Africa: Shaheen, Graham Introduce New Bipartisan Legislation to Elevate Global Women's Issues Across the State Department, Prioritize Rights of Women and Girls Around the World

press release

Washington, DC — Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced her new legislation with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) – the Women's Global Empowerment, Development and Prosperity Act – that would permanently establish what is currently known as the Office of Global Women's Issues at the State Department.

This office, which is led by an Ambassador-at-Large, leads United States efforts to advance the rights of women and girls around the world. Under the Shaheen-Graham bill, the Ambassador-at-Large would report to the Secretary of State and oversee all gender equality initiatives, including the White House's Global Women's Development and Prosperity Initiative. Representatives Lois Frankel (FL-21) and Michael McCaul (TX-10) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

"Advancing the rights of women and girls around the world is key to achieving global stability, peace and prosperity. That's why Congress wants to prioritize these issues and ensure their integration across U.S. foreign policy," said Senator Shaheen. "My new bipartisan legislation with Senator Graham would take meaningful steps toward these goals by empowering the Ambassador-at-Large position within the Office of Global Women's Issues to report directly to the Secretary of State and increasing oversight of key gender equality initiatives. Creating more opportunities and investing in women and girls isn't just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do. It builds a brighter, more prosperous future for not only women, but their communities. I'm glad to have the White House's support on this legislation and hope we can move this bill expeditiously through Congress."

"I am very proud to introduce this groundbreaking legislation with Senator Shaheen to empower women throughout the world.  I also want to thank Ivanka Trump, who played an instrumental role in spearheading this important initiative," said Senator Graham. "Under this legislation, the United States will adopt a whole-government approach to women's empowerment.  Our legislation will improve opportunities available to women by improving education, enhancing women's ability to inherit property, and increasing access to banking and credit.  Today, there are 75 countries that prevent women from inheriting property and women's ability to borrow money is virtually non-existent.  We seek to address and eliminate those barriers to women's empowerment.  I'm confident that over time this groundbreaking initiative will benefit women across the world and also pay dividends for women here at home in the United States."

Specifically, the Women's Global Empowerment, Development and Prosperity Act would: 

  • Permanently establish the duties and mandate of the Global Women's Issue Office as well as the Ambassador-at-Large, which leads the office;
  • Place all global women's and girls' initiatives, including newly-established mandates like the Women, Peace and Security Act – which was authored by Shaheen – as well as the Women's Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act and the Women's Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, under this structure;
  • Empower the role of the Ambassador-at-Large to oversee all global women's issues and report directly to the Secretary of State;
  • Authorize the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Ambassador-at-Large and other heads of relevant agencies, to work with the private sector and non-governmental organizations to leverage public and private capital that would be invested in efforts to help women around the world access institutions, build credit, own and manage property, travel freely and break down barriers on employment based on gender;
  • Permanently establish the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment;
  • Authorize $200 million over each year for five years for a W-GDP Fund to be jointly overseen by USAID and the Ambassador-at-Large to invest in gender equality initiatives;
  • Establish an interagency steering group composed of 12 relevant agencies and executive offices, which would be overseen by the Ambassador-at-Large and two designated co-chairs to promote gender equality and advance the status and development of women and girls in U.S. foreign policy;
  • Mandate a report to summarize and evaluate the implementation of this legislation;
  • And require regular briefings to Congress by the Ambassador-at-Large and USAID's Senior Coordinator to ensure oversight of all gender equality and global women's issues funding and programs. 

Text of the legislation is available here.


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