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Empowering Women and Girls

In Mozambique, we reached

40,000 PEOPLE

with community-level activities to prevent gender-based violence.


Women & Girls -
the Key for

The Gender Gap
Around the World

Drivers of Vulnerability

Some women and girls are more vulnerable than others. Click on the gray boxes in the chart to see how different combinations of characteristics may increase vulnerability.

Less Vulnerable
More Vulnerable
Not Marginalized Race
Marginalized Race
Not Poor

Abigail Donner, Associate Scientist, International Development Division


Watch Abigail discuss Abt’s approach to empowering women and girls around the world.







Facilitating economic opportunity and access to capital

In Southeast Asia, we are building a knowledge base and business coalitions focused on enabling women's economic participation and empowerment. We've brought together 28 leading companies employing nearly 500,000 people in the region to form four coalitions which will help the companies promote gender equality and measure progress. In less than two years, we leveraged nearly $2.8 million in private-sector investment in women-owned small and medium enterprises.

In Papua New Guinea (PNG), we are administrating the WeCREATE Challenge to provide a platform for PNG women to accelerate their business journey. While women are active participants in the PNG informal economy, men are almost twice as likely as women to hold a job in the formal sector.

The WeCREATE Challenge attracted 114 applicants in the first round of the competition, following a strong social media campaign that reached around 45,000 people. The most promising 25 women took part in a six-month business development program, with three winners chosen to grow their businesses.

Breaking down gender stereotypes

In West Africa, we helped female entrepreneurs who work in the region's traditionally male-dominated sectors attract a total of $11.6 million in investment. Our work created 10,821 full time jobs for women and established 1,339 buyer-seller linkages for women-owned and operated businesses in sectors like apparel, shea butter, livestock and grains processing.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, we trained more than 54,000 women to support malaria eradication activities - jobs traditionally done by men - empowering tens of thousands to pursue supervisory roles and become leaders within their communities. We mentored high-performing women to move from entry-level to supervisory roles and ensured that the workplace was hospitable by providing items like sanitary pads to ensure that women weren't missing work due to menstruation.


In Timor-Leste, we helped launch a first-of-its-kind Short Film Competition for journalism students to feature women living in rural areas who are making a significant contribution in the areas of health, education, water and sanitation, nutrition and gender equality.

The films were debuted by the Australian Ambassador and the spouse of the President of Timor-Leste to a broad audience that included high-level government officials. The videos reached nearly 150,000 people on social media, getting over 40,000 views.


In Mali, where agriculture is vital to livelihoods, we trained more than 6,500 female farmers to farm more profitable cash crops and helped them apply for loans and other financial products.

In Niger, we provided targeted training to regional partners, promoted new buyer-seller relationships, and identified finance opportunities, supporting formation of new cooperatives like the Niger Women's Livestock Cooperative. The women entrepreneurs of the cooperative have engaged in better livestock fattening practices and participate in trade directly, exporting as well as selling the animals locally in Niger.

Advancing evidence-based interventions and convening decision makers


Our evaluation and research studies of family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) services in low- and middle-income countries examined both the demand side (consumers) and the supply side (providers).

Our synthesis of multi-country analyses zeros in on key factors determining preferred FP method and source, and the interventions that enhance consumer knowledge, access and use of FP interventions. Our research also identifies evidence-based strategies that address challenges of providing adequate quality FP services.


We led a dialogue on sustainably financing family planning services in Accra, Ghana. Representatives from more than a dozen government health and finance departments across sub-Saharan Africa attended, as well as USAID and its partner organizations.

The five-day event drew 150 attendees, including public and private stakeholders, as participants shared country experiences and tools to inform financing options and reduce reliance on donor assistance.

Increasing quality and access to services


In Jordan, we designed and implemented FP community outreach involving home-based, woman-to-woman interpersonal communication on FP and voucher distribution for access to FP services. The counseling empowered women to make informed decisions, and help overcome influencers at home with misconceptions about FP methods.

The vouchers, geared for low-income women, gave women purchasing power to make their own reproductive decisions and provide a guarantee of access to female FP service providers - a key issue in Jordan. Nearly 1.3 million home visits were conducted, reaching 671,897 women, 80 percent of whom were married and of reproductive age. These interventions resulted in 93,144 new adopters of FP methods.

We also improved the quality and access to FP health care services for Jordanian families in 24 health centers and six hospitals run by the Ministry of Health (MOH), by providing a range of modern contraceptive methods and counseling.

Compared to non-participating health centers, the 24 health centers saw a 60 percent increase in the average couple year protection delivered per month over the six month duration of our work.

We generated 467,000 couple years of protection to avert unintended pregnancy in Afghanistan, Haiti, Nigeria, and Senegal through social marketing programs, contraceptives distribution, supply chain strengthening, and tailored market approaches like specialty marketed condom products to fill market gaps and address unmet need.

In Zambia, we helped the government expand access to high-quality family planning services in 26 underserved and vulnerable districts with the highest levels of fertility and the least access to family planning services.

We trained 752 health workers and 65 family planning mentors to provide comprehensive FP services, and trained 1,896 community leaders and safe motherhood action group members as community- based distributors to increase access to FP methods. As a result, 295,104 additional women and girls adopted FP methods, providing 578,241 total couple years of protection.


Changing Cultural Norms about Child Marriage and Sexual Violence

In Timor Leste, we partnered with a prominent national not-for-profit organization to develop a film mini-series to reduce the incidence of violence against women and children. Episodes focus on negative consequences of sharing sexual images and decreasing acceptance of abusive relationships and sexual violence.

Episodes also spread information on how to get assistance in case of sexual assault and how to file a case with the National Police. In follow-up surveys, all those interviewed reported having changed their behaviors due to the films, including sharing information with their friends from the films (41 percent of males reported that they had reminded other males to not sexually harass others, and 59 percent reported that they reminded others to not use violence against their romantic partner).

In Jordan, girls can be married as young as 12 through a loophole in the child marriage law. We partnered with the government of Jordan and other stakeholders to close that loophole by reviewing the process for granting exceptions to the child marriage law. We also held public events titled "No to Child Marriage" to raise awareness of this issue.

In one activity, we collaborated with local young filmmakers. "My Oversized Dress" shows a 13-year old girl awkwardly wearing an over-sized wedding dress. The video's message is: "Early marriage deprives girls of their right to play, learn, and live."

Strengthening Services and Supports for Victims


In Mozambique, we expanded and improved coordination and effectiveness of GBV prevention, improved policy implementation in response to GBV and improved the availability and quality of GBV services. As a result, we facilitated the introduction of health services for GBV survivors in 75 new facilities and provided care for more than 4,500 survivors. In addition, more than 40,000 individuals were reached with community-level GBV prevention activities and more than 1,400 potential GBV victims were referred for services.

Promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women is a central focus of all activities in Papua New Guinea. The Skelim Pawa, Stretim Pasin initiative was launched in 2017 to provide an overarching framework to guide the operational and strategic integration of gender and inclusion in all aspects of day-to-day work practice, operations, and program design and delivery. A local Tok Pisin phrase, Skelim Pawa, Stretim Pasin, means "share power, align actions."

Our PNG Women's Committee brings together participants across 14 provinces and focuses on improving and supporting women's health and well-being.

Gender-based violence (GBV) constitutes a serious public health problem globally. In Papua New Guinea (PNG), we worked with the local law association to provide legal services to women affected by GBV. Legal assistance was provided to more than 200 clients. Most clients (70 percent) were provided services for gender-based violence, such as gaining protection orders. There were 21 cases closed in 2015, with 90 percent having a successful outcome.


Eradicating Trafficking of Women and Girls


Millions of adults and children—overwhelmingly women and girls—are trafficked worldwide for commercial sex each year. In the U.S., there are tens of thousands of victims of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. While the issue is complicated, arising from numerous health, economic, and criminal justice challenges, reducing demand for commercial sex is a significant part of the solution.

To this end, we developed, a comprehensive online resource for people interested in ending sex trafficking and prostitution. The interactive database houses initiatives in more than 1,365 cities and counties in the U.S. aimed at deterring men who buy sex. The site includes details on tactics and how to start, improve and sustain an initiative. Since the site’s launch in 2013 it has gotten 347,000 page views from people in 163 countries and generates more than 100 visits per day.

In Nigeria, we are training male community health volunteers to reach out to their communities, particularly in locations where men gather, to provide information on the importance of family planning and referrals to locations where family planning services can be accessed by trained private providers. By directly engaging men in this way, they can be informed and bring information home to their spouse to begin a conversation on their family planning needs.

In Papua New Guinea (PNG), we are training male advocates at the national and subnational level as part of the newly established Male Advocacy Network (MAN). MAN is a key implementation strategy of PNG's National Public Service Gender Equity and Social Inclusion Policy focused on promoting equitable and inclusive practices in the workplace, supporting and encouraging women in decision making roles, and to ensuring government services include all Papua New Guineans.

Since February 2018, we've conducted two trainings at the national level and three are planned for districts and provinces. To date, 39 public servants (35 males, 4 females), have participated in male advocate training.

Male Advocacy Network members from the West New Britain Provincial Administration campaign against gender-based violence to athletes and spectators at the Papua New Guinea Games in Kimbe in 2017.

We are also coordinating the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct in PNG, which focuses on building the leadership skills, values and ethics of the next generation of public servants across national and subnational levels. Since June 2016, over 1,000 public servants have completed these courses, with 55 percent of graduates being male.

Participant feedback suggests that the program is having a significant impact as participants reported taking a more inclusive approach to leadership, and a renewed emphasis on women's leadership, women's inclusion in decision-making and being aware of new considerations around the inclusion of people with disabilities.