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Facilitating Thought Leadership for Women’s Economic Empowerment

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Facilitating Thought Leadership for Women’s Economic Empowerment

In the last decade, gender equality and women’s economic empowerment (WEE) have become increasingly important topics within the international development field, and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Emerging research sheds new light on how the global pandemic has negatively impacted women’s economic access.  While care responsibilities increased, women’s participation in the workforce and international trade declined and land rights have been restricted in some places. Despite the emerging research, more needs to be done to disseminate it to policymakers and development practitioners to improve economic opportunities for women. The USAID Women’s Economic Empowerment Community of Practice (USAID WEE CoP) serves this purpose by providing a forum for knowledge sharing and transformative thought leadership around women’s economic empowerment.

Launched by the USAID Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Hub (GenDev Hub), and managed by Banyan Global, the USAID WEE CoP supports its members in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Members include USAID staff, implementing partners, the private sector, networks, associations, bilateral donors, multilateral organizations, foundations and the wider international development community. The USAID WEE CoP enables members to identify and share proven, promising, and potential models that advance economic growth through gender equality.

Since its establishment in 2020, the USAID WEE CoP has faced the challenge of growing its membership and fostering peer learning entirely online. Over the last year, membership increased by 74 percent, its fastest rate yet. To communicate with its growing membership, the USAID WEE CoP utilizes a LinkedIn group and monthly newsletters that collate news and important resources on WEE. It also hosts quarterly learning events and member-led coffee chats that provide a deep dive into specific WEE topics.  Since its inception, the USAID WEE CoP has hosted 16 online learning events and coffee chats, reaching nearly 900 attendees. In 2022, the USAID WEE CoP hosted its two largest events to date.

On July 13, 2022, over 118 people from 31 countries joined the USAID WEE CoP learning event focused on the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2022 report. The goal of the event, similar to other USAID WEE CoP events, was to present policy and research on a topic related to WEE and then provide a forum for members to discuss practical implementation issues. Tea Trumbic, Program Manager for the Women, Business and the Law (WBL) project, served as the keynote speaker, sharing evidence and case studies to show how the annual report informs the design of World Bank Group gender priorities. Ms. Trumbic also moderated a panel discussion with Michelle Milford Morse, Vice President for Girls and Women Strategy, UN Foundation, Mark Ahern, World Bank Group’s Lead Country Economist for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti, and Erin Carr-Jordan, Managing Director of the Digital Equity Institute and Head of Social Impact at Arizona State University. The panel shared their insights on applying Women, Business and the Law data for global advocacy, supporting national legislative changes, and creating decision-making tools. The panelists discussed how gender discriminatory laws prevent women from fully and equally contributing to their economies and how individuals and organizations can take action now to change those laws.

“I attend USAID WEE CoP events because they bring so many wonderful speakers who talk about the data and research, and then more practical applications for implementation,” said USAID WEE CoP member Chelsea Meiners, a research assistant at the Institute for the Study of International Migration. “[The Women, Business, and the Law] event in particular gave me ideas for a new brief to write, which I hope to share with the Community of Practice.”

In between hosting learning events, the USAID WEE CoP also organizes coffee chats, which are smaller and more informal events led by members. Coffee chats help foster a sense of community and offer an opportunity for members to connect. On August 30, 2022, the USAID WEE CoP co-hosted a coffee chat on Proven Strategies to Increase Gender Equality in the Digital Ecosystem. Dr. Revi Sterling, Director of the WomenConnect Challenge funded by USAID under the Digital Frontiers agreement, hosted the coffee chat for over 100 participants from 20 countries. Dr. Sterling explored proven strategies for closing the gender digital divide, a fundamental barrier to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

The USAID WEE CoP is open to anyone with a desire to learn about gender equality and women’s economic empowerment and share evidence and best practices. Future events will continue to spotlight field-based research and learning and connect our growing membership of WEE practitioners overseas. To become a member, please email, or request to join the USAID WEE CoP LinkedIn group.