Gender Equality Policy Objectives

USAID affirms that gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment are fundamental for the realization of human rights and key to effective and sustainable development outcomes. USAID has defined four strategic objectives to advance its work on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The promotion of gender equality is more urgent now than ever, yet progress has stalled as countries face compounding shocks from the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and conflict. Global threats to democracy contribute to backsliding on gender equality as anti-democratic nationalist and authoritarian movements foment anti-gender sentiment to mobilize public support. By some estimates, it will take more than 130 years to eliminate the prevailing gender gaps. The lesson for USAID is clear: under current conditions, progress toward gender equality is not inevitable. Yet the counterpoint is equally true: progress can be accelerated when gender equality is a priority. USAID is committed to being a leading investor, partner, and advocate for the achievement of gender equality.

Gender integration is more than a strategic and technical imperative for USAID; it is a legal requirement per the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment (WEEE) Act of 2018.

2023 Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Policy

This policy provides the vision for USAID’s work to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment around the world—establishing USAID’s strategic objectives and driving investments across the Agency’s operations and programs in order to achieve these aims.

USAID Gender Equality Policy Objectives

USAID investments aim to achieve four strategic objectives across all sectors:

Objective 1: Reduce gender disparities in who accesses, controls, and benefits from economic, social, political, legal, educational, health, and cultural resources, as well as wealth, opportunities, and services. 

  • All people must have the opportunity to realize their full potential. But the status quo has not worked for all those who experience gender-based discrimination—especially those who also face additional and compounding forms of inequality—curtailing their full opportunity to participate in economic, social, civic, and political life and creating structural barriers to equality. In addition to the millions of women and girls worldwide who are denied access and opportunity, the lack of progress toward parity compromises future societies, economies, and communities. Deliberate action to close gender gaps is therefore both a moral and strategic imperative of development assistance.

Objective 2: Strive to eliminate gender-based violence (GBV) and mitigate its harmful effects on individuals and communities, so all people can live free from violence.

  • GBV is a manifestation of structural gender inequalities, patriarchy, and power imbalances that imposes direct and indirect costs on individuals, communities, public health, and human and global security. As a systemic and global issue, GBV takes place in all settings, from workplaces to the home to digital spaces—no country or level of society is excluded. Some individuals face intersecting forms of discrimination and oppression that place them at greater risk of GBV, including Indigenous peoples, LGBTQI+ individuals, persons with disabilities, informal sector workers, migrants and displaced peoples, and other historically marginalized populations. Addressing these risks and taking action to transform the gendered power dynamics that are the root cause of GBV are critical for achieving core development and security objectives and, fundamentally, a matter of basic human rights.

Objective 3: Increase the capability of women and girls to fully exercise their rights, determine their life outcomes, assume leadership roles, and influence decision-making in households, communities, and societies. 

  • Gender inequality skews decision-making within households, communities, and national governing systems in a way that reduces the voices of women and girls and perpetuates the status quo. Women are dramatically underrepresented in critical fora, from elected office to peace processes, international climate negotiations, and global economic convenings. Women’s movements, which often are rooted at the community level, are severely underfunded. Yet the evidence is unequivocal that women’s participation and leadership in civil, political, and economic spheres supports greater gender equality and political and economic security for societies more broadly. Supporting the agency of women and girls is necessary to advance gender equality and achieve core development objectives.

Objective 4: Advance structural changes that address the root causes of gender inequality and promote equitable gender norms. 

  • Advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment requires reforming political, social, and legal systems that perpetuate entrenched inequalities. Such systemic change helps to address the root causes of gender inequality, together with approaches to shift inequitable and harmful norms that serve as a fundamental barrier to the full realization of human rights. Structural changes are critical to scale and sustain advances toward gender equality and social justice and secure the resultant returns on development investments.
In support of these objectives, GenderLinks is a platform that gathers resources and tools for integrating attention to gender equality and women’s empowerment across all of USAID’s work.