The United States is committed to working with its Latin American and Caribbean partners to promote entrepreneurship and economic participation among women. On her recent trip to Colombia, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a new initiative called WEAmericas. It’s a set of public-private partnerships that will focus on small and medium-sized enterprises and will address the main barriers that women face in the business world: access to training, markets, and finance.
WEAmericas is a collaboration of the State Department with the private sector, foundations, nongovernmental organizations, and the Inter-American Development Bank to provide business training and mentoring, as well as access to finance and markets, to women entrepreneurs throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, building on existing programs under Pathways to Prosperity.
The State Department and the Walmart Foundation will work together to train women entrepreneurs, help connect them to networks and resources, and scale up their businesses.
Through their 10,000 Women Entrepreneurship Partnership, the State Department and Goldman Sachs will host women from Latin America and the Caribbean at the Thunderbird School of Global Management for intensive business and management training.
The second line of action is targeted at improving women’s access to markets. The State Department and ExxonMobil have both agreed to expand the work of WEConnect International into Mexico. The Inter-American Development Bank and Walmart will also assist in expanding WEConnect’s work into other markets, including Chile and Costa Rica. Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has committed to doubling the amount it sources from women-owned businesses in every market it serves over the next five years.
Another significant barrier women entrepreneurs face is access to lines of credit and other financial services. The Inter-American Development Bank is taking the lead with new inclusive lending models that will allow more small businesses owned by women to access credit.
All these partnerships to promote women’s entrepreneurship must be backed by smart policy choices that create a fertile environment where women-owned business can take root and thrive. "Everyone has something to contribute,” said Secretary Clinton, “banks, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, governments.”