Office of the Senior Coordinator for International Womens Issues
January 19, 2005
U.S. International Women's Issues Initiatives
The United States is deeply committed to promoting global respect for women. Because the United States considers the rights and freedom of women to be fundamental human rights, the Bush Administration has made the empowerment of women integral to U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. Government is helping women become full participants in their societies through various initiatives and programs that increase women’s political and economic participation. Major U.S. initiatives include the following:
Afghanistan--Overview. The U.S. commitment to accelerated success in rebuilding Afghanistan includes major women’s components in the areas of political participation, economic opportunity, health, education, and overall reconstruction. Since the fall of the Taliban, the United States has implemented over 200 projects directly in support of Afghan women. Of the over 4.8 million children in school, nearly 40% are girls – by far the highest number in Afghan history. The U.S. is providing $84 million to support Afghan elections to assist with the consolidation of this new democracy. Over 27% of seats in the Lower House of Parliament and almost 17% of seats in the Upper House are reserved for women. Women comprised over 40% of total voter turnout for the October 2004 presidential election. Fact Sheet: http://www.state.gov/g/wi/rls/37066.htm.
The U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council (USAWC). This innovative public-private partnership initiative links U.S. and Afghan governments, private sectors, and NGOs to practical projects benefiting women. Example: The Council is providing $1 million and expert advice for literacy and job training programs in new Women’s Resource Centers in over half of Afghanistan’s provinces. The Council also supports microfinance programs to help women establish small businesses. Fact Sheet: http://www.state.gov/g/wi/rls/38726.htm.
Iraq. The United States is supporting several major initiatives to ensure the integration of women’s rights and opportunities into Iraq’s reconstruction and transition to democracy. Example: Drawing from the $27 million that Congress set aside for special programs targeted for Iraqi women, Secretary Powell established in March 2004 a $10 million Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative, along with a new public-private partnership, the U.S.-Iraq Women’s Network. As a result of this Initiative, grantees are actively working in Iraq to assist women in political organization and participation, election preparation, coalition building, leadership training, entrepreneurship and media outreach. Fact Sheet: http://www.state.gov/g/wi/rls/36751.htm. Statement by Secretary Powell: http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/powell/remarks/36496.htm.
Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). This forward-looking program aimed at building partnerships and improving the lives of people throughout the Mideast, with a total of $218.5 million budgeted to date, pays particular attention to women in the region. MEPI includes a specific Women’s Empowerment Pillar dedicated to reducing cultural, legal, regulatory, economic and political barriers to women’s full participation in society. Examples: a Women and the Law workshop resulting in a regional association for women in the legal profession and a public legal education campaign on women's rights and equality; a regional "campaign school" for women candidates; and a new Middle East Entrepreneurs Training in the U.S. (MEET US) initiative. Fact Sheet: http://www.state.gov/g/wi/rls/35617.htm. MEPI Website: http://mepi.state.gov/mepi/.
Poverty Reduction. The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), a major new U.S. development assistance program, will increase current levels of core assistance by 50 percent over the next 3 years, providing an annual increase of $5 billion by fiscal year 2006. Countries will be selected to receive MCA assistance based on their performance in governing justly, investing in their citizens, and encouraging economic freedom. The treatment of women is a factor in determining each country’s eligibility for funding. Girls’ primary school completion rates are included in selection criteria for fiscal year 2005. MCC website: http://www.mca.gov/ and Press Release: http://www.mca.gov/public_affairs/press_releases/FY05%20Selection%20Process.pdf.
Economic and Microenterprise Development. U.S. support for microenterprise development has exceeded $150 million each year for the past 5 years. A large proportion of this assistance is provided for micro-credits, for which 70% of the clients are women. Brochure: Women, Men and Development: http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/cross-cutting_programs/wid/pubs/usaidbook.pdf; USAID Microenterprise Website: http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/economic_growth_and_trade/poverty_reduction/microenterprise_development.html.
Political Participation. The United States mobilized 110 co-sponsors at the 2003 UN General Assembly for a resolution promoting concrete actions to increase women’s political participation around the world. Text of Resolution: http://www.state.gov/g/wi/rls/rep/28497.htm.
HIV/AIDS. The United States is committing $15 billion over 5 years to combat HIV/AIDS, which increasingly poses a greater threat to women, particularly in the poorer nations of the world. In 2002, President Bush announced a new $500 million International Mother and Child HIV Prevention Initiative that seeks to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mothers to infants and to improve health care delivery in Africa and the Caribbean. One key element in the U.S. efforts to reduce women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS is to promote property rights for women. When women have control over their economic assets, they are better able to avoid risky sexual and abusive relationships. Fact Sheet: President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief: http://www.state.gov/s/gac/rl/fs/2004/29706.htm.
Women in Post-Conflict Situations. The U.S. Government has been a strong supporter of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, which highlights the important role of women in helping their societies recover and rebuild after devastating civil conflict. U.S.-supported programs aimed at increasing women's access to education and strengthening their leadership, advocacy, political, and entrepreneurial skills help ensure that women are able to take their rightful place at the peace table and in society. Over the past four years, the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration has funded the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Women and War Project, which addresses the specific protection, health and assistance needs of women in situations of armed conflict. The program has now been successfully mainstreamed into ICRC’s core protection activities. Department of State website: http://www.state.gov/g/wi/.
Refugees. The majority of refugees and displaced persons today are women and children, and the U.S. Government provides major funding and technical support for their humanitarian, resettlement, and rehabilitation requirements. In FY 2004, the United States contributed $2.3 million to gender-based violence prevention programs targeting refugee women. Department of State website: http://www.state.gov/g/prm/.
International Cooperation. In the 10 years since the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women, the U.S. has made significant progress towards implementing many areas of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Beijing+5 Political Declaration and Outcome Document. The U.S. submitted a response to the UN’s "Questionnaire to Governments on Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Outcome of the Twenty-Third Special Session of the General Assembly (2000)," detailing domestic and international programs and initiatives in the areas of violence against women, poverty reduction, access to health care, economic opportunity and power-sharing. Text of U.S. Response: http://www.state.gov/p/io/rls/othr/35882.htm.