President Donald Trump ordered $50 million in foreign aid to be spent on women’s economic empowerment on Thursday, according to an op-ed by Ivanka Trump, the president’s senior advisor and daughter, in the Wall Street Journal.
The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, or W-GDP, is expected to affect the lives of 50 million women by 2025, Trump wrote. The plan has bipartisan support and consists of three pillars — helping women get jobs, empowering female entrepreneurs, and eliminating sexist laws that keep women from working and achieving independence.
Critics point out that the government is already pursuing these goals and no additional money is being committed to the fund. Instead, existing foreign aid is merely being shuffled around, leaving the overall amount of foreign aid funding unchanged.
Regardless, the renewed emphasis on women’s economic empowerment reflects the growing global movement for gender equality, which Global Citizen champions.
“The economic empowerment of women shouldn’t be viewed as a ‘women’s issue,’" Trump wrote in the op-ed. “Smart development assistance benefits families, communities and nations. By investing in women, we are investing in a future in which countries can support themselves by unleashing the potential of their own people.”
The W-GDP initiative establishes a $50 million fund within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is responsible for distributing and overseeing much of the country’s foreign aid spending and programs.
Trump wrote that the initiative will be subjected to “the administration’s new strategy of foreign assistance.” The president and his administration have repeatedly questioned and doubted the usefulness of international aid and multilateral organizations. On multiple occasions, President Trump has alleged that foreign aid spending is not well tracked and fuels corruption.
The new strategy “emphasizes investments that produce measurable results and help recipient countries become self-reliant,” Trump wrote. However, most foreign aid is mostly distributed through nonprofits, NGOs, organizations like the UN, and government agencies like the State Department, which do track and measure their results.
Still, measuring the efficacy of this initiative could lead to greater levels of funding in the future if the efforts prove to have solid returns on investment. Few foreign aid priorities have a stronger track record than women’s empowerment.
In her op-ed, Trump noted that expanding economic opportunities for women could add $12 trillion to the global economy by 2025 and added that investing in women reduces the likelihood of conflict. For every $1 invested in female farmers, $31 are generated in return.
The first pillar of the W-GDP focuses on helping women get jobs. Organizations working with USAID will help women access vocational training and educational opportunities, emphasizing technology skills to help women stay competitive in the future. Programs will also seek to improve women’s job entry and retention rates, and boost the number of women who hold management positions.
The second pillar aims to empower female entrepreneurs, primarily by connecting them with corporate buyers. Currently, just 1% of spending by large corporations when sourcing materials goes to female suppliers.
Global Citizen has long campaigned to end this disparity in economic opportunities for women. At the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 in on Dec. 2 in Johannesburg, corporations committed to spending $230 million on new contracts with female suppliers after tens of thousands of Global Citizens took action.
Other organizations are also working on this issue. For example, the World Bank, with support from the US and other countries, plans to mobilize $4 billion to invest in female entrepreneurs.
“Women entrepreneurs are vital to our ongoing prosperity,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said when announcing his support for the World Bank’s fund. “They create jobs, advance gender equality, and help build economies that work for everyone. When women entrepreneurs succeed, everyone benefits.”
The final pillar in Trump’s initiative is focused on tackling sexist laws around the world. Globally, 2.7 billion women are restricted from working the same jobs as men because of gender discriminatory laws that exist in more than 100 countries, according to the World Bank. There are laws that prevent women from accessing credit lines, opening bank accounts, owning property, and going to court. In some countries, women have to get permission from their husband, father, or male guardian to work.
Trump’s op-ed doesn’t explore how the US will pressure countries to get rid of these laws, but progress is already being made on this front around the world.
For example, the Gambia has pledged to repeal sexist laws following actions taken by global citizens as part of our #LevelTheLaw campaign.
In the months ahead, Global Citizen will be working to ensure that the W-GDP receives logistical support and that its priorities are pursued by other organizations as well.
The US recently nominated David Malpass, a former Wall Street executive, to lead the World Bank. Global Citizen will be calling on Malpass to articulate his vision for empowering girls and women around the world.