March 3, 2022
Deputy Administrator for Management and Resources, United States Agency for International Development
The February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused citizens to flee the country en masse. Over a million refugees have fled Ukraine to seek protection in other countries. This dire situation may make women and girls more exposed to violence and exploitation, in addition to impacting their health and well-being.
On the first day of the International Women's Day Forum, Paloma Adams-Allen, deputy administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), gave an update on the current situation in Ukraine and how businesses can invest in women’s empowerment.
Ukrainian Women Are Defending Their Homeland
Adams-Allen emphasized that the women of Ukraine are not “helpless victims” but rather catalysts for action, explaining that their leadership can have transformative effects on communities. For more than 30 years, women have led the fight for Ukraine and their strength and resilience continue to show during this challenging chapter, she said.
“Last week, Ukrainian women joined the fight to defend their homeland and Democratic principles,” said Adams-Allen. “They've worked so hard to advance as a conflict continues to unfold. Women [have] played a crucial role in resisting Russia's campaign of violence, responding to the urgent needs of their communities, combating this information, taking up arms to fight, and engaging on the diplomatic front to bring an end to the conflict.”
Empowering Women Leads to Economic Success
For over 50 years, USAID has focused on gender equality and empowerment in countries like Ukraine. Adams-Allen urged companies that are looking to increase their economic success to invest in women’s empowerment. She stated that businesses that unlock the full potential of all people make their countries more peaceful and economically sound.
“If you're looking for ways to generate economic growth and opportunity, invest in women's empowerment and gender equality,” said Adams-Allen. “The evidence could not be more clear: when women and girls enjoy the full range of rights and freedoms that they deserve, economies grow and communities flourish. In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that narrowing the global gender gap could generate 12 trillion dollars in annual GDP.”
Systemic Change Needs to Come From Entire Industries
Adams-Allen gave a real-life example of how a major corporation's investment in women's empowerment led to its economic success, and more importantly, opportunities for women. She talked about USAID’s partnership with PepsiCo in India, where women make up a significant portion of the agricultural workforce but have difficulties accessing and retaining land rights. This prevented them from fully benefiting from the production of the products they were growing.
“By engaging women as critical partners in West Bengal, India, USAID, and PepsiCo are providing access to land and sustainable agricultural practices, increasing yields and net profitability for rural farmers,” said Adams-Allen.
Adams-Allen warns that systemic change won't happen by simply improving individual company practices.
“In order to fully realize the benefits of empowering women in the global economy, we need to see an industry-wide change rather than working with one company at a time,” she explained. “USAID aims to influence entire sectors and industries that are ready to adopt gender smart practices.”