The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just issued a report on the implementation of legislation supporting Ivanka Trump’s women’s empowerment initiative that she came up with during her time as an advisor to father former President Donald Trump — and it’s not looking good.
For years Ivanka has talked up the policy, known as Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP). But according to the report, there were underlying issues developing in the roll-out of the bipartisan Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act of 2018 at the U.S. Agency for International Development.
W-GDP was Ivanka’s solution to the barriers that women around the world face everyday, specifically in developing countries. The goal of the program was to codify gender analysis and finance women’s programs of 10 U.S. Government agencies. Basically, the program intended to take a “holistic” and “cohesive” approach to financially help poor women entrepreneurs and give them the jump-start they needed to build a business from the ground up. A nice idea, that landed short. Supporters saw it as groundbreaking, critics said the program was too limited to actually make a noticeable difference.
One of the agencies, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is already mandated to provide $265 million a year to support smaller businesses under the WEEE Act (half goes to women, the other half goes to the very poor). While W-GDP was supposed to “rigorously track the execution and the efficacy of the money that we are spending,” it did the opposite at USAID, according to the GAO’s 14-month audit.
According to Politico, in 2019 alone USAID launched 19 new women’s empowerment programs, but they failed to successfully target the money and track its impact. And the worst of all? The GAO found that the agency couldn’t even define what actually qualifies a business as owned and run by women.
In September 2019, Ivanka visited Colombian women with USAID administrator Mark Green — a story she liked to regurgitate on global stages. But there were actually big underlying issues with USAID’s program in Colombia, according the GAO.
USAID’s Colombian funding of a Productive Entrepreneurships for Peach program and a Rural Finance Initiative failed to meet the WEEE Act requirement to fund the poor directly. “USAID has not defined and does not collect information necessary to meet its statutory targeting requirements,” the GAO report noted. In fact, they even failed to collect survey responses from 26 of its 47 global bureaus on how they distributed funding.
The GAO recommendations for USAID suggest better processes to allocate the money provided by Congress, which assistant administrator Colleen Allen says they’ve already implemented some of the necessary changes.
Currently the USAID is under the leadership of Gloria Steele, but is in transition of power as Samantha Power, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.K., waits confirmation of nomination to lead the agency.