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Empowering Women Entrepreneurs

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson peruse the wares at the WEAmericas entrepreneurial fair in Cali, Colombia. (file)

WEAmericas seeks to leverage public-private partnerships to increase women’s economic participation in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Women’s economic empowerment is an important goal of U.S. foreign policy and a focus of our international development and social inclusion efforts. In April 2012, the United States launched the Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas, or WEAmericas initiative, at the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.

Empowering Women Entrepreneurs
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WEAmericas seeks to leverage public-private partnerships to increase women’s economic participation in Latin America and the Caribbean by reducing barriers that women often face in access to markets, financing, skills and capacity building, and leadership opportunities.

In support of the WEAmericas initiative’s goal of increasing capacity building and skills development, the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury, in partnership with the Inter-American Investment Corporation, created the FINPYME Mujer Empresaria Trust Fund, or Woman Entrepreneur Trust Fund, in October 2012 to support the creation and implementation of women-specific business diagnostic and training programs.

The FINPYME Mujer Empresaria pilot programs, launched in Peru and El Salvador last month, will benefit 100 women-owned businesses. During the inauguration of the program in El Salvador, U.S. Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte said, “We can overcome the barriers [women entrepreneurs face] through political reforms, programs, and market-based interventions. The FINPYME Mujer Empresaria program does exactly that.”

Companies participating in the Mujer Empresaria program receive a comprehensive business review by local implementing partners and technical assistance targeted to their company’s specific needs in order to improve the competitiveness of their businesses. In order to qualify for the program, a business has to be more than 51 percent woman-owned, have been in operation for at least three years with annual revenues between 350,000 and $15 million, and have a minimum of 11 employees.

The United States understands the power of women in business and supports their efforts to achieve a better life. Women tend to spend more of their income on goods and services that are beneficial to the whole community, such as children’s health and education.

As Ambassador Aponte said, “By increasing the participation of women in our economies, we are not only investing in women, we are investing in our shared future, and laying the foundations for a stronger, safer, and more prosperous American community.” It is time to tear down the barriers women entrepreneurs face, unleashing their full potential to be agents of economic and social development.