“…[W]e support societies that empower women -- because no country will reach its potential unless it draws on the talents of our wives and our mothers, and our sisters and our daughters… You can measure how well a country does by how it treats its women.” – President Obama, Cape Town, South Africa, June 30, 2013
In this fourth year of what the African Union (AU) has called the “African Women’s Decade,” the United States strongly supports the great strides and commitments many African countries and the African Union have made to increase women’s and girls’ empowerment through steps to promote good governance and rule of law, accelerate economic growth and enhance food security, advance respect for human rights, and improve access to services – from health care to education. Long-term development will only be possible when women and men enjoy equal opportunity to rise to their full potential.
As announced earlier today, the United States is committing new assistance to advance gender equality in Africa through:
- Support for up to three countries to develop or implement national strategies to advance women’s participation in peacebuilding and their protection from violence.
- New programs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Mali, Rwanda, Somalia, and Uganda, as well as across West Africa, focused on increasing women’s participation in peacebuilding and constitution drafting processes, advancing women’s land rights, and mitigating election-related violence.
- Three new centers that will provide business development assistance to women entrepreneurs in East, Southern, and West Africa, through the Department of State’s African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) and the Women’s Entrepreneurial Centers of Resources, Education, Access, and Training for Economic Empowerment (WECREATE) project.
- Technical support to strengthen AU Commission and national-level efforts to address barriers to the equal participation of women in the agricultural sector.
- Support through wPOWER, working with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, for grants to organizations that promote the role of women entrepreneurs in selling clean technologies, as well as support for scaling up programs that educate adolescent girls on clean energy technologies.
- Increased assistance to the Inter-Parliamentary Union to build the capacity of African parliaments working to advance gender equality and to support parliamentary campaigns on specific gender equality issues.
More broadly, the FY 2015 budget request seeks more than $190 million to directly advance gender equality across Sub-Saharan and North African countries, which includes activities to promote political and economic opportunities for women, access to health and education services, and efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. We further leverage broader development investments to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment across Africa.
Promoting Leadership Opportunities for Women and Girls. Women’s leadership and meaningful participation in government, the economy, and civil society accelerates economic development, improves health and educational indicators, advances democratic development, and fosters peace and security. Five sub-Saharan and North African countries participate in the United States-led Equal Futures Partnership, through which countries undertake domestic reforms to removes barriers to women’s economic and political empowerment. The United States has:
- Joined in training the next generation of female African leaders through the Young African Leaders Initiative, the Women in Public Service Project, and GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Camps, which are organized and led by Peace Corps Volunteers.
- Supported training for women to run for political office and advocate for legislation that promotes women’s rights across North Africa through the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). In Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia, the United States trains female candidates and political party leaders on developing campaigns that advance women’s rights and opportunities.
Expanding Economic Opportunity. To promote women’s economic empowerment, the African Union, the African Development Bank, the World Bank Group, African countries, and the United States have supported efforts to increase women’s access to markets, capital, and assets, and to advance women’s leadership, voice, and agency. The United States has:
- Helped, in 2013 alone, nearly 1.8 million farmers in Africa (more than 700,000 of them women) apply new practices and technologies that have the potential to lift them out of poverty, with support from Feed the Future, the President’s global hunger and food security initiative. The technologies that farmers develop are transforming women-only agricultural tasks into tasks in which husbands and wives work together and produce a greater overall benefit for themselves and their families. The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index measures the impact of agriculture investments on women to inform future programming. Targeted programming helps advance women’s empowerment, including the African Women in Agriculture Research and Development fellowships, which strengthens the skills of African women scientists in research and leadership, and encourages research to improve the lives of smallholder famers, especially women.
- Promoted a range of measures to advance women’s economic participation through Millennium Challenge Corporation compacts in 14 African countries, including conducting public outreach to more than 11,000 individuals to build support for legal reforms that increase women’s rights in Lesotho, encouraging that land be registered in both husband and wife’s names and supporting the establishment of 54 women’s associations to increase women’s access to land in Mali, and providing $10 million to increase access to electricity for micro and small enterprises in markets where women predominate in Ghana.
- Invested $2.6 million since 2010 in a network of more than 1,700 sub-Saharan African women entrepreneurs to help expand their businesses, facilitate professional exchanges, increase trade to the United States, and benefit from the African Growth and Opportunity Act, through the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program.
- Support women entrepreneurs throughout North Africa to gain new skills and networks, launch and expand businesses, and develop as innovative leaders, such as in Tunisia, where the Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability Centers have contributed to more than 150 women launching and expanding businesses since 2012, and in Libya, where 200 women have been trained since 2013 in entrepreneurship, accounting, finance, and economics.
- Provided business development training and investment to female entrepreneurs working to bring clean energy access to more than 3.5 million people over the next three years through the Partnership on Women’s Entrepreneurship in Renewables (wPOWER).
Increasing Women’s Roles in Conflict Prevention and Security Decision-making. The United States joins the African Union, regional economic communities, and many African countries in committing to strengthen prospects for peace and security through the empowerment and protection from violence of women and girls in countries affected by crisis, insecurity, and political transition. The United States has:
- Invested close to $25 million in FY 2014 in Africa to support women’s roles in peacebuilding and participation in decision-making, including through programs in Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan. Programs include capacity building for women leaders and women’s organizations to advocate for and provide assistance to their communities, through training in coalition building, negotiations, conflict resolution, and public speaking.
- Engaged women leaders to advance peaceful elections, including in Sierra Leone in 2012, where the United States supported civil society partners to develop conflict-prevention messages and train women community leaders to help prevent local conflicts from escalating by acting as mediators and by advocating nonviolence through radio and other public engagement.
- Provided nearly 4,000 African women since 2005 with training to enhance their roles as peacekeepers through the Global Peace Operations Initiative.
- Provided training to African militaries though U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and the African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), focused on promoting women’s participation and ensuring their protection from violence, including through a January 2014 week-long course in Kenya for representatives of 11 African nations focused on peace support operations, and as a component of ACSS’ annual Senior Leaders Seminar and the Next Generation of African Security leaders program, which involve more than 45 African countries.
- Supported efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence (GBV) in emergency situations across Africa, including as part of the Safe from the Start initiative, which the United States launched in 2013 to better address the needs of women and girls and other groups at risk of GBV in emergencies. The United States is supporting increased programming with the UN Refugee Agency and the International Committee of the Red Cross, in addition to working directly with national partners, such as in Somalia, where USAID is helping to establish referral pathways for GBV survivors to access services; training community workers and health officials on the provision of care and psychosocial support for survivors; and connecting survivors with livelihoods opportunities.
Expanding Education Opportunities. Recognizing that education is one of the most effective ways to expand opportunities and life choices for girls and young women, the United States has been working with countries across the continent to close the education gap between boys and girls by identifying gender-related obstacles and working with our country partners to implement policies and programs to overcome these obstacles. The United States has:
- Invested an average of $350 million annually since 2010 in approximately 20 Sub-Saharan Africa countries to help girls and boys receive a quality education and obtain the skills they need to live healthy and productive lives. This includes making sure girls are learning in classrooms and building community support for girls’ education, such as in Liberia, where the Girls Opportunity to Access Learning project grants scholarships to girls, supports girls’ clubs, and provides school-improvement grants to communities in order to create safer school environments.
- Promoted women’s participation in science, technology, engineering, and math fields, including through TechWomen and TechGirls, which offer women and adolescent girls from North and Sub-Saharan Africa the opportunity to participate in an intensive exchange program in the United States that equips them with skills, networks, and resources to pursue higher education and careers in technology.
Promoting the Health of Women and Families. When women are healthy and educated, they are able to participate in the work force and are more likely to have healthy, educated children – ushering in a cycle of opportunity rather than perpetuating a cycle of poverty. The United States has:
- Played a key role – by strengthening country health systems, health worker training, and investment in life-saving tools through the President’s Global Health Initiative – in assisting 16 priority African countries to halve maternal and child mortality rates since 1990, reducing maternal mortality on average from 1,065 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 467 in 2013, and child mortality rates from 190 deaths per 1,000 live births to 96 in 2012. Renewed efforts to expand access to voluntary family planning also contributed to increases in the percent of married women using modern contraception in many African countries, including by up to 50 percent in Liberia and Ethiopia since 2005.
- In West Africa, USAID invested an estimated $44 million in FY 2013, and is working through the Ouagadougou Partnership to reach an additional 1 million women with family planning information and services by 2015.
- The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) works to provide access to life-long anti-retroviral treatment for both mothers and their children, including for over 4 million women in Africa. In FY 2013, PEPFAR tested over 11.5 million pregnant women across 16 African countries, and invested over $265 million to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Addressing Gender-based Violence. Gender-based violence undermines not only the safety, dignity, overall health status, and human rights of the millions of individuals who experience it, but also the public health, economic stability, and security of countries around the world. In Africa, the United States has:
- Invested almost $60 million since 2011 to prevent and respond to GBV in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania, and Mozambique through PEPFAR, including promoting girls’ education to help prevent HIV and GBV in the DRC, investing in research and evaluation in Tanzania, and improving the availability and quality of GBV services in Mozambique.
- Supported judicial and law enforcement sectors working to improve access to justice for GBV survivors. In the DRC, since 2011 the United States has provided $2.6 million to train local health, legal, and law enforcement professionals on gathering medical evidence for successful prosecution and conviction of GBV perpetrators. In Ethiopia, the United States provided $1.2 million in FY 2012 to increase the capacity of law enforcement agencies to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate cases concerning child, early, and forced marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting.
- Partnered with six African nations since 2009 through the Together for Girls public-private partnership to conduct CDC national violence against children surveys, building the foundation for evidence-based solutions to end sexual violence against children, especially girls.
- Encouraged men to partner in preventing GBV through behavior change programs, such as in Zambia, where “Boys to Men” project – established in 2014 with $2.3 million – aims to reduce social acceptance and the occurrence of GBV by promoting non-violence in schools.
- Supported a 2010-2016 study in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and Tanzania to assess the effectiveness of various approaches to prevent child, early, and forced marriage, the findings of which will be shared with other regions impacted by the practice.
- Launched in 2014 the Gender-Based Violence Emergency Response and Protection Initiative, a public-private partnership with Vital Voices and the Avon Foundation, which provides emergency assistance to GBV survivors globally and coordinates a global network of GBV first responders. Hubs for coordinating response efforts and trainings in sub-Saharan Africa, include Mali, Kenya, and South Africa