Photograph — Axios

Ivanka Trump is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a four-day tour to promote the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative, a $50 million United States initiative launched by her father, President Trump in February. The initiative is aimed at advancing women’s economic empowerment through a whole-of-government approach to reach 50 million women globally by 2025.

According to a statement by the US Embassy in Ethiopia, during her stay, Ms Trump will discuss U.S.-led initiatives to promote opportunities for women’s inclusion and seek to learn about ongoing efforts to advance women economic participation in Africa through meetings with the Ethiopian government and the African Union.  She will also be engaging with women leaders in the business community and civil society.

The W-GDP initiative which is part of President Trump’s National Security Strategy to empower women globally is a step in the right direction for gender equality and women economic participation. It is true that the fight for gender equality has made significant strides in the last 50 years with increased female economic participation and better livelihood for women globally. However, gender gaps still exist, especially in developing countries.

Women represent less than 50 percent of the global working population, according to data by the International Labour Organization. Also, women own only one-third of the world’s registered SMEs, work low-paying jobs, often face legal and cultural barriers to full participation in the economy; and have less access to financial markets and property than men.

“Women are half the world’s population, yet they do two-thirds of the world’s work, earn one-tenth of the world’s income, and own less than one per cent of the world’s property. They are among the poorest of the world’s poor”.

– Barber Conable, former President of World Bank

Accelerating women’s economic participation and empowerment will help developing countries achieve economic self-reliance and reduce poverty as leading research suggests that women’s economic participation and empowerment is significant for economic growth. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates a 26 percent boost in global GDP if women fully participate and integrate into the labour force.

Trump’s W-GDP initiative is built around three pillars; women prospering in the workforce, women succeeding as entrepreneurs, and women enabled in the economy. The first pillar advocates for workforce development and skills training to increase women participation in the labour force. The second pillar focuses on increasing access to capital, markets, and networks for women entrepreneurs, and the third addresses laws, policies, cultural practices and norms that are barriers to women participation in the economy.

“Fundamentally we believe that investing in women is a smart development policy and it is smart business,” Ms Trump said at a traditional Ethiopian ceremony in Addis Ababa. “Eighteen countries in the world still have laws that allow husbands to legally prevent their wives from working. Half of these countries are in Africa. We can and we must address these barriers to women’s equality and countries’ prosperity,” she said.

She also said she will campaign for women’s right to own and inherit land in Africa as women make up only 15 percent of landowners on the continent. Ivanka Trump will round up her trip with a visit to Ivory Coast to promote female entrepreneurs in the country’s cocoa industry.

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