"One Woman Initiative" seeks to change the world, one woman at a time
Washington -- A unique, new public-private program aims to improve lives around the world, one woman at a time.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice launched the One Woman Initiative, which will be aimed exclusively at Muslim women living in some 40 countries. A "women's empowerment fund" of $100 million -- $67 million from the U.S. government and the rest from private corporations and foundations -- will support programs such as business and leadership training and improved access to justice.
In introducing the program May 12 at the State Department, Rice told her listeners that "in an age where women are climbing to new heights, we must pause for a moment and direct our concerns toward those who have been left behind."
INSPIRED BY BENAZIR BHUTTO
The initiative is inspired by Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan who was assassinated December 27, 2007, while campaigning for another term as prime minister after eight years in exile.
The death of this moderate Muslim woman leader was an inspiration "to help nurture others who could become forces for moderation and peaceful change," Rice said.
Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli, Rice's senior adviser for women's empowerment, told America.gov that the State Department was approached by a number of people who felt the tragic death of Bhutto was an opportunity for "shoring up women around the Muslim world."
Tahir-Kheli said the One Woman Initiative is unique because it will enhance currently funded programs and help other programs that might not otherwise get assistance.
Rules governing who can qualify for government funding "are pretty onerous," the ambassador acknowledged. "So small NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], small women's programs that have capacity to make a big difference often don't have the wherewithal to even apply."
In contrast, the One Woman Initiative, itself a nonprofit organization, will have a greater ability to reach out to individuals and small programs through its private-sector arm, she said.
"What's exciting," Tahir-Kheli told America.gov, is that "this is the first public-private sector initiative in the United States that is focused on three areas: justice, opportunity, leadership."
Government funding will be supervised by Henrietta Fore, administrator and director of U.S. foreign assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The private-sector segment will be chaired by Carly Fiorina, chairwoman and chief executive officer of Carly Fiorina Enterprises, which is focused on global economic development and grassroots empowerment programs.
Working with Fiorina are Sheila Johnson, philanthropist, entrepreneur and co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET); Pat Mitchell, president of the Paley Center for Media; and Farooq Kathwari, chief executive officer of Ethan Allen Interiors.
Rice, during a May 12 interview on CBS's The Early Show, said the treatment of women is "a bellwether of how well we're doing in terms of the spread of decency, of dignity for human beings."
The One Woman Initiative is an "initiative to recognize what can be done if women are empowered. ... [I]f you can empower one woman, she can empower a village. That village then can empower a town and, ultimately, a whole society," Rice said.
A fact sheet on the program is available on the Fiorina Foundation Web site.
About America.gov: U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) engages international audiences on issues of foreign policy, society and values to help create an environment receptive to U.S. national interests.
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