On the One-Year Anniversary of the Launch of the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative (February 12)
AMBASSADOR CURRIE: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the United States Department of State. My name is Kelley Currie. I am the ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues here at the department. We are honored and delighted to have leaders from across the U.S. Government here in attendance for the inaugural meeting of the interagency steering committee of the White House’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative. Thank you so much for coming.
It’s now my great pleasure to introduce our wonderful Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, to open our discussion.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. Thank you, Ambassador Currie. Welcome, everyone. I’m thrilled to announce that Ambassador Currie will be heading this new W-GDP unit that we’re establishing here at the State Department. Congratulations to you.
AMBASSADOR CURRIE: Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. It’s a privilege, and frankly, joyous for me to be here today to kick off this inaugural interagency steering committee meeting and to host every one of you here today. Thank you all for being here.
Our country was founded on the self-evident idea and truth that every man and woman is endowed by their creator with a certain set of unalienable rights and so deserves the chance to achieve his or her God-given potential. It’s something we all, regardless of our political party, agree on. What’s more, women’s achievements are America’s achievements, and President Trump’s program is a historic and tangible expression of our founding values.
Through this initiative, American interests are also served by having freer, more peaceful, and more prosperous neighbors, a goal at the heart of American foreign policy in this administration. The need for the W-GDP is clear and it’s urgent. Too many barriers have kept women from opportunities in far too many parts of the world.
Tomorrow I’ll leave for my trip to Sub-Saharan Africa. I look forward to meeting with women across the region, women who I know Ivanka met last year when she was in Ethiopia. I’ll meet a woman named Sara. She’s an Ethiopian weaver who worked with our USAID to expand her local business to 500 employees, a true testament to the effectiveness and the goodness that comes from the W-GDP programs. If we succeed, there can be many stories like hers.
Again, thank you all for being here. Ambassador Currie, I’m looking forward to working with you and our team and look forward to your leadership on this important issue. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR CURRIE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and it’s now my great pleasure to introduce my partner-in-crime, the real lodestar of this initiative, Ivanka Trump, advisor to the President. Thank you.
MS TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you, Ambassador. (Applause.) And Secretary, I can say that Sara will blow you away.
SECRETARY POMPEO: (Laughter.) I can’t wait.
MS TRUMP: What she’s been able to do over the last decade to go from a small business with some assistants to an employer of hundreds of women that she teaches the skills to and now is the country’s largest exporter of woven textiles, so really an amazing story. And really, thank you just for being here and for supporting the dedicated men and women of the State Department and for your leadership in forging a legacy of bold diplomacy around the world. I look forward to continuing to partner with you as we achieve real impact.
Today I am honored that we come together to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, also known as W-GDP. Anniversaries like this allow us an opportunity to highlight the incredible work that’s been done by all of you and your team sitting around this table, and also set new goals to drive us into the future. We’re especially excited to announce the State Department’s new role as lead coordinating agency working to support the White House’s continued direction on policy.
The State Department, as the Secretary noted, will establish a dedicated team to work on W-GDP under the incredible leadership of Ambassador Kelley Currie. State’s diplomatic and policy expertise is really incredibly critical to all elements of the W-GDP Initiative, but particularly as it relates to driving the types of legal and regulatory reforms that are so important to sustainable change across the world. So I want to thank you again, Secretary Pompeo, Ambassador Currie, and the many others across the State Department who share this priority and are committed to the success of W-GDP.
I would also like to thank USAID Administrator Mark Green for his incredible leadership on this initiative. Thank you. Thank you, Mark, and thank you for joining us. You have been working with us since day one, and last year launched a dedicated W-GDP fund. USAID’s program management expertise is essential for this fund to be successful, and we know that it will be.
In December, we were thrilled to announce that W-GDP got its own line item in the 2020 omnibus bill, which is truly incredible for a young initiative and signals the strong bipartisan support we have been so fortunate to receive in the collaboration on this initiative with members across the aisle on the Hill since its inception.
This past week, the President reaffirmed his commitment to this initiative in the 2021 budget, which doubles the allocation to W-GDP. So many individuals in this room have worked tirelessly over the past several years to get this initiative off the ground, and I would like to thank everyone around this table for prioritizing women’s economic empowerment efforts across your agencies and departments. W-GDP’s success relies upon the hard work that you and your teams put forward every day. So, thank you all.
I also want to recognize and thank Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Jeanne Shaheen for joining us here today. You have both been instrumental in the creation of this initiative from day one and have really worked with us on developing it based on your experiences and making it what it is. We first worked together on women, peace, and security legislation, and subsequent to that on the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act, and have built a very constructive relationship based on trust and a shared mission and a shared goal, which is why I am particularly pleased to be able to announce today that we will be introducing bipartisan legislation in the Senate to promote the empowerment, development, and prosperity of women globally, aptly named the W-GDP act.
This legislation would permanently authorize W-GDP and establish women’s economic empowerment as a core facet of the United States foreign policy, in line with the President’s own National Security Strategy. The women’s global development and prosperity act will also permanently elevate these efforts at the State Department by establishing for the first time ever in legislation an office of women’s empowerment led by an ambassador-at-large. Since the Bush administration, there have been continuous efforts to try to codify the role of women as a foreign policy priority. This White House looks forward to working closely with Congress and passing W-GDP legislation and realizing this long-overdue goal. We thank you for your partnership and your commitment to helping us get this done.
I’d also like to recognize and thank Representative McCaul – thank you, Representative – and his counterpart in the House, Representative Lois Frankel. I’m really happy to also be able to announce that under their leadership, they will be introducing a companion bill in the House of Representatives in the coming days, and we thank you again for your steadfast commitment to advancing this work, Representative McCaul. Really, thank you, and thank you for being here.
To put all of this in a little bit of context, last February the President signed a national security presidential memorandum to officially launch W-GDP. W-GDP is the first-ever all-of-government, coordinated approach to women’s economic empowerment across the agencies. This NSPM also established an ambitious goal of reaching 50 million women across the developing world by 2025. Today we will release the first annual W-GDP report in front of everyone today, detailing our impact, and I am beyond excited to be able to announce that we have reached over 12 million women in the last year alone. (Applause.) Really amazing. All of this through innovative new programs and projects across all three of the W-GDP pillars, all of which is itemized in the report.
One of the key components of W-GDP is recognizing the role of both the public and private sector in achieving large scale and lasting results. The private sector is just an absolutely critical partner in our mission as we seek to address barriers to women’s economic inclusion, and I would like to call out a few of our partners that were with us from inception, including Mastercard, Visa, and UPS, for helping us generate this tremendous impact. These partnerships have made it possible to source and scale innovative new projects across all three of the pillars.
Under pillar one, we are advancing workforce development and vocational education for women by equipping them with the necessary skills to secure jobs in their local economies and to enhance the productivity of the work that they are doing. We have launched programs like WomenConnect, a call for solutions to improve women’s participation in everyday life by meaningfully changing the way women and girls access and use technology. Through this program, USAID has awarded over $2.9 million to 12 grantees working to bridge the digital gender divide in our countries.
In pillar two, we are empowering women to succeed as entrepreneurs. We know that women-owned or women-run businesses make up a third of small to medium size enterprises in emerging markets. Yet some of the greatest obstacles to growth include insufficient access to capital, mentorships, and trading markets. Through initiatives launched by this administration, such as the W-GDP 2X Challenge, we galvanized the rest of the G7 nations to join us in committing $3 billion to the world’s women. And through the World Bank Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, which the United States was a founding member of – otherwise known as WEFI – we have mobilized more than $2.6 billion to date from 14 separate countries.
This weekend, I will travel with Ambassador Currie, World Bank President David Malpass, and IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva to the WEFI summit in Dubai. With the help of many in this room, we are making historic progress on closing the gender credit gap and empowering women entrepreneurs to create jobs in their communities and growth in their economies.
Finally, and very importantly – maybe the most importantly – pillar three recognizes the central role of a legal framework that enables women to thrive by eliminating legal and societal barriers that prevent women from fully participating in the economy. Today, in 90 countries around the world, there are still laws on the books that restrict women’s ability to work in the same jobs and sectors as men, oftentimes the predominant industries in those countries and communities. In 75 countries, there is at least one law that prohibits women from owning, managing, or inheriting property. We can and we must address these discriminatory laws and regulations.
To that end, two of the most significant milestones we have seen W-GDP’s first year are that the Governments of Cote d’Ivoire and Morocco each amended laws to promote women’s economic empowerment through addressing women’s property and land rights. We commend those governments for making these important and bold reforms.
The United States stands eager and ready to work with every country willing to take action to address discriminatory, legal, and regulatory barriers that hold women back and impede economic progress for all.
In a landmark report that was also issued today, the White House Council of Economic Advisors – and thank you, Tomas, for being here – estimates that fully addressing the five legal barriers of W-GDP – accessing institutions, building credit, owning and managing property, traveling freely, and removing employment restrictions – could increase annual global GDP by $7.7 trillion, 8.3%. It’s a really amazing report, and we suggest that everyone take a close look at it.
In the coming year, we can work to empower millions of women to lift their families out of poverty, to grow the economies in their country, to reduce dependence, and to deliver on the promise of greater peace and prosperity. I look forward to working with each of you around this table as we advance this ambitious goal.
And now, I would like to turn it over to my dear friend, Senator Graham, to follow up with a few words. Thank you, Senator.