WASHINGTON — Congress approved the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment (WEEE) Act, legislation that seeks to eliminate global gender-related barriers and empower female entrepreneurs around the world. The bill heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
The bill was introduced in the Senate by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and John Boozman (R-AR).
“Investing in women creates a positive cycle of change that can lift women, families, communities and entire countries out of poverty,” said Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I am proud we have been able to work on a bipartisan basis to move forward this much-needed legislation.”
“Providing women access to tools for economic success supports global prosperity. The WEEE Act will empower women to gain control of their financial future while simultaneously facilitating improvements in their homes and communities. I’m proud to lead Senate efforts recognizing the importance of leveling the playing field for women around the world. I appreciate the leadership of Chairman Corker and Chairman Royce to move this bill one step closer to becoming law,” Boozman said.
Specifically, the WEEE Act will:
- Establish a development cooperation policy of the United States to reduce gender disparities related to economic participation and opportunity, strive to eliminate gender-based violence, support women’s property rights and increase the capability of women and girls to determine life outcomes.
- Direct the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to include efforts that promote equality and female empowerment throughout its programs.
- Expand USAID’s microenterprise development assistance authority to include small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with an emphasis on supporting SMEs owned, managed and controlled by women; and
- Modernize USAID’s development assistance toolkit to include innovative credit scoring models, financial technology, financial literacy, insurance and actions to improve property and inheritance rights.
In addition to Senators Cardin and Boozman, the Senate bill is also cosponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
In the House of Representatives, the bill was led by Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Lois Frankel (D-FL).