USAID Administrator Green Announces New Efforts to Empower Women Entrepreneurs

November 29, 2017

This week, the United States and India are hosting the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Hyderabad, India.  Now in its eighth year, GES is a preeminent annual entrepreneurship gathering and will welcome 1,500 entrepreneurs, investors, and supporters of entrepreneurs from 150 countries to India.  This year marks the first time GES has taken place in South Asia, which reflects the region's strong entrepreneurial achievements and future, as well as India's emergence as a strategic U.S. partner.

GES 2017's theme is Women First, Prosperity for All, and focuses on supporting women entrepreneurs and fostering global economic growth.  Despite recent progress, limited access to technology, nutrition, and health services prevent women, their families, and their communities from reaching their full potential.  

To close this divide, this week USAID is announcing several efforts, including:  WomenConnect Challenge, which will help to bridge the gender digital divide; a 2018 Feed the Future competition; a $2 million commitment from Feed the Future designed to lift up and mentor female entrepreneurs in Africa; funding to help India combat tuberculosis (TB) by bringing greater awareness to the stigma associated with the disease; and the launch of USAID's first health-impact bond, aimed at improving maternal and newborn health.

  • The WomenConnect Challenge supports comprehensive approaches to closing the digital gender divide.  Across all segments of society, digital technologies have opened the doors to unprecedented economic growth, and spurred a new wave of innovation that is dramatically improving lives.  However, 55 percent of the world's population-1.7 billion of whom are women -remains unconnected, creating a digital divide that slows economic growth for communities and countries.  In early 2018, USAID will issue an open call for proposals for innovative ideas to bridge the gender digital divide by addressing the barriers of affordability, security concerns, and restrictive social norms.
  • Women face another gender divide:  of the 800 million people who still go to bed hungry every night, women are disproportionately affected.  The lack of access to nutritious food ultimately leaves children malnourished and vulnerable to disease, which affects their future growth, security, and prosperity.  However, women are also uniquely positioned to be part of the solution to ending hunger.  At GES, USAID announced that Feed the Future will launch a new competition for women-led enterprises to access investment and other business services to take their food businesses to the next level.  The U.S. Government's Feed the Future initiative is committed to helping women entrepreneurs feed the most disadvantaged women and children around the world.  
  • Additionally, USAID announced that in January 2018, Feed the Future will commit $2 million, with a matching amount leveraged from the business community, to connect women entrepreneurs in Africa with mentors from leading American food companies.  This partnership will help entrepreneurs build their expertise, optimize business operations, and ultimately scale up their companies to have an even-greater impact on disadvantaged communities.
  • A healthy community leads to a more prosperous community.  Recognizing this, USAID will also announce a new $1 million effort to bring greater awareness to TB's stigma -- which disproportionately affects women -- with the ultimate goal of securing a TB-free India by 2025.  As the largest bilateral funder of TB efforts worldwide, USAID partners with the private sector, civil society, and international organizations to reach every person with TB, diagnose infections quickly and accurately, cure those in need of treatment, and prevent new TB infections through a patient-centered approach.  USAID has supported the Government of India's TB program since 1998, and has invested more than $140 million to strengthen the capacity of national, State, and District-level TB programs, and has introduced new tools and approaches to detect, cure, and prevent TB successfully.
  • In the realm of preventative health, USAID announced the launch of its first health-impact bond, the Rajasthan Development Impact Bond.  Through this public-private partnership, private capital will front the costs to improve the quality of health services in private health facilities in Rajasthan, and USAID will pay back the investment only if the providers achieve certain concrete results.  The increase in life-saving supplies and trained staff, and the improved ability to address complications in labor, will save the lives of as many as 10,000 women and newborns over five years -- helping to prevent the joyous occasion of childbirth from ending in tragedy as it does for far too many families.  This novel pay-for-success approach is a great value for U.S. taxpayers, because it unlocks private capital and resources from local government to save lives.

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The U.S. Agency for International Development is leading the U.S. Government's efforts to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies