ABA ROLI Empowers Women and Girls Through New Consortium

By Paula Rudnicka

Today, the world has united to celebrate International Women’s Day in the midst of a major cultural shift in how we think and talk about gender equality. Acceptance of abuse against women and girls as an inconsequential and immutable part of our lives is being challenged worldwide. Survivors are breaking the silence about violence and giving voices to those who cannot speak out. Their stories capture headlines, shatter long-held beliefs, inspire solidarity marches, and elevate public discourse on gender justice.

The reasons behind this rise in advocacy and community mobilization are manifold. Although the principles of gender equality and women’s empowerment are embedded in international and many national legal frameworks, for most of the world, substantive equality continues to be unattainable. The global economic gender gap is widening, and at the current pace of change, will not close for another 217 years — a chilling increase from 170 years in 2016. Women remain underrepresented in government bodies, community leadership positions, corporate boards, and peacebuilding efforts. Persistent inequalities are also evident in the widespread prevalence of and impunity for sexual and gender-based violence. At the same time, movements such as, #MeToo, #TimesUp, #BalanceTonPorc, #YoTambien, #Ana_kaman, #QuellaVoltaChe, “Ni Una Menos,” and similar campaigns are changing people’s perceptions of their role in, and the urgency of, the global women’s rights movement. The international development community has a moral responsibility to transform this momentum into action, working alongside local partners to bring about real change. Every voice matters and collective action is indispensable to achieving greater gender parity.

Seizing this historic opportunity and recognizing the power of strategic partnerships in promoting gender equality, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) with the Center for International Private Enterprise, Grameen Foundation, and Search for Common Ground are pleased to announce Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE), a four-year global programming consortium to advance the status of women and girls worldwide.
WAGE aims to improve the prevention of and response to gender-based violence; advance women’s roles in peacebuilding, mediation, and reform processes; and support women’s economic empowerment. WAGE will work with local civil society organizations committed to these goals to help develop their organizational and technical skills and to engage in collaborative research and learning to build a body of evidence on relevant promising practices. WAGE will also provide direct assistance to women and girls, including information, skills, resources, and services necessary to succeed as active and equal participants in the global economy. Finally, WAGE will engage men and boys as allies in these efforts. The consortium includes more than 40 international, regional, local, and corporate resource partners with niche specializations in women’s and girls’ empowerment to complement WAGE’s broad expertise and extend WAGE’s global reach.

For its first strategic initiative, WAGE will focus on women’s economic empowerment in El Salvador and Honduras. Together with Kiva, an online loan platform that connects lenders to entrepreneurs across the globe to alleviate poverty, WAGE will provide financial support to women entrepreneurs and will work with local microfinance institutions and civil society to reduce barriers that women face in accessing financing and growing sustainable businesses.

As a world-renowned activist, Gloria Steinem once noted, "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights." On this International Women’s Day, @WAGEGlobal is honored and thrilled to join forces and continue to #PressforProgress together.

To learn more about Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) and ABA ROLI’s other initiatives aimed at promoting the rights of women and girls, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.