first responders in a time of crisis. So thinking of the fact that if you have, let's say, a cellular network or if you have apps where you can actually go in and say, "I'm reporting violence," it oftentimes allows, let's say, your - whatever government structure you have in place now, any international donors, let's say peacekeeping forces, to actually start tracking and mapping: Do we have particularly troublesome spots? If so, we need to mobilize the first responders immediately. And so in that sense, while I'm not going to say it's going to cure it, it has allowed us, I think, to accelerate some of our response capabilities.

Another great example is women - we talk about women in the marketplace a lot, which actually face increased - especially when you're talking about women traders, so increased harassment. So if you're a woman in a marketplace, if you're a woman trying to import/export, deal with customs and barriers, there's been really great solutions. And I'm going to talk about Bangladesh where women themselves put together hotlines and apps where they were directly connected to not only other women, to the women's chamber of commerce and industry, but also to law enforcement officials so we could have what we called rapid-time response to that situation. Unfortunately, that can range from a policeman coming to one of the counselors on the phone saying, "You need to step out of this situation, go to a safe place, someone will come to you." So I see it as a great opportunity and we look at it less as the end-all, but an enabler.

QUESTION: So - but just to make clear that it's like - using Washington lingo, what is the price tag of this - what you are doing? I mean, what - how many projects do you have? How much money do you have? Especially with the idea that there is always talk about budget cuts, and of whether the State Department or the agency - so in this combination of things, what are you planning to do in the - let's say next six months or - at least six months or a year? Can you elaborate a little bit?

MS BEKKERING: Let me give you - first, let me start with an example of sort of how this has been funded to date. And this, I must say, if you look, the U.S. Congress has put a lot of attention and a lot of support behind this. So currently right now, between State Department and USAID, there is $150 million earmark where they are requiring us to look across missions, across embassies, across the countries we're working, and to meet these - to meet these earmarks and directives. So I would say that's substantial.

We're also seeing increased - and we saw this in our last budget - increased attention and funding for combating child, early, and forced marriage, because we are increasingly seeing this as not just a separate bucket. We need to talk about these things in tandem. Now, let me give you - I think which is a really great --

QUESTION: And I think you are - sorry to interrupt.


QUESTION: You are including, of course, human trafficking, too, right, somehow? Or not?

MS BEKKERING: So that would be a separate budget, actually. That's where it also gets a little bit complicated. One of the great lessons I learned when I asked for my budgets was that these are all still - because of how they're allocated and how they're funding, fall in different buckets. So for instance, the State Department actually takes the lead on our combating human trafficking. And so that would be a different budget line item.


MS BEKKERING: To another - to kind of put a finer point on this, I was just talking about what's happening in prevention and response, and so through our humanitarian assistance program, through our Office of Foreign --

QUESTION: Assistance.

MS BEKKERING: Yes, they - we call it OFDA - they sent $87 million from 2014 to 2016 alone on this gender-based violence response and prevention. So, I mean, this is significant money. This is something the U.S. Government takes very seriously and is backing it up with funding.

MR MCCLESKEY: And I would just add as a complement to that on the issue of budget, so you do have a substantial amount of funding that is being invested in these kind of programs, but also under Administrator Green, there's been a push to - it's not just about writing a check, it's not just about the money, but it's really about USAID's ability to convene and accelerate ideas that are already there.

So for example, one of the announcements that was made at GES by the administrator was the first-ever global health impact bond. So what happened there - this is to upgrade medical facilities in India. So a lot of women don't have access to maternal health or the - or it might be substandard care. So what USAID has done is in essence gotten a company to front the money that is needed to elevate these clinics to be accredited. And if they're successful, USAID will pay the money back. But it's an investment - it's, frankly, a meager investment of about $2 million, but we're leveraging it to over double that. So that's just one example that's not so much about the dollar figure, but our ability to leverage other private sector actors to get at these broader issues that Michelle is talking about.

MS BEKKERING: That's a great point. A great point.

QUESTION: And I got a question about - if you can elaborate more about the efforts that the Trump administration is doing for this important issue, that it's - sexual harassment and sexual assault. And (inaudible) as you mentioned before, to fight against gender violence.

And second - the second question is: It results a little bit confusing out of the U.S. states that if the - this kind of gender violence, if it's a priority for the administration, Trump, why is the President supporting Roy Moore as a candidate for the Senate when he clearly is being accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers?

MS BEKKERING: So now, bring it back to just reminding you - so USAID is an international development agency, and unfortunately, we are precluded from getting involved in domestic politics and doing domestic policy. So unfortunately, I would have to probably refer you to someone in Congress or in another agency who could speak to that.

What I will say is I would refer you to look at the remarks specifically in the last couple weeks. Ms. Trump had met with several groups talking about GBV, countering traffics in - trafficking in persons. And this is something that we're - she has called out. I mean, this is something that is - it's a scourge. I mean, I don't think anyone would say gender-based violence is something we can tolerate.

I do also think what has brought such great solidarity, especially if I take this back to the 16 days of activism, is the fact that gender-based violence affects every community: United States, Middle East, Latin America. This is not something that is just centered in one field, and so one country is going to come in. And to Clayton's point, I think at USAID and also at State Department that's why, again, we recognize working with our partners on this. No one has the exact answers. We're really looking to work together and to build on the best practices and in other success stories, and to leverage our combined efforts because we think that's how we'll have the greatest impact.

QUESTION: Okay, so just a question: Is this the beginning of the 16 day or the end of the 16 day?

MS BEKKERING: Almost the end. Almost the end. So December 10th is the end. And I'm - we - so it's been fascinating.

QUESTION: So to try to figure out --


QUESTION: -- what you did in the 16 days --

MS BEKKERING: Correct. That's a great question.

QUESTION: -- and - or if there - how many days are left, what do you want to do in those days. (Laughter.)

MS BEKKERING: Yep. So this has been exciting. I have to say it's been really fascinating. So every agency has scheduled and conducted their own what I would call calendar of events, so State Department, USAID, our other agencies, and also internationally and through the UN.

So what did we do? So at USAID, we worked months prior to this to work with our missions that are overseas and to provide all of them with different resources and support. So for instance, talking about our GBV planning - or excuse me, our GV - BV programming, et cetera, and they held events. Events were anything from public advocacy to talk about the issues, but more likely it was bringing in our partners from certain communities and actually asking them to tell us what their successful interventions were in their communities.

One of the great, I think, roles that USAID can play is a convener. We can offer a voice to the true activists who are on the ground doing this great work. And we are proud of our support, not only financial support but that emotional support, and allowing these opportunities to really highlight what they've done. So we had events all over the world in our missions, and then also here in Washington, D.C. And what we really wanted to do is really this year highlight and focus on the fact that GBV is multifaceted.

So for instance, we looked at - our events looked at it and we had events once, twice a day - things such as how do natural disasters compound gender-based violence; how does lack of access to natural resources, again, compound the effects? What about law? What about justice? And so the idea was to bring in different sectors to really talk about environment, energy, et cetera, and say what have you see and what are the interventions you've taken.

On Wednesday, we had a signature event - I'm now sorry I didn't know you and invite you - where we actually brought in USAID implementers from around the world, from Iraq.

MR MCCLESKEY: So this was here in Washington?

MS BEKKERING: In Washington, excuse me, at the City Club. We had someone from DRC. And we looked at different interventions, and that was fascinating because one of the things looked at - we had - one of the implementers was a faith-based organization named Samaritan Purse, and they were able to talk about how they were working with local religious communities and leaders.

Also our partner from Iraq was talking about that because what we also recognize is how do we work with local stakeholders who have the legitimacy. So especially, as I was talking about earlier, we have - oftentimes we want to very much respect the cultural, the social structures that are in place, and we can recognize that oftentimes our advocacy efforts will not be successful if we do not have that buy-in from the local leaders, if we can't have that conversation with them, if we can't say, "Hey, this is wrong, this is a problem," because they have that legitimacy to frame it. And especially when we're working with men and boys, it's really important to have those male leaders be our champions.

So it was a great event, and big thanks to Laura (ph) and her team for helping us put it together. But specifically, what we looked at is gender-based violence in crisis settings, looking at the role of education, first response, and then again really what are the particular needs, especially knowing that the average, I believe, of displacement now is upwards of almost 17 years. So recognizing also that humanitarian response is starting to bleed into development: So now we have a humanitarian crisis; we also have long-term development issues. How do we bridge that gap?

MR MCCLESKEY: And there's been an online - to complement to all of these conversations, there's been a big online push, social media campaign.

MS BEKKERING: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely, so --

QUESTION: You know of Ivanka Trump's trip to Japan and empowerment of women and entrepreneurs?


QUESTION: That was great thing for Japanese people and the world- but you know that this - such kind of empowerment of women or avoiding gender violence, it's such an old/new yeah, old/new problem. So the Japanese people share Ivanka Trump's views, I think way of thinking and to a degree agree - most people to a degree agree.


QUESTION: But most people, it seems, don't like action - don't go for it, or next - they can't go for next steps. What do you think are the most important things to do- for solutions, for the next steps and empowerment of people?

MS BEKKERING: That is a great question, and it's something we all struggle with. And we talked about it at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India as well. When you come together, there is great energy and there's excitement, and you are faced with the challenges and you're presented with all the great ideas. What is vitally important is to make sure there's an action plan following, to make sure we keep up that energy, to make sure we don't lose that momentum. So going back to your statement too, first of all, Ms. Trump was delighted by her invitation from your government. And I understand that was the second annual --

QUESTION: Second, yeah.

MS BEKKERING: -- conference they've had, which was a great gathering and I think a really great initiative by the Japanese Government.

And so there, again - and you have a good point - and so that is no different than a lot of our other summits. And one of the things - and she talked about this a lot - I wasn't in Japan, but I heard her talk about in India - was we have to leave here with next steps and actions. So for example, today already I was getting emails from the White House and with State Department, and they were outlining the next steps that were going to be taken. And so what we had all done is we came back with the ideas we heard. Of course, USAID had several announceables. And now we're putting together what are the next steps, what are the timelines, what can we be doing.

So for us, one of ours will be really working with partners now to say we talked about closing the gender digital gap. Now we have to do it. So we're actively recruiting partners and governments and private sector to come on board with us and to not only offer them money, but the support for this. And now, we will launch this in early 2018.

The other idea is there was a lot of private sector companies there, and so they were specifically on the panels talking alongside their public sector partners because one of the messages that came through time and time again is: The government is not the only avenue to combating these issues. We need the private sector to come in and work with us. And I think for especially the context you're talking about and especially because that was about women's economic development in entrepreneurship, you will need to have the private sector working alongside the government to carry out those great ideas. And Ms. Trump had a really great statement at GES, which was: It's the idea of the private sector to come up with the great ideas; it's the role of the public sector, the government, to make sure there's the framework and opportunity for them to grow those ideas. We can't impede them.

And so I think one of the things we're all getting better at is recognizing the role that both of us have to play in bringing both sides to the table. 

You rarely see any more just government conversations on these issues. It's private sector, it's public sector, it's making sure, again as I mentioned earlier, the local partners are there. And I think it's going forward and making sure when we're leaving these events we're saying, "Okay. If we want more women in the workforce" - going back to that example - "what do we need to do?" Ms. Trump talks about we need to invest more in STEM training. Okay, so then we need to be looking at are we doing that? Workforce development.

But if women have training, if they have education, are there jobs? That is the big challenge. And one of the things you're hearing coming out of our administration very clearly is the calling for more opportunities for apprenticeship, for on-the-job training, because we're recognizing we can talk about these things; we've got to provide the opportunities.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MCCLESKEY: And we'll have time for about one more question if there's another follow-up from anyone. Well, I think we'll end on that note. Really appreciate you all making time on a Friday afternoon to come chat.

MS BEKKERING: I hope I gave you what you're looking for. Yes. (Laughing.)

MR MCCLESKEY: Appreciate it.

MS BEKKERING: Good. Well, really, I do want to thank all of you for coming today and just really appreciate the interest in these topics. It's obviously a passion of USAID's and we're delighted at really the interest this year's campaign has gotten. It's been really great, both on social media as well as the physical events that we have held both here in Washington and our missions abroad to see how many people are really coming forward.

This is truly an area where we're seeing private and public partnership, and we're also increasingly talking about this not just as a women's issue. This is something where we've had such great male champions, and we're encouraged that we're making great gains in this field.

MR MCCLESKEY: So stay tuned. It's the --


MR MCCLESKEY: This is - there's more to come in the new year on this.

MS BEKKERING: More to come. Much more.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS BEKKERING: Great, thank you all.

QUESTION: Thank you.

Last updated: December 11, 2020

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