Small grants: huge impact. That was the recurring theme of an inspiring event Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer hosted earlier this week at the Department of State. As part of the WEAmericas initiative to support economic empowerment for women-owned businesses in the Western Hemisphere, we announced 25 small grants for organizations in 15 Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as two regional projects. The Walmart Foundation and the Secretary of State's International Fund for Women and Girls sponsored the grants.
We call them "small grants" because they range from $20,000-60,000 each, but as grant recipient Yaneek Page of Women Entrepreneurs Network Caribbean (WEN Caribbean) commented: "It may be counted as a small grant, but it will have huge impact." Page explained the difficulties Caribbean women entrepreneurs face in finding successful business mentors, as networks are fragmented across several islands. Finding a mentor, she said, "is the difference between success and failure." WEN Caribbean plans to use its grant to connect women-owned business networks across the Caribbean, providing mentorship and guidance to entrepreneurs.
Why do the Department of State and Walmart invest in women entrepreneurs? Investing in women is not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. When women are able to take advantage of economic opportunities, they reinvest more of their earned income than men in the health and education of their families. This increases the human capital of their communities and creates the foundation for long-term, diversified, and inclusive economic growth. Investing in women-owned small and medium enterprises is one of the best ways to achieve economic, financial, and social impact. According to the 2012 World Bank Report, growth in female income accounted for 30 percent of extreme poverty reduction in Latin America and the Caribbean between 2000 and 2010!
I was honored to participate in this event alongside Ambassador Verveer, who has championed women's rights across the globe, and the Walmart Foundation, which has been a key partner in the success of WEAmericas. Meeting the grantees was the most rewarding part of the event. Inspirational women like Maria Pacheco and the other 24 grantees are making an impact on their families, communities, and countries as they work toward greater economic empowerment for women. Their ingenuity and drive for success create a better future for us all.