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Council on Foreign Relations Women and Foreign Policy January 2014

Women and Their Role in Economic Growth

Banking on Women for Economic Growth

In a CFR Policy Innovation Memorandum, Senior Fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon recommends that the U.S. government create an American development bank to invest in small and medium enterprises (SMEs). As SMEs make up 90 percent of developing economies, Lemmon argues that such a development bank would "spur economic development, accelerate progress toward international health and education development goals, and boost stability in fragile economies" in the developing world, thus furthering U.S. foreign policy goals. Lemmon summarizes the suggestions in the memorandum with posts on the Development Channel and Huffington Post. Read the Policy Innovation Memorandum »

Fighting Poverty with Unconditional Cash Transfers

Following a CFR roundtable meeting featuring Paul Niehaus, an assistant professor at UC San Diego and the cofounder of GiveDirectly, and Chris Blattman, an assistant professor at Columbia University, CFR Senior Fellow Isobel Coleman discusses how unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) are reshaping poverty alleviation programs. Drawing from successes of GiveDirectly and similar organizations, Coleman explains how UCT programs lead to increased assets and incomes, better food security, women's empowerment, and even improved mental health. She emphasizes that UCTs "allow poor people to spend money on what they actually need, not what outside aid experts assume they need." Read the blog post on the Development Channel »

Advancing Female Entrepreneurship in the MENA Region

"Thanks to women, entrepreneurship is becoming an increasingly important tool in fighting the high unemployment rates seen across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region," writes Lemmon. Tracking the evolution of female entrepreneurship in the region, she reviews why MENA economies stand to benefit from programs that support women entrepreneurs. She spotlights the success of women-owned enterprises in competitions and argues for providing women entrepreneurs with the financing and networking they need to grow their businesses. Read the blog post on the Development Channel »

Giving Women Access to Savings

As part of the ExxonMobil Women and Development Roundtable Series, Coleman moderated a meeting with Steve Hollingworth, president and CEO of Freedom from Hunger, and Mary Ellen Iskenderian, president and CEO of Women's World Banking. During the conversation, Coleman and the panelists explained that providing women with access to savings tools empowers them economically, increases their incomes, and helps them grow their businesses. Drawing on their own work experience in the field, Hollingworth and Iskenderian discussed how savings can be a gateway to providing women with a wider range of microfinance services. Listen to the roundtable conversation »

Child Marriage and U.S. Foreign Policy

Addressing Child Marriage in Conflict Zones and Fragile States

In the first meeting of the Ford Foundation Roundtable Series on Ending Child Marriage, Lemmon hosted Liesl Gerntholtz, director of the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, and Annie Bunting, director of the Harriet Tubman Institute at York University, for a discussion on the human rights violations, including child marriage, that girls face in conflict zones and fragile states. Lemmon, Gerntholtz, and Bunting surveyed initiatives addressing the condition of child brides in fragile states, and offered strategies for preventing child marriage during times of social instability. Listen to the roundtable conversation »

Engaging Religious Leaders to End Child Marriage

CFR Fellow Rachel Vogelstein spoke alongside Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service, at an event hosted by the American Academy of Religion. Vogelstein and Messinger weighed in on the importance of collaborating with community and religious leaders to curb child marriage practices around the world and answered broader questions relating the elimination of child marriage to U.S. foreign policy objectives and international development goals. Vogelstein also wrote a follow up piece on the Development Channel on the prevalence of child marriage across various religious communities. The event was part of CFR's Religion and Foreign Policy Initiative. Listen to the panel discussion »

Gains in Afghan Women's Health and Rights

Remembering Girls and Women in a Post-2014 Afghanistan

As diplomats and advocates try to rebrand the war in Afghanistan "from hopeless cause to cause for hope in the minds of Americans," Lemmon highlights the gains made in Afghanistan over the past thirteen years, particularly for girls and women. Referencing improved health and development statistics as well as higher rates of economic and political participation, Lemmon writes that the elevated status of Afghan women is a sign of a more stable and secure Afghanistan. She stresses that such improvements should not be forgotten as Afghanistan's future unfolds and the United States begins to withdraw from the country. Read the article on Defense One »



CFR's Women and Foreign Policy program works with leading scholars to analyze how elevating the status of women and girls advances U.S. foreign policy objectives and to bring the status of women into the mainstream foreign policy debate. Among its areas of focus are global health and education, the role of women in peacekeeping, and women’s economic participation.

Rachel Vogelstein
Director and Senior Fellow, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Catherine Powell
Fellow, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Senior Fellow, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Hannah Chartoff
Research Associate, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Valerie Wirtschafter
Research Associate, Women and
Foreign Policy Program


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