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Shaheen, Bipartisan Group of Senators, Introduce Bill to Empower Women-Led Enterprises Around the World

(Washington, DC) — Yesterday, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Boozman (R-AR), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced legislation that aims to eliminate global gender-related barriers and empower female entrepreneurs around the world. 

Women make up the majority of the world’s poor. They are often held back by gender-specific constraints to economic empowerment, such as lack of access to financial services and credit. The Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act aims to address these disparities and help achieve global gender parity in economic activity. 

“Empowering women around the globe is the key to unlocking the economic and social potential that so many nations strive to reach,” said Shaheen. “When women have the resources they need, they not only support themselves and their families, but also their communities. This spurs economic, political and social progress throughout the world. I’m honored to stand with Senators Boozman, Cardin and Rubio on this bipartisan effort, and will continue to work across the aisle to move this important legislation through Congress.”

Specifically, the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act seeks to:

  • Establish a development cooperation policy of the United States to reduce gender disparities related to economic participation and opportunity, strive to eliminate gender-based violence, support women’s property rights and increase the capability of women and girls to determine life outcomes;
  • Require the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to ensure that all strategies and projects of the agency are shaped by a gender analysis and that gender equality and female empowerment are integrated throughout USAID’s programs;
  • Expand USAID’s microenterprise development assistance authority to include small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with an emphasis on supporting SMEs owned, managed and controlled by women; and
  • Modernize USAID’s development assistance toolkit to include innovative credit scoring models, financial technology, financial literacy, insurance and actions to improve property and inheritance rights.

A companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives—introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues—was approved by voice vote on Tuesday after receiving unanimous support from the committee.

The only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Shaheen has been a fierce advocate for women and girls in the United States and around the globe. Shaheen has prioritized issues to raise women up, such as opposing efforts to roll back women’s reproductive rights, fighting for the rights of sexual assault survivors, advocating on behalf of family planning and women’s global health, spearheading efforts to end violence against women, securing women leadership roles in conflict resolution and peace negotiations and authoring legislation to address barriers that girls around the world face in accessing education.