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Biden administration launches global strategy to boost women’s access to work, education

The Biden administration on Wednesday introduced its first-ever strategy on global women’s economic security, an effort to boost women’s participation in the workforce across the world.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who helped announce the strategy at the State Department, said the administration’s effort is aimed at breaking down barriers that stand in the way of women’s full economic participation. 

It comes at a time when Afghan women are coming under some of the most repressive restrictions by the ruling Taliban, which has barred women from work and school based on their conservative, Islamic-fundamentalist views.

“We’re committed to standing up for women wherever their rights are threatened, including in Afghanistan as, unfortunately, we continue to see deepen, and get worse,” Blinken said. 

The strategy was devised between 12 U.S. government departments and agencies, the secretary said, and was informed by consultations with more than 200 civil society actors and external stakeholders from more than 30 countries. 

Among four priority areas of work include efforts to “dismantle” societal, legal and regulatory barriers that prohibit or limit women’s participation in the work force, Blinken said. 

“The strategy that we put in place is focused on supporting women and girls in all of their diversity, including the women who most often face the greatest and highest barriers such as those from marginalized backgrounds, from religious minorities, those with disabilities, LGBTQ+ persons,” the secretary said. 

Blinken cited data from the World Bank that only 12 countries have legal protections in place that give women equal economic standing with men, including through equal pay and legal protection in the workplace.  

“So there is a huge amount of work to be done there,” he said.

“We’ll encourage countries to repeal discriminatory laws; we’ll advocate for reforms that promote gender equality, in part by showing the opportunity posed by closing these gender gaps.” 

Other priorities in the strategy include supporting access to and the funding for child care and elder care, promoting mentorship and training programs for women to encourage entrepreneurship and working to increase women’s representation in industry leadership positions, including as CEOs and board members. 

Jennifer Klein, assistant to the president and director of the White House Gender Policy Council, said that dismantling barriers for women to enter the workforce could benefit 2.4 billion working-age women. 

“Studies show that closing gender gaps in the workforce would add between $12 [trillion] and $28 trillion in global GDP over a decade,” she said. 

“And expanding women’s access to markets and finance fosters entrepreneurship and innovation, with estimates suggesting that gender parity and entrepreneurship could add between $5 [trillion] to $6 trillion in net value to the global economy.”

Klein was appointed to her role when President Biden established the Gender Policy Council by executive order in March 2021.

She said the strategy announced on Wednesday builds on $300 million commitments the administration made to the Gender Equity and Equality Action Fund, announced at the United Nations Generation Equality Forum in Paris in July 2021. 

“Women’s full participation in the economy is essential to economic growth and the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for half the population,” Klein said. 

Source: The Hill

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