Wednesday, June 21, 2006 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM
Ritu Sharma, Co-Founder and President, Women’s Edge Coalition
The Honorable Nita Lowey, Congresswoman from New York
Susy Cheston, Senior Vice President for Policy, Opportunity International
Shade Bembatoum-Young, Founder and CEO, African Sustainable Small Enterprise Export Development Foundation, Nigeria
The Global Resources and Opportunities for Women to Thrive (GROWTH) Act is a legislative bill that has been drafted by Nita Lowey, Congresswoman of New York, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Congresswoman of Florida. The act proposes a change to US international assistance and trade program to better assist women in poverty by improving their economic situation. The act removes many of the trade barriers that currently prevent women from participating in their countries economies.
Ritu Sharma discussed how the launch and approval of this bill will give women greater economic opportunity and will help women worldwide. Not only will women be able to sustain themselves and their families, but they will be able to thrive in the global market. The challenge of the GROWTH Act is to create 1.3 billion jobs.
The Honorable Nita Lowey discussed how this bipartisan legislation will have a deep impact on developing nations. The status of women is a good indicator of the economic situation and stability within a country. The act will not only lift women out of poverty but give them access to financial outlets so they can lead enterprises, gain global trade opportunities, and train others. The bill will change women’s economic situation from micro to macro enterprise.
Susy Cheston from Opportunity International discussed the empowerment impact that the bill would have on women. In an independent study, female clients were better able to improve nutrition, food aid, and diets in their families than male clients who had been given the same economic training. This study supports the need for women to gain greater economic opportunities. In fact, economic freedom is fifty-four times more than democratic freedom in diminishing violence.
Shade Bembatoum-Young spoke of the current situation of women in Africa. Because of wars, retrenchment exercises, and HIV/AIDS, the number of women running their households is substantially higher. In effect, there is a greater need for women to be provided with economic opportunities to support their families. She spoke of one Ghanaian woman who married a Nigerian man. She had the clever idea to blend Nigerian and Ghanaian fabric to produce beautiful shawls. A UNDP project in Nigeria paid rent for her building, helped her train weavers, invented a tailored weaving loom, and exported her product outside of Africa. She gained international success and was able to build her business and employ many women and men, both directly and indirectly. Shade Bembatoum-Young praised UNDP for giving this woman the economic training she needed to run her business and for the financial support to start her endeavor.
by Rebecca Bonardi