Investing in Women and Girls

Inclusive development will not happen as long as women comprise a disproportionate amount of the world’s poor, and lack equitable access to quality, comprehensive health care information and services, education and literacy programs, markets, employment opportunities, financial resources, and credit. These forms of general inequality can be exacerbated for women and girls who are ethnic minorities, LGBTI, or living with disabilities. Gender-based violence is still pervasive around the world, deeply affecting women and girls everywhere from crisis contexts in the least developed countries to here in the United States. Young women and adolescents are often unable to access comprehensive sexual education and reproductive health information and services. These and other ills speak to the need for direct and targeted investment in women and girls.

InterAction Recognizes

  • Population-wide challenges often affect women and men differently. The U.S. needs to build programs and policies that target specific concerns. For example, gender-based violence (GBV) has become all-too pervasive in conflict settings; and while GBV-integration into broader humanitarian programming is essential, true prevention, support, and recovery necessitate specific, standalone GBV programming. Effective delivery of non-crisis social services or training may require specific investments to address the different needs of men and women within their society. For example, women make up 43% of the agriculture workforce, but are less likely to own land than men, and own less land when they do. This is despite a 10% increase in crop yields when women own the same amount of land as men.

  • Progress isn’t “just a women’s issue.” Investments that empower women and girls benefit entire communities, meaning men and boys have an equally important role to play in advancing gender equality. This includes both support for women’s empowerment and advocacy against gender relations that are harmful for societies at large. For example, there is a powerful correlation between inequality for women and economic inequality in broader society. When they commit to gender equality and embrace healthy, respectful relationships, men and boys are also committing to the future of their own countries.

  • There have been massive improvements in the lives of women and girls in almost every region in the world, but many more improvements can and should still be made. For example, in the past two decades the enrollment of children in primary education has become nearly universal, and in some regions of the world girls outperform boys in school. However, gender disparities remain wider and more prevalent in secondary and higher education, especially where girls lack access to toilets and hygiene supplies once they start menstruating. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population are women.

Upcoming Opportunities

  • The incoming administration and 115th Congress can take specific action to support legislation and build upon existing initiatives for the empowerment of women and girls [2017-2018]: This can be done through a number of measures including: updating, funding, and ensuring implementation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, the United States Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls, and the United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally; continuing the Let Girls Learn and DREAMS initiatives; and formally authorizing the Office of Global Women’s Issues and the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons.

  • Use the annual budget process to ensure appropriate funding for U.S. foreign assistance efforts which directly align with and support Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5) [Ongoing]: SDG 5 promotes global efforts to improve gender equality. These efforts should focus across a wide spectrum to ensure the advancing of women and girls in increased political participation; economic empowerment; promoting women’s role and leadership in humanitarian action; engaging men and boys in gender equality efforts; and addressing child marriage and sexual and reproductive health education and access.

  • U.S. engagement in international forums including the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Goals Business Forum, and the annual meetings of the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the World Humanitarian Summit [Ongoing]: This will provide opportunities for the U.S. to take a global leadership role for the empowerment of women and girls; raise the profile of gender equity on the world stage; and leverage international partnerships between governments, the private sector, and civil society actors to address the specific needs of women and girls. The UN’s International Days of Recognition, which bring global attention to a number of relevant issues, provide opportunities to highlight gender equity and development concerns for women and girls; they can also be used as occasions to announce major partnerships, launch initiatives, and hold relevant commemorative events.

Additional Materials

  • Achieving Gender Equality through WASH, 2016,

  • Choose to Invest 2017: Gender Equality, 2016,

  • NGO Aid Map: 48 Gender Projects in 27 Countries, 2016,

  • Women’s Economic Empowerment: Pushing the Frontiers of Inclusive Market Development, 2015,

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