10 Ways USAID is Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment

USAID is committed to being a leading investor, partner, and advocate to achieve the goal of gender equality across societies. Jamille Bigio, USAID Senior Gender Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, highlights 10 of the ways USAID is advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment around the world.

Making historic investments to achieve gender equality and improve quality of life globally

To celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day on March 8, USAID is highlighting 10 key investments to advance gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment. These are enhanced by USAID’s commitment to double its gender equality investments—reaching, together with the State Department, the historic level of $2.6 billion in FY 2023 with plans to continue to grow this investment in future years. 

  1. Advancing Women’s Economic Security

    “The biggest source of untapped economic growth potential on planet Earth is unemployed and underemployed women,” USAID Administrator Samantha Power underscored last year at the launch of the first-ever U.S. Global Women’s Economic Security Strategy. Through the Gender Equity and Equality Action (GEEA) Fund, USAID and the State Department have invested $200 million over two years in women’s economic security programming—complemented by an additional $100 million in attributed indirect Fiscal Year 2022 funding. In its first year, GEEA-funded activities:

    • Reached more than half a million people around the world; 
    • Supported over 3,100 women owned microenterprises to access loans, bank accounts, and other services; and
    • Provided over 64,000 women with legally recognized and documented tenure rights to land or marine areas.
  2. Closing the Gender Digital Divide

    Globally, 244 million more men than women were using the internet in 2023—an access gap that undermines women’s full participation in the 21st century economy. To close the gender digital divide, in 2023, USAID joined the Gates Foundation to launch the Women in the Digital Economy Fund (WiDEF) and then expanded collective action by launching the Women in the Digital Economy Initiative with more than 20 government, private sector, philanthropic, and civil society partners. Stay tuned this month for a WiDEF call for proposals from local, women-centered initiatives bridging the gender digital divide.

  3. Promoting Women in the Sustainable Economy 

    Inclusive economic growth must include women’s work and leadership in economic sectors critical to the future of our planet—like energy, land, and water use and management. To accelerate progress, USAID joined more than 20 government, private sector, philanthropic, and civil society partners in 2023 to launch the Women in the Sustainable Economy Initiative, which features USAID’s efforts to increase access to finance for women-led organizations that address climate change and to increase workforce gender equality across male-dominated sectors like energy and utilities. 

  4. Enhancing Care Infrastructure

    Investing in care infrastructure creates jobs for care workers; frees up parents – particularly women – to work; and improves early childhood development outcomes. That is why USAID is prioritizing this issue. We are joining the World Bank, the Governments of Australia, Canada, and Germany, and private foundations to mobilize over $180 million to expand childcare in low- and middle-income countries. Across the care economy, USAID’s Global Labor Program supports domestic workers globally—who are overwhelmingly women and often work without labor law protections; and the U.S. government’s Global Health Worker Initiative aims to improve economic opportunities for women in the health sector, who make up 70 percent of the healthcare workforce.

  5. Improving Food Security through Women’s Empowerment

    Closing the gender gap in farm productivity and the wage gap in agriculture would reduce the number of food insecure by 45 million people. To achieve this, in 2023, USAID launched Generating Resilience and Opportunities for Women (GROW), a $335 million commitment, primarily through the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative, to tackle urgent challenges that women face in food and water systems, including due to climate change, while unlocking opportunities for them to advance economically. 

  6. Advancing Girls’ Education 

    USAID committed to scale up its education support for girls, reaching 15 million girls and young women by 2025—a 23 percent increase from 2020. Investments aim to achieve gender parity in both access to education and learning; reduce rates of school-related gender based violence; and increase women’s and girls’ leadership in decision-making positions.

  7. Prioritizing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

    Supporting modern contraceptive use by everyone who wants it is vital to safe motherhood, healthy families, and prosperous communities. Marking the 30th anniversary this year of the International Conference on Population and Development, USAID joins the global community in our commitment to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights through continued investment and attention to reaching those most in need. For example, over the next five years, USAID will invest $20 million in the PROPEL Youth and Gender award to improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes and advance gender equality for individuals at all life stages. 

  8. Supporting Women Political and Civic Leaders

    Women are underrepresented at all levels of government and in peace and security processes, despite evidence that women’s engagement in politics and government results in more equal, just, and secure societies. To advance democracy and women’s full participation, at the Summits for Democracy USAID launched the Women’s and Girls’ Civic and Political Participation Initiative and joined partners in forming the Network for Gender Inclusive Democracy to accelerate progress in building a pipeline of women and girl leaders while strengthening the enabling environment for their safe and meaningful participation.

  9. Spotlighting Technology-Facilitated Gender-based Violence (GBV)

    As digital technologies enable the spread of GBV at greater scale, speed, and reach, public figures are particularly affected—including women politicians, activists, and journalists. To respond, USAID advances collective action to prevent technology-facilitated GBV targeting women in politics and public life through the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse, and launched the Transform Digital Spaces initiative to pilot responses.

  10. Equipping Women on the Frontlines of Humanitarian Response 

    Women-led organizations are on the frontlines of responding to humanitarian crises, and USAID is scaling up its support for them. In 2023, USAID became the second largest donor to the Women's Peace and Humanitarian Fund, directing $10 million for women-led organizations in Ukraine, Haiti, Ethiopia, and South Sudan, alongside a five-year pilot program increasing women-led organizations’ leadership in humanitarian response.