by Mohamed Al-Erian empower women around the world, and especially in developing countries, is an urgent priority that goes far beyond social justice. Extensive research has shown and in many cases quantified benefits for the economy, decision-making, politics and society in general.
The initiative for development and the Global prosperity of the women (W-GOP), announced by the White House last month, is one of the most promising measures to date aimed to promote those goals. With a reflective design launched, its success now depends of their implementation, in particular in three areas.
The proposal led by Ivanka Trump, Advisor to President Donald Trump, aims to reach 50 million women in developing countries by 2025. It is well positioned and reinforces the initiative of financing for women entrepreneurs supported by the countries of the G20. W-GOP rests on three pillars: «improving access to quality education and training»; «continue efforts to finance and support female entrepreneurship and women’s access to capital, markets, technical assistance and mentoring»; (e) «to identify and reduce the political, legal and regulatory obstacles to the participation of women in the global economy».
The pillars are reinforced by what I consider a ceiling, a structure that provides additional funding and is supported by an approach at the level of Government through the participation of 10 agencies and departments of the Government of the United States. W-GOP also allows private partnerships, with a focus on U.S. companies already operating in developing countries.
There is much at stake: the empowerment of women promotes a greater and more inclusive growth to the expanding labour force, increase productivity, expand opportunities, reduce poverty and help contain the inequality. And a greater female participation in decision-making provides additional benefits. Helping to create more inclusive approaches and diverse with respect to leadership, women’s participation reduces the likelihood of errors caused by blind spots, inertia, and conscious and unconscious biases.
Help women also has political benefits. Several studies reveal that, based on what is commonly a low base, while more women in the upper echelons of Government, less is the likelihood of external armed conflicts and civil wars. Women can also lead to faster resolution of conflicts, including those who linger for years.
Then there are the benefits to the society as a whole. Studies show that women’s greater economic empowerment plays an important role in reducing domestic violence, child marriage and teenage pregnancies. This promotes more educated, healthy and stable societies.
For all these reasons, empower women in developing countries is a matter of national interest of taxpayers in advanced economies, including U.S. Progress would help to reduce the incentive to economic migration, currents rates would offset the extremism that feeds border terrorism and might even contain the type of military bravado wrong in developing countries which slows down the growth and often results in massive refugee problems.
Progress required an agile mix of General measures, some generic and some very personal. And they need to be aware of the limitations in the field of science of behavior previously, which may be recurrent and binding when not handled or considered.
Therefore, the overall design of W-GDP can help that the program will succeed where previous efforts failed. There are three major challenges to its successful implementation: first, the need to develop a greater specificity operational for each of the three pillars. The focus should be to focus on completing the missing parts of the value chain, by addressing market and institutional failures in individual developing countries. There is much research that shows the potential effectiveness of measures well designed in areas such as microfinance, transportation, care and time to market.
The second, and as explicitly mentioned in the announcement of W-GDP, the programme should ensure robust accountability on both sides, namely, agencies and companies of US involved as contributors and recipients. This should involve not only quantitative, but also qualitative measurements that reflect the distribution of best practices, the development of networks and learn from the mistakes (which could occur inevitably given the complexity of tasks and some environments).
The third issue is the careful management of expectations. The initial successes are critical to gain momentum and enhance the narrative about the importance of the distribution of responsibility and interconnectivity.
A W-GOP implemented in a sustainable way can do more than get the immediate objectives set by the White House. As more countries and businesses become aware and involved in similar initiatives, what is likely to happen, that can create a multiplier effect that is transformational in reach and significant global magnitude.
The big test now is to make that implementation is as sturdy as the design, help meet the enormous promise of what can and should come more later.
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