Renewing U.S. Investments in Women’s Political Leadership

By Saskia Brechenmacher, Katherine Mann
2 February 2022

As part of last December’s Summit for Democracy, the Biden administration launched a wide range of commitments aimed at countering the troubling anti-democratic headwinds around the world. One of these pledges is the “Advancing Women’s & Girls’ Civic and Political Leadership Initiative,” a new U.S. government effort to promote women’s democratic inclusion. Implemented by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) with a planned budget of $33.5 million, it seeks to strengthen women-led civil society organizations, tackle entrenched barriers to women’s political and economic participation, and foster a more inclusive environment for women in politics.

A greater focus on gender equality in the United States’ global democracy agenda marks a welcome shift. After several years of flagging investments, the United States has fallen behind many other donors when it comes to supporting women’s political leadership or feminist and women-led organizations. Meanwhile, the global picture has worsened: despite some bright spots, democratic reversals in many parts of the world have empowered exclusionary regimes that have lashed out against women’s pro-democratic mobilization and attacked feminist and LGBTQ movements to fuel social polarization. The COVID-19 pandemic has further undermined global progress toward gender equality by disrupting girls’ schooling, increasing women’s economic precarity, and heightening gender-based violence.