U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Partnership for Central America (PCA), come together to announce programs supporting women’s economic empowerment in northern Central America and the broader Western Hemisphere.
Vice President Kamala Harris today announced new commitments from the U.S. government, private sector companies and organizations to support women’s economic empowerment in northern Central America and the Western Hemisphere more broadly. Accion, CARE International, Cargill, Mastercard, Microsoft, and PepsiCo—companies and organizations who have responded to the Vice President’s Call to Action—made additional commitments to remove barriers to women’s full economic participation and strengthen women’s access to quality employment, tools, resources, and networks for business development and growth—thereby promoting equitable economic recovery across the hemisphere. These commitments will also address gender-based violence in northern Central America—to help create safer, stronger, and more prosperous communities across the region.
These initiatives are committed in support of the U.S. Strategy to Address the Root Causes of Migration in northern Central America, which the Vice President launched in July 2021.
Private Sector and Civil Society Commitments
Today, the Vice President and the Partnership for Central America launched In Her Hands as a private sector initiative to empower, train, and protect women in northern Central America and across the Western Hemisphere. Founding members are a coalition of companies and organizations who responded to Vice President Harris’s Call to Action, including CARE, Cargill, Mastercard, Microsoft, Millicom, Nespresso, PepsiCo, PriceSmart, and Pro Mujer.
The integrated In Her Hands commitments will connect more than 1.4 million women and their communities to the financial system and digital economy, accelerate women’s participation in the agroindustry, train more than 500,000 women and girls in core job skills, promote gender parity, and elevate women within companies across the region.
- Establishing a Gender Equity Center: As a follow up to its December 2021 commitment in response to the Vice President’s Call to Action humanitarian organization CARE officially established the Center for Gender Equity in Central America. The Center is designed to empower 500,000 individual women and their families–providing benefits to a total of two million people to advance efforts to address the root causes of migration. The Center will leverage CARE’s gender and development expertise and deep connections to local partners and women’s organizations to support financial inclusion, women’s economic empowerment (including in the protection of labor rights and in supporting entrepreneurship), improved agricultural outcomes, prevention and reductions in gender-based violence.
- Integrating Women into the Financial Sector: Accion, with support from the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, will partner with local institutions to connect over 300,000 Guatemalan women to the financial sector by 2025. In addition, PriceSmart, INCAE Business School, Mastercard, and Cargill will work with the Central American Institute of Business Administration to support 120 women-led small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) in Honduras and Guatemala in increasing their access to markets and capital to grow their businesses and support job growth in areas of high-out migration.
- Supporting Female Agricultural Workers: Cargill has committed to empowering women in northern Central America’s agriculture sector by allocating a portion of its $160 million commitment in commercial and charitable investments made in December 2021 to establish new programs that will support and accelerate women’s participation in the agroindustry. One of these programs, a partnership with the global development organization ACDI/VOCA and their Transforming Market Systems program will provide grants to women-owned small businesses in Honduras to create thousands of jobs. These programs will facilitate women’s access to financing, provide them with training, and connect them to new markets to grow their businesses. To help empower women and increase employment among female farmers, Nespresso will roll out programs in El Salvador and Honduras in 2022 that will train its agronomists on gender equity. Finally, PepsiCo Latin America will bring the Next Generation Agriculture Fund to Guatemala, in partnership with the Interamerican Development Bank and a local implementing partner. The program will accelerate women’s participation in the agroindustry and increase their incomes.
- Digitizing Women-owned Businesses: Mastercard will digitize 300,000 women-owned and led businesses in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador by 2025. This commitment will build on Mastercard’s May 2021 commitment to bring five million people in the region into the financial system and digitize one million micro and small businesses in the three countries by ensuring Mastercard’s efforts reach women across the region. Additionally, Accion will partner with key stakeholders in El Salvador and Honduras to expand digital services to over 700,000 people within the next five years. Microsoft will also work with local partners to launch high-tech digital community centers in 20 new communities across the region to provide women and girls with internet, digital skills, devices, educational experiences, and mentorship in rural and high-migration areas.
- Training Women in Critical Job Skills: Microsoft will partner with Trust for the Americas to expand on its commitment to provide cybersecurity, coding, and artificial intelligence skills training to reach an additional 400,000 women, bringing the total number of beneficiaries to more than 500,000 women in Central America. Through a partnership with Pro Mujer, Microsoft will assist 146 organizations in the region to provide financial literacy and education programs to nearly 25,000 low-income women. Additionally, Mastercard will support 5,000 girls to pursue a future career in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics through its award-winning Girls4Tech program. Millicom will also provide digital skills training for more than 8,000 adolescent girls and adult women in 2022—with a commitment to year-over-year increases—in the three countries of northern Central America through its Conectadas program.
- Achieving Gender Parity: PepsiCo will launch a fellowship program designed to elevate more women in PepsiCo with a goal to achieve equal representation at management levels in the company by 2025. Millicom similarly committed to achieve gender parity across its 22,000-employee organization by 2030. To ensure long-term sustainability of their gender commitments, anchor members of the Partnership for Central America, Mastercard, Microsoft, Nespresso, and Cargill will integrate CARE’s gender equity framework into their programming. This will build off examples from Nepal, Australia, France, Canada, and the United States to improve gender integration, strengthen capacity, and set new performance targets.
- Elevating Women Within Companies: The World Economic Forum committed to launching a Gender Parity Accelerator focusing on economic empowerment in Central America. Building off the models deployed elsewhere in Latin America, the Accelerator will reskill women to prepare them for high-growth sectors, work to enhance work quality and pay standards, enhance social safety nets, and advance more women into management and leadership positions, with targets for women in leadership across government and business.
U.S. Government Announcements
Building off her leadership of collaborative public-private partnerships to address key challenges in the region, the Vice President announced the following U.S. government initiatives to complement private sector commitments to empower women and girls in the Latin American region:
- Gender-Based Violence (“GBV”) Prevention, Protection, and Accountability Initiative: The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced new programs in northern Central America to end the scourge of GBV. In Guatemala, a new $6.5 million program will provide access to violence prevention interventions and services while increasing the capacity of local institutions and service providers. In Honduras, USAID will dedicate $2.7 million to strengthen access to security and justice for GBV survivors, as part of a broader investment in the judicial sector. The initiative will work with each country’s justice system to address crimes, especially those that are drivers of migration, such as GBV, homicide, extortion, and corruption, as well as human trafficking. This builds off a recently-announced program in El Salvador, the $35 million GBV Prevention, Protection, and Accountability Initiative, which will support prevention, protection for survivors, and increasing accountability for perpetrators.
- GBV Analysis and Roadmap: USAID’s new initiative will advance efforts to prevent sexual, gender-based, and domestic violence; hold perpetrators accountable; and protect and provide services for victims in northern Central America. Migration patterns and GBV are deeply intertwined, and individuals on migration pathways, especially irregular ones, are often at heightened risk of experiencing GBV due to their vulnerable status as undocumented migrants. This initiative will analyze gaps, drivers, and opportunities in preventing, mitigating, and responding to GBV in the context of migration, and offer a roadmap to inform U.S. government policies in support of the U.S. Strategy to Address the Root Causes of Migration.
- Women’s Entrepreneurship and Labor Rights: To promote economic security for all, the Department of State will provide $4.5 million through the Gender Equity and Equality Action (GEEA) Fund to support the economic participation of women and girls across the region.
- Empower Innovation Challenge: The State Department’s $3.5 million program will build the capacity of local civil society organizations and women-owned small businesses in Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, and Peru. The initiative aims to empower women-owned micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises to scale their businesses through small grants, training, access to capital, networking, and partnership opportunities with local and international businesses.
- Domestic Workers Rights Program: The State Department will expand its “Promoting the Rights of Domestic Workers in Mexico” program to protect labor rights of domestic workers and support their transition to the formal workforce. This $1 million project will also support exchanges between domestic worker organizations in Mexico and Guatemala. Program activities include national and international-level advocacy for the rights of domestic workers; training and mentorship to build the knowledge and capacity of domestic worker organizations; legal assistance for domestic workers; training domestic workers on a variety of topics related to labor rights, leadership, and professionalization; and education for employers to formalize relationships with domestic workers.
- Women’s Digital Inclusion Initiative: The U.S. Mission to the Organization of American States (OAS), in partnership with the OAS Secretariat for Integral Development, will launch the $1.5 million “Economically Empowered Women for Equitable and Resilient Societies” project to increase the knowledge and capacity of women to effectively function in the digital economy, build sustainable livelihoods, and increase their participation in policymaking and leadership in their societies. The OAS Secretariat for Integral Development will implement the 36-month project, in partnership with Meta, which aims to build the capacity of women-led small and medium-sized enterprises to digitize, build an online presence, and access financial services and international markets. The initiative will benefit 18,000 women in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, as well as a select group of six Eastern Caribbean countries.