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Women Drive Economies In LATAM

A woman from the Amazon region weaves a textile during the "Ruraq Maki", or handmade, artisan fair in Lima, Peru.

“Latin America and the Caribbean have steadily increased women’s participation in the labor market."

Hard data and scientific studies prove that women are a global force for economic growth, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Conference on Women as Drivers of Growth and Social Inclusion in mid-October in Lima, Peru.

“Restrictions on women’s economic participation are costing us massive amounts of economic growth and income in every region of the world,” she said. Many countries exclude women from participating in the formal economy, or make make it difficult for women to enter the economy. As a result, these countries forfeit billions of dollars in potential economic growth.

But in Latin America, the trend lines are moving in the right direction, said Secretary Clinton. “Latin America and the Caribbean have steadily increased women’s participation in the labor market since the 1990s, and now it is above 50 percent. . . . Without that decade of growth and participation, the World Bank estimates that extreme poverty would be 30 percent higher in the region.”

Nonetheless, a number of major obstacles still prevent women’s full participation in the labor market. So, the United States is partnering with a number of countries in Latin America to help women overcome these obstacles.

The Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas, or WEAmericas program, attempts to overcome the three greatest obstacles to women entering the global economy: access to training, access to markets and access to financing. Under the Pathways to Prosperity initiative, there are programs that help to improve access to markets for women-owned businesses as well as offer opportunities for networking and mentorship.

In Lima, Secretary Clinton introduced two new initiatives. To help women throughout the region run their businesses more efficiently and get good ideas off the ground, the United States is partnering with the Inter-American Investment Corporation to launch the Women’s Entrepreneurship Trust Fund in Peru and in El Salvador. And to help Peruvian women, particularly those in rural communities, advocate for their own needs, the United States is launching the new Women’s Leadership Initiative.

“It’s not enough to say we want a future where every person has the equal opportunity to fulfill his or her God-given potential,” said Secretary Clinton. “We have to have a plan for how we get there. So let’s recognize these are difficult issues that can only give way with our commitment of time, resources, and attention.”