Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Washington, DC

ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER: Thank you so much, Romina [Bandura], the honor is entirely mine. Really, just absolutely thrilled to be a part of an event honoring such an important program, such important women, and such leadership that is having such a profound development impact. I also want to thank, of course, Jamille [Bigio], for her steadfast leadership to promote gender equality and empowerment through our work at USAID – she has made a major difference at the agency and out in the world.

The happy part of my day today is to have a small part in recognizing our nine MujerProspera awardees who are here with us today. Two years ago, it feels like only yesterday, I had the pleasure of announcing the winners of this challenge, the nine organizations we are celebrating today, whose ideas stood out among a pool of about 400 applicants. Hearing their plans, it was exciting to think about the lives that they might go on to change. 

Well, sure enough, now we have the results. We can see lives that they have touched and altered because of their work.

Take Belkis, a baker in Honduras. Belkis had long demonstrated enormous skill – her banana bread was the stuff of legend in her community. But in spite of her talent and all of the rave reviews, she had a hard time growing her business with just a single portable oven to produce her treats. This made it incredibly difficult to provide enough income for herself, her mom, and her two children to live on. Then, Belkis took part in the Grameen Foundation’s “Resilient Life, Resilient Business” course, with support from MujerProspera. She learned about digital marketing, she started using social media to promote her business, and she saw her customer base grow. She got a loan to buy two industrial sized ovens to meet the booming demand. And, after learning through the course about the benefits of diversifying her family’s income sources, she also began raising chickens and starting a backyard fish farm. With a thriving business and a commercial kitchen ready to use, she now keeps the old portable oven above the fridge as a reminder of how far she has come. 

That is just one story of the impact of MujerProspera. But, over the course of its two years, the grantees of this program touched thousands of lives – all told, the MujerProspera Challenge reached nearly 12,000 participants across Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. 

Some grantees, like the Grameen Foundation, provided business training and microfinance. Others provided agricultural training to help women farmers increase their yields, and to link them with businesses that were ready to purchase their harvests. Some helped women enroll in advanced educational programs. Others provided survivors of gender-based violence with the legal and psychosocial support to find justice and healing after experiencing such extreme trauma. All challenged harmful gender norms and encouraged greater inclusion of women in economies and in communities.

Each grantee found an innovative way to empower women to overcome the economic challenges that too often drive people to attempt the dangerous migration journey north. The majority were local organizations, working to empower women in their own communities. And the financial payoff was clear. The grantees who specifically measured changes in income reported that participating women more than doubled their incomes as a result of MujerProspera programming. 

These nine organizations formed 127 partnerships with private companies to accomplish their goals – partners that provided ongoing mentorship, business training, and access to professional networks that helped MujerProspera participants succeed. Thanks to these private sector partners, MujerProspera grantees have raised more than $500,000 in follow-on funding to support their work after the USAID project concludes.

MujerProspera has empowered participants to advance in their own careers. But what is so wonderful about this program is that the benefits go far beyond the women themselves. These women are building financial security for their families. They are generating more economic opportunities for their communities. And they are contributing to the building of a more stable, more prosperous, more inclusive world for us all – where people don’t have to flee their homes and make dangerous migration journeys in order to find the safety, agency, and dignity that all people deserve.

Thank you again to all the MujerProspera grantees. You have inspired us, educated us, and fed us in some cases. And thanks as well to everyone who played a part in advancing this vital work. So grateful to be a part of helping celebrate and recognizing you. 

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