Why Every Day Should Be International Women’s Day

By Gayle Smith, USAID Administrator

Photos courtesy of Fintrac Inc., Zahur Ramji (AKDN), Milagros DC Hartinger and Thomas Cristofoletti
“Communities that give their daughters the same opportunities as their sons, they are more peaceful, they are more prosperous, they develop faster, they are more likely to succeed.” — President Barack Obama, July 26, 2015

Women are a powerful force for change. They’re one-half of the potential human capital in any economy.

More than half a billion women have joined the world’s workforce over the past 30 years; they make up 40 percent of the agriculture labor force and more than half the world’s university students.

In fact, a recent McKinsey Global Institute study found that global GDP could increase by $12 trillion by 2025 by advancing women’s equality.

And it’s not just on the economic front where women are poised to make a significant difference.

When they are empowered, women lead the way in managing the impacts of climate change.

When women play an active role in civil society and politics, governments are more responsive, transparent and democratic.

And countries that invest in girls’ education have lower maternal and infant deaths, lower rates of HIV and AIDS, and better child nutrition.

Despite all that potential, as well as progress on gender equality over the past 15 years, we still hear that gender equality is ancillary concern or a niche topic. Too often gender gets pushed aside because of competing priorities or a lack of resources. People say that gender isn’t their area or that gender equality is a “women’s issue.”

The truth is it’s everyone’s issue. From ending extreme poverty to countering violent extremism, we cannot succeed without women and girls.

That’s why International Women’s Day should not be just one day; it should be every day.

This month, follow our #smartdev campaign on USAID’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels to see how women and girls are advancing progress in EVERY area.

For example, did you know that women are better energy savers? Recent studies in Europe show that women use 22 percent less energy than men and are more willing to change their daily routines to save it.

A World Bank evaluation of 122 water projects found that the effectiveness of a project was six to seven times higher when women were involved.

And if an extra 600 million women and girls were online in the next three years, the GDP in 144 countries could go up as high as $18 billion.

Meaningfully engaging and empowering the female population is no longer just a characteristic of good governance, it’s essential to smart development.

So what will USAID be doing this International Women’s Day? The same thing we do every other day: ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment is not just a part of what we do, but at the core of all that we do. It’s not rocket science, it’s #smartdev.



About the Author

Gayle Smith is USAID’s Administrator.

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