Office of the Senior Coordinator for International Womens Issues
February 22, 2005
U.S. Commitment to Women in the Western Hemisphere
The United States government is committed to empowering women politically, economically, and socially. Working bilaterally, through multilateral organizations such as the Organization of American States and the Community of Democracies, and through the Summit of the Americas process, the U.S. government has given a high priority to supporting programs that focus on women.
Political and Legal Empowerment
United Nations Resolutions. At the United Nations General Assembly in December 2003, the United States introduced and won unanimous approval of a resolution on "Women and Political Participation." Some 110 countries co-sponsored the resolution, including 23 WHA countries. The resolution reaffirms the basic principles of women’s participation in the political process and proposes practical measures to empower women. The United States also strongly supported Security Council Resolution 1325 of October 31, 2000, on women, peace, and security, which called on member states to ensure increased representation of women at decision-making levels in conflict resolution and peace processes.
Text of Resolution: http://www.state.gov/g/wi/rls/rep/28497.htm
Inter-American Women’s Commission (CIM) of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Summit of the Americas. At the OAS, the United States promotes sessions on women’s participation in the political process, education, and science. The United States has been an active participant in CIM-organized meetings to promote the integration of women into all fields of activity, for example in science and technology. Gender Equality was selected as one of eighteen mandates at the Third Summit of the Americas, and the United States supports incorporating a gender perspective into Summit programs.
State Department website on the OAS: http://www.state.gov/p/wha/rt/oas/
State Department website on the Summit: http://www.state.gov/p/wha/rt/soa/
Projects in the Hemisphere. The United States government sponsors many projects designed to promote the political empowerment of women. For example, the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs provided a grant in 2004 to the Venezuelan chapter of Vital Voices to hold two-day workshops, one on "Leadership and Negotiation" for 70 women leaders from civil society NGOs, grassroots community groups, and small businesses; the other on "Basic Leadership Skills for Women" for 25 participants from the public and private sectors. In Bolivia, Peace Corps Volunteers in the health sector work at the local level to promote women’s representation on community water committees and their participation in decision-making processes. In 2004, 90 water systems were improved or constructed with the participation of 234 women in 48 communities. In Argentina, the U.S. Embassy sponsors a "Justice Undergoing Change" program spearheaded by women who are focused on improving the efficiency of the justice system by implementing mediation and other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. Women comprise 50% or more of the participants in justice-related projects supported by the Embassy.
Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). This major new aid program increases current levels of core U.S. development assistance by 50 percent over the next three years, providing an annual increase of $5 billion by fiscal year 2006. The MCA’s emphasis on the fundamental elements of economic growth will benefit women. Countries are being selected to receive MCA assistance based on their performance in governing justly, investing in their citizens, and encouraging economic freedom. The MCA recently added a new indicator measuring countries’ performance using Girls’ Primary Education Completion Rates as one of the factors to be taken into account in determining each country’s eligibility for MCA funding. In the Western Hemisphere, Bolivia, Honduras, and Nicaragua were selected to participate in the MCA for FY 2004. For FY 2005, eligible countries in the Americas are Bolivia, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
MCC Press Release: http://www.mca.gov/public_affairs/press_releases/FY05%20Selection%20Process.pdf and MCC website: http://www.mca.gov/
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). APEC leaders and ministers last met in Santiago, Chile, in November for the 2004 APEC Summit. The United States works to ensure that women’s interests are taken into account in APEC’s policies and projects. The United States helped to create the Gender Focal Points Network (GFPN) to implement the Framework for the Integration of Women in APEC and plays a leadership role in the Women Leaders Network (WLN), an advisory body comprised of women from business, academia, NGOs, and government from each of the 21 APEC economies. Women use the WLN to share best practices and promote business and trade for women entrepreneurs through workshops and international events. APEC commissioned the U.S. Census Bureau to study the economic contributions of women in the region. The study addressed the need for gender-disaggregated data and notes the disproportionate concentration of women in the informal sector, where low wage jobs and poor working conditions predominate. The WLN worked in partnership with APEC officials to create a Microenterprise Subgroup within APEC’s SME group. The Microenterprise Subgroup is important for women in business since women in APEC developing economies are predominantly concentrated in microenterprises, in the informal sector, as the Census study indicated.
Newsletter on APEC Summit in Santiago: http://www.state.gov/p/wha/rls/news/37147.htm
Labor Issues: In 2003, the United States funded an International Labor Organization (ILO) project designed to improve labor relations and general quality employment for women in Colombia. In FY 2004, the U.S. Department of Labor funded a $3 million Child Labor Education Program in Panama. The project includes vocational training of women and families to provide alternatives to child labor. The U.S. Department of Labor also funds a $1 million program to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.
Department of Labor website: http://www.dol.gov
Trafficking in Persons (TIP). The United States has been a leader in bringing attention to the problem of Trafficking in Persons, a global plague whose weight falls most heavily on women. Beginning in 2000, the U.S. Congress required the State Department to prepare a country-by-country annual report on the status of trafficking. Gradually building up a data and knowledge base since 2000, the information contained in the annual country reports is more complete each year. In FY 2003, the U.S. government devoted nearly $75 million to anti-trafficking activities, with $10.5 million of that devoted to projects in the Western Hemisphere. The Department of State has provided anti-trafficking funding to the OAS and detailed an officer to serve as the OAS anti-TIP coordinator under OAS General Assembly resolutions 1948 and 2019. The United States has also worked closely with the OAS’s Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) on trafficking issues since the OAS has given CIM a leadership role on the issue. CIM is hosting a regional "Best Practices" trafficking conference in Washington, DC, in 2005. Many anti-TIP projects throughout the region have been funded. For example, in Brazil a two-year $250,000 project will train 200 officials of the Transit, Civil, Federal, and Military Police forces; airport and immigration authorities; Embassy consular officers; judges; and prosecutors to identify and take action against traffickers. A network of international organizations and customs officials in Brazil and Europe will be developed for the repatriation of victims and the exchange of information about traffickers. As part of the project, the International Labor Organization (ILO) will assist the Government of Brazil with interagency cooperation on a national action plan against trafficking, conduct public awareness campaigns, and provide direct assistance to victims in five cities in the northeast of Brazil.
Department of State website with listing of TIP projects: http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/rpt/34182.htm
Post-Conflict Situations. Security Council Resolution 1325 of October 31, 2000, addressed women and post-conflict situations. To lend support to implementation of Resolution 1325, the United States joins Canada, Chile, Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico, and other countries as a member of the "Friends of 1325" United Nations governmental group. The United States sponsors both government and public-private partnerships for women who are helping their societies recover from civil strife.
Department of State website: http://www.state.gov/g/wi/
Health and Well-Being
HIV/AIDS. The United States is committing $15 billion over five years to combat this threat, paying special attention to the gender dimensions of this disease, which increasingly has a female face. 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 the Caribbean and Africa. There are a number of USG-funded projects underway to counter HIV/AIDS. For example, the Belize office of the Pan American Social Marketing Organization (PASMI-Belize), an organization funded by USAID, implemented in September 2004 vocational training sessions for 43 girls that include topics such as healthy relationships, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV. Other projects in Belize included support for public service announcements run by an NGO on positive family values and informed sexual decisions; establishment of the Powa Fu Women Project to hold retreats to address empowerment, self esteem, assertiveness, HIV/AIDS, condom-use negotiating, and HIV testing; organization of youth rallies on HIV-related topics; and programming of a speaker in 2004 to talk about HIV prevention with Belizean youth, especially vulnerable young women. In 2004, Peace Corps Volunteers in Guyana worked with more than 6,400 women and girls to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. In the Eastern Caribbean, at least 40 girls participated in HIV/AIDS peer education training with Peace Corps Volunteers and counterparts, while more than 760 girls participated in life skills activities that promote increasing self-esteem, resisting peer pressure, improving communication skills, and maintaining healthy relationships. President George Bush initiated the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and Women (PEPFAR) in 2003. One PEPFAR program is designed to help prevent HIV-positive mothers from transmitting the disease to their babies. Under this program, in Haiti a mobile clinic network reaches women living with HIV/AIDS in order to educate them and to help them deliver HIV-negative children.
Fact Sheet on PEPFAR: http://www.state.gov/s/gac/rl/fs/2004/29706.htm
Domestic Violence. Peace Corps Volunteers in Belize, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Eastern Caribbean, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru are working with positive and culturally appropriate approaches to raise awareness of and build skills in preventing family and gender-based violence. In the Dominican Republic, Volunteers have created resources to assist in talking about domestic violence with different groups in the community setting. They also organized a Parenting and Family Communication Workshop with participation by more than 25 community leaders. In Ecuador, Peace Corps Volunteers worked with La Casa de La Mujer, an NGO that established a network of support for battered women in 26 communities. Women have received training as community educators and liaisons between their communities and the NGO. In Paraguay, Volunteers and counterparts complemented a domestic violence workshop by supporting the creation of women’s clubs and mother’s groups and by organizing other events to improve women’s support systems and to advocate for women’s participation in community decision-making.
Maternal Mortality. Maternal mortality continues to be a serious problem in many parts of the world, and in Latin America and the Caribbean there are 22,000 maternal deaths each year. On October 19, 2004, U.S. Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey headed a panel on maternal mortality as part of the U.N. General Assembly’s Third Committee discussions. The panel focused on maternal mortality in Afghanistan, Africa, and Latin America, addressing the problems as well as the progress being made in saving women’s lives in those regions. In 2004, USAID in Bolivia sponsored community meetings to analyze cultural and institutional factors that contribute to women delaying receiving medical attention when a pregnancy complication occurs. Almost 1,000 men and women participated in these meetings, at which local actions were developed. In 2005, a second phase of this project will be implemented during which the community action plans will begin to be implemented.
USAID Brochure on Women, Men and Development: http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/cross-cutting_programs/wid/pubs/usaidbook.pdf
Professional Development and Training
USAID Projects. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funds a great many projects in WHA countries each fiscal year. In recent years, projects benefiting women have included ones on political leadership, legal advocacy, domestic violence, labor rights, and economic development.
USAID website on the Americas: http://www.usaid.gov/locations/latin_america_caribbean/
Peace Corps. The Peace Corps also conducts professional development and training projects. For example, in Honduras the Peace Corps conducted a "Women Leaders in Agriculture" conference that trained women in self-esteem, leadership, and motivation and also gave technical training on sustainable agriculture.
Peace Corps news releases: http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.media.press
Fulbright New Century Scholars. For its 2004 topic, the U.S. Fulbright New Century Scholars Program chose "Toward Equality: The Global Empowerment of Women." Among the topics that will be covered under this program are the education and socialization of girls; politicized religions and the involvement of women; globalization and the economic status of women; workplace and workforce issues; policies towards family, reproduction, and women’s health; migration, sex trafficking, and crossing of international borders; and women’s writing as examples of resistance and change. Four women scholars from the Western Hemisphere (Canada, Ecuador, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago) are among the international team working collaboratively on this project.
New Century Scholar information: http://www.cies.org/NCS/
The Fulbright Program. For the 2004-2005 academic year, there are 235 women from the Western Hemisphere studying in the United States under the Fulbright Foreign Student Program, representing about 40% of the total number of foreign students from the region. Under the Faculty Development Program in FY 2004, 72 women from the region came to the United States as visiting faculty, which was just over 50% of the participants from the Western Hemisphere.
Fulbright Program information: http://exchanges.state.gov/education/fulbright/
International Visitors Leadership Program. The U.S. State Department sponsors three-week professional development programs for current and emerging leaders. In Fiscal Year 2003, 128 women from the Western Hemisphere took part in this program and, in Fiscal Year 2004, 123 did so. Participants studied topics ranging from civil society, the rule of law, anti-corruption, intellectual property rights, border security, the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the media, elections, crime prevention, drug control, and transparency in government to counter-terrorism.
International Visitors Leadership Program Information: http://exchanges.state.gov/education/ivp/
Contact: Office of International Women’s Issues