Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has praised Peru for its social inclusion policy, which she says has strengthened its economy.
It is women who make the decisions about what to buy and when to buy it and it is women who do the work that keeps families and communities going, Clinton said.
“We know now with hard data and scientific studies that woman are the global force for economic growth,” she said.
She praised Peruvian President Ollanta Humala for creating his country’s first ministry of development and social inclusion, which aims to bring historically dispossessed groups such as women and indigenous populations into the economic mainstream.
“You understood that Peru’s economic strength, which had been considerable … was going to be enhanced if social inclusion were at the heart of your agenda, and at the heart of social inclusion was a commitment to women and girls,” she said.
She cited a once poor, uneducated Peruvian woman from the Andean highlands, Luzmila Huarancca, who with her husband has built an award-winning enterprise that manufactures beautiful embroidered cloth for international textile markets. With help from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) 10 years ago, Huarancca has trained more than 800 women in a dozen different communities to create her products, the secretary said.
“This shows you how quickly in today’s interconnected global economy one woman with a needle and determination can give hundreds of women quality jobs stitching, literally stitching new hope into their families’ futures and new economic growth for their country,” she said.
Clinton later visited the Gamarra district of Lima, which is the center of Peru’s flourishing textile industry, and talked with women entrepreneurs there.
The secretary said women’s participation in the labor market now stands at more than 50 percent in Latin America, after having grown by 15 percent between 2000 and 2010.
“Latin America deserves a lot of credit for opening up participation and markets, and you also have received a lot of benefits,” Clinton said. “This isn’t just the morally right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do as well.”
To buttress the trend of bringing more women into the workforce, Clinton said, the United States will continue to support the Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas (WEAmericas) program, which aims to dismantle economic barriers to women.
The program offers four types of support: education and business training, access to markets; financing; and opportunities in networking, mentorship and leadership.
Celia Duron of Honduras used to make paper crafts as a hobby, but now, thanks to the WEAmericas program, she makes a living from it, according to the secretary.
“She has a business plan, a Web presence and four employees. She purchased a new paper-cutting machine to expand her capacity. And connections she made through WEAmericas already landed her a monthlong display agreement with Wal-Mart,” Clinton said.
Working with the Inter-American Investment Corporation, the United States has contributed $900,000 to the new Women’s Entrepreneurship Trust Fund to help women throughout the region run their businesses more efficiently or get a good idea off the ground.
“Private-sector partners have been eager to join the WEAmericas initiative because they understand it is a shrewd investment. Businesses need suppliers who can provide high-quality goods at competitive prices,” Clinton said.