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Washington, D.C. – The House today passed the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act (H.R. 5480). The bipartisan legislation seeks to address gender-related barriers to economic growth and support women-led enterprises.

On the House floor prior to the vote, Chairman Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):

“Across the globe, women make up the majority of the world’s poor. This is due in part to gender constraints that in some places still mean women are denied basic financial services like savings accounts.

Today, more than one billion women remain left out of the formal financial system, and women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises face a nearly $300 billion credit gap. A 2014 analysis found that closing this gender gap for small and medium-sized women-owned businesses could increase per capita GDP in developing countries by 12 percent.

That’s because when women exercise greater influence over finances, everyone benefits. Childhood survival rates, food security, children’s education and economic opportunities for families all increase. In short, investments in women yield results for entire communities.

Indeed, one recent study found that countries with high female labor force participation rates are more resilient to economic shocks and suffer fewer slowdowns in economic growth. And a 2016 report estimated that achieving global gender parity in economic activity by 2025 could add as much as $28 trillion to annual global GDP – an amount roughly equal to the combined economies of the United States and China.

Confronting the barriers that keep women from being able to fully participate in their local markets is key to generating sustainable economic growth. This means not only expanding women’s access to the financial system, but also – as cell phones become more and more available – expanding their access to new financial technology like mobile money.

The Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act addresses barriers to women’s economic inclusion in developing countries by requiring that all USAID strategies, projects and activities be shaped by a gender analysis, and by expanding the agency’s microenterprise assistance authorities to support small and medium-sized women-owned businesses. This is critical, as small and medium-sized enterprises create four out of five new jobs in developing economies.

The bill is a result of the Foreign Affairs Committee’s extended focus on empowering women and girls through U.S. foreign policy, which has been the subject of five full committee hearings since 2014 and other subcommittee hearings in recent congresses. Our women’s empowerment initiative has produced significant legislation, including the Girls Count Act of 2015, the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act, and the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, among others.

I believe that we should invest our limited foreign assistance dollars wisely. I’ve also seen the good things that happen when we focus on empowering women. That’s what this bill does. I ask for my colleagues’ support in helping to make it happen.”

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