Office of the Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues
July 30, 2004
U.S. Commitment to Women in Africa
Women play important roles in moving their countries toward peace, democracy, and economic prosperity. The United States supports a range of programs and activities designed to bolster their efforts. They include: training women to participate effectively in the political arena, reducing legal and social inequalities, expanding economic and educational opportunities, teaching women how to use computer technology and the Internet, and increasing access to better health care. The projects listed below are representative of U.S. efforts in Africa.
Women Leaders. The ALVA Consortium’s Women’s Leadership Program in east and central Africa equips women candidates with the skills necessary to run effective campaigns. In Kenya, six of the 24 women won their initial primary elections and three went on to win in the general election. In Rwanda, 15 of 20 participants in the program won political office in the 2003 parliamentary elections. In Niger, U.S.-funded programs to train women to run for political office will help the country reach its immediate goal of 10% female elected officials and 25% female appointed officials.
Civic Education. The U.S. Embassy helped NGOs in Madagascar establish a civic education center for women and children.
Conflict Resolution Training. Search for Common Ground, a U.S.-based organization and the Women’s Peace Center in Burundi trained 2,268 women in conflict-resolution skills, post-crisis trauma healing, and advocacy in 2002 and 2003. Another 347Burundians participated in workshops to end violence against women and children.
Women in Media. The U.S. Embassy in Liberia supported a new TV series on women by sponsoring an episode on women and good governance in March 2004. The women participants discussed recent legislation providing legal protection to women in customary marriages and opportunities in government.
African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). This act brings new investment into African countries, creating jobs and helping form mutually profitable commercial linkages. Thirty-seven of the 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are eligible for AGOA. The U.S. Embassy in Zambia sponsored an AGOA workshop for the Women Entrepreneurs Development Association. In South Africa, the U.S. Commercial Service Office organized a presentation on international trade opportunities for women.
Building Trade Capacity in West Africa. USAID launched a 3-year program, Growth through Engendering Enterprise (ECOGEE), in September 2002 to help women overcome barriers to business development and regional trade. Close to 1,000 West African women have benefited from ECOGEE through training programs in Internet and financial management; technical assistance to the West African Businesswomen's Network; and small grants to local women's associations with projects that support women's business development.
Businesses Skills in Niger. The U.S. Embassy sponsored a weeklong session in July 2003 for 20 businesswomen on developing business plans, marketing, finance, and human resource management. Ten of the women also participated in an Internet "training of trainers" program. They continue to meet under the auspices of the U.S. embassy to discuss how to promote women in the workplace.
Microcredit. In Niger, CARE and Catholic Relief Services implemented health, credit, and savings projects with nomadic populations. As a result, 130 communities have initiated income-generating activities and women’s use of local health centers has increased by 28%. The microcredit bank in Benin was established in 1997 to serve the poor. The United States provided initial capital of almost $1 million. The bank now serves almost 4,000 micro-entrepreneurs. Eighty-five percent of all loans go to women. USAID Benin Web Site: http://www.usaid.gov/bj/democracy/s-microenterprise.html
Entrepreneurship and Trade. A U.S. grant allowed the Women's Association of Toucounutouna in Benin to purchase drying machines, which are used to turn mangoes into an international export commodity. The association sells their product to upscale hotels and supermarkets. Eventually, this group would like to export their product to the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
Information Technology. Women from Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal traveled to Michigan State University for 3 weeks of computer training and study; MSU staff conducted workshops in each country. USAID and the African Businesswomen’s Information Service provided computer training to 45 businesswomen from eight West African countries to enable them to access market information and identify prospective business opportunities.
Academic Exchanges and International Visitors. The U.S. State Department awarded Fulbright scholarships to 66 African women and Humphrey fellowships to 18 women in 2004. Another four women are participating in Fulbright’s New Century Scholars Conference on the global empowerment of women. The International Visitor Program brought approximately 315 women to the U.S. in 2003 and 2004. In July 2004, for instance, nine women participated in a 3-week program on "Women as Political and Economic Leaders," designed to strengthen leadership skills and build networks with U.S. women leaders. The program focused on the economic and political roles that women play in nation building, emphasizing private sector and national, state and local government support for efforts to increase women's economic strength and their voice in policymaking.
In Africa, girls account for 60% of the approximately 42 million children who are not enrolled in school. In 2002, the United States committed $200 million to a new 5-year program, the Africa Education Initiative (AEI). At the end of 5 years, AEI will have provided 250,000 scholarships for African girls at the primary and secondary levels, trained more than 160,000 new teachers, provided in-service training for 260,000 existing teachers, and supplied 4.5 million textbooks and other materials for African children through partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States. Web Site: http://www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-saharan_africa/initiatives/aei.html
Community Resource Centers and Scholarships. The U.S. inaugurated the Education for Development and Democracy Initiative in Nigeria in June 2003 with the awarding of 50 scholarships to disadvantaged girls and the opening of a Community Resource Center.
HIV/AIDS Awareness Training. A grant from the U.S. Embassy in Togo to Togo’s Director of AIDS Testing and two NGOs has helped train 150 illiterate market women to become peer counselors.
Media and School Enrollment in Niger. The State Department funded the installation of 30 rural radio stations. Women have been included on their management teams and women’s listening clubs have formed around these stations. School enrollment has doubled in these communities because of the relevancy of the programs to their listeners and the availablity of information.
School Safety. In late 2003, USAID started a new public information program to address school-related violence against girls in Ghana, Malawi, and Ethiopia.
Women’s Human Rights and Legal Advocacy
Women’s Property Rights in Kenya, Malawi, Namibia and Tanzania. USAID funded NGOs that advocate for women’s rights. These grants have resulted in the drafting of new legislation for women; the development of TV and radio programs on women’s rights; and the training of thousands of men and women paralegalsto assist in property disputes. Web Site: http://www.usaid.gov/wid/activities/sgpafri.htm Legal Advocacy Training. USAID funded Georgetown University Law School’s International Women's Human Rights Clinic to work with lawyers in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, and Nigeria. Together, they drafted legislation, litigation strategies, and reports on domestic violence, discriminatory marital property laws, land ownership, employment discrimination, polygamy, and trafficking of women. The participating lawyers from Uganda successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Divorce Act. In March 2004, the Constitutional Court unanimously nullified several provisions of the Act on the grounds that they discriminated on the basis of sex.
Judicial Training in Ethiopia. The United States funded the training of 1,344 Ethiopian judges in 2002-2003, including 90 women.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). After years of U.S. efforts to educate government officials about the effects of FGM, Benin’s National Assembly adopted a law in January 2003 outlawing the practice. The law imposes stiff penalties for performing the procedure, including sentences of up to 10 years in prison and fines up roughly U.S. $10,000 if the procedure results in death. The Embassy provided a 3-year grant to organize educational programs and develop 72 prevention committees. During one ceremony, 18 practitioners made public commitments to give up their knives. In Senegal, 80,000 people in 105 communities committed themselves to ending the practice of FGM.
Rape. Women Against Rape, an NGO in Botswana, received funds to train persons in remote areas who serve as the first contact point for women and girls who have been raped. These persons know who to contact at the police department and medical clinics and what police and doctors need in cases of rape.
Ambassador's Special Self-Help Programs
The flexibility of Special Self-Help funds enables U.S. embassies to respond to communities in need of funding for special, small-scale development activities. Web Site: http://www.state.gov/p/af/rls/fs/34305.htm Angola. The Embassy provided funding for traditional midwife training.
Botswana. Kgetsi Ya Tsei (KYT) received funds in 2003 to purchase a new oil press. The women of KYT, spread among 25 villages, harvest and market a range of natural resource products, such as soap made from marula trees. The Samochima Community, located on the edge of the Okavango Delta, makes papyrus paper. They received a small grant to help them perfect their craft and enable them to sell their products to the local tourist industry.
Chad. Women's groups used SSH funds for artesian manufacturing. They also benefited when new bridges over riverbeds expanded their access to markets.
Congo/Brazzaville. Two projects have given two of the most vulnerable groups -- unemployed young women and handicapped women -- a means of self-support by establishing training centers for designing and producing clothing.