Digital technology is revolutionizing the world by providing access to information, financing, and business networks — all of which are necessary for women to reach their full economic potential and create integrated, sustainable communities.
Today, over 1.7 billion women in low- and middle-income countries still do not own mobile phones. The internet user gender gap is more than 40 percent in some countries. The persistent gender digital divide is reinforcing, and even exacerbating, existing socioeconomic gaps between men and women.
Advancing women’s digital connectivity is key to promoting their empowerment in an increasingly digital world.
In order to address these inequities, U.S. Agency for International Development Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick announced $1.5 million in new grant funding for the second round of the WomenConnect Challenge under the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative. Deputy Administrator Glick announced the funding at the 2019 Global Entrepreneurship Summit with the aim to bridge the gender digital divide so that women can fully participate in the global economy.
This is part of a whole-of-government effort to advance women’s economic empowerment worldwide under the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative’s three pillars. The first is to increase women’s global labor force participation and advancement in the workplace through vocational education and skills training. The second is to increase the access of women entrepreneurs and business owners to financing and market opportunities. And finally, the Initiative seeks to promote women’s economic engagement by removing restrictive legal, regulatory, and cultural barriers.
The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative hopes to economically empower 50 million women in the developing world by 2025 in part through a new fund at USAID with an initial contribution of $50 million.
USAID Administrator Mark Green launched the WomenConnect Challenge on International Women’s Day in March 2018. Since the first round, USAID has awarded nine grants, reaching nearly one million women in 12 countries.
As Deputy Administrator Glick said, “By investing in women, USAID is investing in a future in which countries can be self-reliant by unleashing the potential of their own people.”