Ivanka Trump’s White House role as senior advisor to the President (the President being father Donald Trump) had always been lacking some clarity in terms of her responsibilities, but there was one legislative push she was more than happy to claim as her own: the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP), which, along with the passage of the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act of 2018, aimed to improve accountability in gender analysis and getting out targeted funding. But a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the efficacy of one agency in carrying out the WEEE Act’s aims, the U.S. Agency for International Development or USAID, now shows that Trump’s much-loved initiative failed to improve their accountability at all. In fact, USAID failed to even determine a working definition for what made something a women-led organization — which, understandably, tripped up their ability to funnel money their way.
In GAO’s newly published report, addressed to congressional committees, USAID is called out for failing to distribute their $265 million in allocated funds to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises specifically targeting the very poor and women, per the WEEE Act passed in accordance with Trump’s women’s initiative.
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“Although USAID has programs designed to help the very poor, it is unable to determine the amount of funding that reaches this group,” the report states. “Although USAID has MSME activities that benefit women, it has not defined enterprises owned, managed, and controlled by women and does not collect data by enterprise size. These gaps leave USAID unable to determine what percentage of its MSME resources is going to the very poor and enterprises owned, managed, and controlled by women.”
One of the six recommendations GAO made to USAID was to “establish a definition of enterprises owned, managed, and controlled by women,” which the organization has since accepted and publicly announced they are working on implementing.
Rep. Lois Frankel, co-author of the WEEE Act, told Politico that the office’s findings were disappointing, but an indication that the accountability process was at least working effectively: “While the GAO’s findings are disappointing, the WEEE Act included this reporting requirement so that Congress can continue to oversee the implementation of this important law.”
It’s certainly good that this agency will be held to a higher standard going forward, but this is all an important reminder that just because something calls itself women’s empowerment doesn’t mean it always benefits women. If Ivanka Trump ever wants to prove herself as a political champion of women, it will be the real track record of her initiatives that we look to to confirm it, not what she claims to have intended to achieve at the time.
Before you go, click here to see family feuds we can’t believe played out in public.
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