Women's Economic Empowerment and Women's Health Services
December 3, 2018
An Opportunity for U.S. Leadership
Support for women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship around the world is gaining considerable momentum, manifested in recent U.S. and World Bank initiatives. This is an issue of global importance that garners extensive bipartisan support, rooted in data about the benefits for alleviating poverty and advancing economic growth. Yet economic empowerment does not exist in isolation in women’s lives; it is interconnected with and dependent upon access to women’s health services, notably maternal health and family planning, as a fundamental enabling factor. Simply put, women cannot meaningfully participate in the labor force if they are not healthy and able to decide the timing and spacing of their pregnancies. Concerted, bipartisan leadership is necessary to ensure that U.S. support for economic empowerment is intentionally aligned with U.S. investments in women’s global health.
This is a unique area to advance a bipartisan, cross-sectoral approach, building on U.S. leadership in women’s global health to advance the economic potential of women and girls. This policy briefing calls on members of Congress, on a bipartisan basis, to communicate directly with the secretary of state and the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to encourage continued U.S. leadership in both women’s global health and economic empowerment to spur economic growth and promote healthy development. To demonstrate the improved dual outcomes that could result from such programmatic linkages, Congress should direct USAID to create a pilot program in 2-3 countries and to invest in data and evaluation to inform scale up. Additional recommendations include ensuring a particular focus on adolescent girls and engaging the private sector. As context for these recommendations, this paper examines the current momentum on women’s economic empowerment and lays out the growing evidence. This policy briefing is part of the CSIS Women’s Health Policy Forum, which seeks to generate consensus around concrete U.S. policy options and continued bipartisan support for women’s health and international family planning as key pillars of U.S. global health and development policy.
This paper is made possible through the generous support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.