Conference on “Power: Women as Drivers of Growth and Social Inclusion”
Good morning. I am very pleased to be here for this important conference and to join with all of you in making clear that social inclusion and development for all really does depend upon the status of women, and opening wide the doors of opportunity for women and for all people is the great work of our time. And I especially want to thank the President for his strong commitment. Mr. President, I have heard many speeches by many presidents over many years – some I know very well – and I must say the passion, the strength, and commitment that your words conveyed were extremely welcome.
Even today, not enough leaders understand that all the success that we seek for the people who we serve will be enhanced by the kind of commitment you heard from the President today. So I want to thank you, Mr. President, and I well remember when I met with you and the First Lady shortly after you were elected. Even then you understood that Peru’s economic strength, which had been considerable, the growth rate was going to be enhanced if social inclusion were at the heart of your agenda, and then at the heart of social inclusion was a commitment to women and girls.
So for me, this is a very welcome occasion, and I wish to thank you and your government, particularly the Minister for Social Inclusion and Development, for making this a national priority, for having a week devoted to social inclusion. And it is always a pleasure to see the First Lady of El Salvador, another country that is also committed to this important work, and to share the stage with someone whom I admire so much and have had a chance to work with, Michelle Bachelet, who is now doing extraordinary work at UN Women, is a great honor.
We are also pleased to partner with the Inter-American Development Bank, Julie Katzman and everyone there who understands why this must be a priority for Latin America, and to acknowledge all of the other Peruvian and international dignitaries who understand the importance of this work and have made it a priority.
Now we know that all nations need to do more to create jobs with good incomes that support families for all people. But we also know from the work of the last decade that women drive economic growth, as producers and as consumers. I used to say that if you looked at the global economy before the great economic recession, it was like an inverted triangle, and at the bottom of that triangle were women, women who made the decisions about what to buy and when, women who not only were in the informal economy, doing the work that keeps families and communities going as the president said in relaying that story from his grandfather, but also in the formal economy. So we understand, those of us who are here today, the importance of women having the opportunity to fully participate in society and in economies.
Let me just mention a woman whose work you can see outside this hall. Luzmila Huarancca creates beautiful, embroidered cloth from the Andean highlands. Now, like so many women from indigenous communities, she had no opportunity for a formal education, so she went to work as an artisan. Then about 10 years ago, she and her husband got a little boost from USAID Peru that helped them turn their skills, which they already had, into a small business. With determination, they grew that small business into an award-winning enterprise. And today, Luzmila supplies international textile markets, and has trained a network of more than 800 women in a dozen different communities to create her products.
On the way down here, I opened an international decorating magazine. I’ll confess this to you if you don’t tell anybody. (Laughter.) But when I get tired of reading hundreds and hundreds of pages of depressing reports about what’s happening somewhere or another, I either watch decorating shows on television or I read what we call shelter magazines that tell you how to decorate your home if you have the time to do so.
So I opened this international decorating magazine called World Of Interiors, and there must have been 20 pages about the textiles from the Andes and how incredible the workmanship was and the artistry and the creativity. And then today, I got to see some of that for myself. But this shows you how quickly in today’s interconnected global economy one woman with a needle and determination can give hundreds of women quality jobs stitching – literally stitching new hope into their families’ futures and new economic growth for their country.
Now Luzmila’s story is one example out of thousands – really, of millions – when we look at women throughout our hemisphere and around the world ready and eager to unleash their talents. But it’s not just the individual woman and her work, as Michelle said. We know now with hard data and scientific studies that women are the global force for economic growth.
For a long time, for many years now, I would assert that, and I would often say women’s rights are human rights and we need to open the doors of opportunity, and I could see some eyes glazing over, and I could hear in my own head people saying, “Oh, well, yeah, that’s nice, but what does it have to do with me? What does it have to do with my country or my problems?” Well, today, we have quantified what it has to do for all of us. Restrictions on women’s economic participation are costing us massive amounts of economic growth and income in every region of the world.
In the Asia Pacific, for example, it’s more than $40 billion in lost GDP every year. In fact, the director of the International Monetary Fund at the annual meeting in Tokyo a few days ago, Christine Lagarde, made a very strong point that if Japan loosened restrictions on women’s economic participation, a lot of their economic drag would be overcome. So it’s not only developing countries or newly developed countries; it’s also even developed countries. In my own country, making it easier for women to enter the labor market by providing such services as child care, for example, could increase GDP as much as 9 percent. In the Eurozone, GDP could be 13 percent higher. Yet even with so much to gain for all of us, more than 100 countries have laws restricting women’s economic participation.
Now in this region of the world, the trend lines are moving in the right direction. 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. Between 2000 and 2010, it grew by 15 percent. And as Michelle said, without that decade of growth and participation, the World Bank estimates that extreme poverty would be 30 percent higher in the region. So Latin America deserves a lot of credit for opening up participation and markets, and you also have received a lot of benefits.
Now the question for this conference as you go forward is: What more needs to be done? How much better can you do? In the United States, women-owned businesses contribute nearly $3 trillion to our economy, and they are growing at more than double the rate of all firms. And if these trends hold, women entrepreneurs will generate more than 5 million jobs over the next six years. Now these numbers are the heart of the historic San Francisco Declaration that the 21 APEC countries adopted in 2011. I was proud to be there as Peru and Chile and Mexico, Canada, and the United States, all of the APEC countries, made commitments to lower barriers and increase economic opportunities for women. And I said then what I have said all over the world as Secretary of State: This isn’t just the morally right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do as well. And it is necessary if we hope to leave the world a better place for all our children.
I was privileged to be at Vladivostok for the Russian-hosted APEC meeting last month, along with President Humala, and it was imperative that all of the leaders there take stock of where we were economically and what more could be done. And women’s participation came up because no matter where in the world we are, that has to be key to all of our efforts for recovery.
Now why is it more difficult if all of this is so self-evident for women to participate in the economy and to start business? Well, there are four major reasons: One, women still lack access to the education and business training that every entrepreneur needs. Two, women still have more difficulty accessing markets for their products. Three, it is still harder for women to get financing because banks traditionally require credit histories or collateral that most women may not have. And four, women often lack the networks, mentors, and leadership opportunities critical for business success.
Earlier this year at the Summit of the Americas, I launched what we are calling the Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas program, or WEAmericas, to take on these barriers one by one. Now there are of course other challenges – discriminatory laws and regulations hold back women around the world, cultural and family attitudes certainly hold back women around the world, but we are making progress on these fronts.
Now with respect to the WEAmericas program, we have already kicked off several training and networking programs. And I met with the first WEAmerica group when they came to the United States in May to develop their business and leadership skills and to be part of a network of women entrepreneurs from the region that connects with U.S. business leaders. Then in September, they met again in Nicaragua to focus on business management, formalize their network, and develop strategies for growth.
And then we’re also setting up what we call mentoring matches, connecting women to larger supply chains, having workshops on topics like e-marketing or how to develop a website. And soon, we will announce the results of the WEAmericas Small Grants Initiative to support organizations that foster economic development for women entrepreneurs in the region.
Now, one of the women in the first group of WEAmerica networking teams was Celia Duron. Celia owns a handcrafted paper products business in Honduras. Before she joined the WEAmericas network, making paper crafts was just a hobby. Now it is her livelihood. She has a business plan, a web presence, and four employees. She purchased a new paper-cutting machine to expand her capacity. And the connections she made through WEAmericas already landed her a month-long display agreement with Walmart.
Now today, I am proud to announce a new training initiative so more women like Celia can gain the confidence and know-how to achieve their goals. Working with the Inter-American Investment Corporation, we have created a new Women’s Entrepreneurship Trust Fund to help women throughout the region run their businesses more efficiently or get a good idea off the ground as a business.
The United States is making an initial contribution of $900,000 to launch pilot programs here in Peru and in El Salvador. But we need more partners and more contributors to the trust fund, so I’d like to invite other governments and businesses to contribute.
Private sector partners have been eager to join the WEAmericas initiative because they understand it as a shrewd investment. Businesses need suppliers who can provide high-quality goods at competitive prices. And there are a lot of women entrepreneurs who fit that description, but don’t know how to get into a global supply chain.
Also, through our Pathways to Prosperity program, we’ve improved access to markets for women-owned businesses, trained hundreds of women entrepreneurs how to tap into new markets – and that’s just here in Peru. And we’re looking through the WEAmerica partners to expand into Mexico and throughout the region.
And finally, with respect to providing better access to capital, our partners at the Inter-American Development Bank have developed innovative lending models to spur growth in small and medium-sized businesses owned by women and working to help regional banks expand their lending to women.
Now here in Peru, last October when the government established a new Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion they focused on being able to work across the entire Peruvian Government to institutionalize the commitment to social inclusion and development in the government regardless of what department it was, because there is work for each and every one of us to do.
And I want to thank Peru for being one of the founding members of the Equal Futures Partnership, a project that the First Lady and I helped launch last month at the UN General Assembly. And one of Peru’s key commitments is promoting financial inclusion for women and girls.
Now, later this morning, along with some of the others who are here, we will be visiting the Gamarra textile market here in Lima to meet some of the successful entrepreneurs who are benefiting from Peru’s commitment to women. So by harnessing the power of public-private partnerships, the government can boost production, build the capacity of promising textile manufacturers, foster greater inclusion and opportunity among the area’s more than 50,000 workers, 60 percent of whom in the textile industry are women.
I also want to say a word about what happens in rural areas, because economic development is a crucial tool in taking on many of Peru’s long-term challenges, like ending the drug trade and terrorism. And in rural areas, Peru and the United States are working as partners to support women who are replacing thousands of hectares of illegal coca fields with profitable crops, like chocolate and coffee and palm oil, and we saw some of that outside. In regions like San Martin and Ucayali, women are helping communities long plagued by violence rebuild and join the formal economy.
And focusing on basics is essential – improving healthcare services, supporting pension funds, providing scholarships to bright students. We want to be a good partner for Peru as you advance social inclusion. It’s been a priority for us in our relationship for 50 years, and last month we signed a new five-year bilateral assistance agreement. And today, I’m pleased to announce
our new Women’s Leadership Initiative. With $500,000 in initial funding, we’ll focus on helping Peruvian women advocate for their own needs, mobilize broad national support for issues affecting them, particularly rural women. We want to make sure they know who to contact if healthcare workers in rural clinics do not have proper training or if schools lack basic supplies. With more advocacy, openness, and accountability, women and their government can work together to improve the lives of Peruvians.
Now, we are entering what I like to call the participation age. It’s a new era in human history where you can be a poor woman in the Andes or a poor man in Africa, and you can connect to the rest of the world. That connectedness means that every individual now has a chance to contribute to the global marketplace. And so let’s use what we now have to make it possible for otherwise marginalized people to contribute in more and better ways. Because in the participation age, we need everybody we can possibly muster to be on the side of peace and prosperity, and I believe it’s going to benefit us dramatically.
So this conference, this commitment to social inclusion, this absolute determination that women in Peru and throughout our region and the world are going to have a seat at the table, not under the table, is one of the most important jobs facing us all. 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. 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.
But I’m absolutely confident that Peru is on the right track, and I look forward, Mr. President, to following with great interest the progress that you are making on behalf of the Peruvian people, and especially Peru’s women. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Cross posted from State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP).