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Women in the Hemisphere: An Interview with April Palmerlee
Senior Coordinator, International Women's Issues, U.S. Department of State

April Palmerlee (1)
By Sahnya Shulterbrandt (2)

Our special thanks to Rainy Young, Office of Regional Press Outreach

Women’s Empowerment
Could you please tell us some of the initiatives that US Government have taken in order to promote Women’s Empowerment in US and the Hemisphere?

A.: The United States is a champion of human rights and the well being of women and minorities worldwide. As President Bush has said, "We have a great opportunity during this time of war against terrorism to lead the world toward the values that will bring lasting peace.... We have no intention of imposing our culture. But America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity, including respect for women."

We have initiated and supported a number of programs aimed at empowering women in the Western Hemisphere. Here are some examples.

In the Dominican Republic:

USG funds are supporting an information campaign, conducted by the International Organization for Migration, for the prevention of trafficking in Dominican women and minors.  Additionally, the project will promote transnational networking and exchange of information, and provide technical cooperation to the Dominican government on the development-related legislation.

During the Dominican Republic's last elections, USG funds enabled the organization, recruitment, training and fielding of more than 8,600 Dominican election monitors.  Over half of these monitors were women, ensuring that Dominican women overall were involved in opening up the channels for citizen participation and accountability.

The USAID-funded "Clara Proyecto" focuses on developing community-level capacity to assist those living with HIV/AIDS.  Among the women who have been trained to be peer-educators in this program is a young woman whose husband died of HIV/AIDS, leaving her a widow before the age of 18.  The Clara Proyecto recruited her to participate in a support group to learn how to live a healthy life.  Since then, she has become a peer educator, reaching out mainly to women to promote healthy life practices.

USAID is sponsoring community-based dispute resolution programs in the DR, many of which will directly assist Dominican women, particularly rural women and those involved in domestic violence situations.

The USG is also funding materials for a domestic violence project in Bani, which will provide a location separate from the main police building where women can make complaints about domestic violence, meet with the district attorney and be referred for medical care.

Elsewhere in the hemisphere:

In Guatemala, USAID -- on an on-going basis -- funds microcredit for small farmers and micro entrepreneurs, using credit access to rural women, increasing women's participation in agricultural production and in artisanry.

USAID programs in Colombia fund alternative dispute mechanisms that promote community-based legal awareness and assistance.  They have trained women on family violence issues and youths on conflict resolution.

U.S. Embassies in Guatemala, Bolivia and Brazil have hosted political training workshops for women.  USAID in Guatemala funds civil society programs to increase participation in democratic process and strengthen capacity of civil organizations to influence national policy, with a special emphasis on women.

USAID in Peru funds "Promujer" (an association of NGOs promoting women's issues) that has focused on increasing women's political representation by training female candidates to be successful.

The U.S. Embassies in Mexico and in Canada sent women leaders from business, labor, politics, civil society, education and technology to attend a workshop in Toronto in 2000, "Women's Leadership Initiative" sponsored by the International Foundation for Election Systems and the women's Mercosur forum.  The goal was to identify priority areas of concern for women in NAFTA countries and to maximize the benefit to women of regional economic integration.

Gender Equality
A study from the World Bank confirms that countries that reduce the gender gap also decrease the levels of corruption and enjoy a faster economic growth.  What it’s your opinion in that respect?

A.: The World Bank study on "Engendering Development Through Gender Equality in Rights, Resources and Voice" focuses on gender issues and their broad economic and social implications in developing and transitional countries. The evidence presented shows societies that discriminate by gender pay a high price in terms of their ability to develop and reduce poverty.  To promote gender equality, the report proposed a three-part strategy emphasizing institutional reforms, based on a foundation of equal rights for women and men; policies for sustained economic development; and active measures to redress persistent gender disparities.

The United States recognizes the importance women play in economic development around the world and the increasingly significant role of women in today's world as leaders in government and business.  The USG also works to reduce and eliminate the vast inequalities that remain. 

Small Business Administration, for example, works to improve the welfare of women worldwide by leading or  participating in conferences, trade missions and other efforts that help women better their lives and improve their communities. 

Department of Commerce organizes several hundred-trade events each year,
including activities specifically focused on women business owners.  Its efforts to promote the advancement of women in trade will ensure that women-owned businesses become competitive players in the world economy.

The Department of Labor's Women's Bureau is exclusively concerned with serving and promoting the interests of working women.  It promotes the welfare of wage-earning women, improves their working conditions, increases their efficiency and advances their opportunities for profitable employment. It also advocates for women, informs women and the public of women workers' rights and employment issues, and advances equal pay. 

ICT's & Gender Gap
What initiatives have the US Government undertaken to promote the ICT's as an empowerment tool for women to help close the gender gap and what would your suggestions be for Business Women regarding ICT’s and its use? 

A.: The U.S. government uses the Internet and technology to inform women about opportunities and resources available to them.  In the United States, many government agencies provide information on the Internet to help women entrepreneurs.  In addition, the State Department also provides information via the worldwide web, digital videoconferences, and satellite hookups to women around the world. 

The Department of Defense maintains the Air Force Small Business Online at  This web site features specific resources for women-owned small businesses, including online assistance and reports on women-owned, small businesses.

The U.S.
Small Business Administration (SBA) recognizes the vital importance of the Internet and is using the new technology in a number of ways.  The SBA website provides a vast array of information and links, as well as access to various databases.  Among the most important is the procurement network, PRO-Net, which links vendors with Federal, state and private procurement officers nationwide. 

The SBA's Online Women's Business Center,, receives more than a million hits a month from users in 100 countries.  It provides a full business curriculum, online individual counseling, worldwide networking, links to countless resources, and more.  Much of that content is available in Spanish.

The SBA Small Business Classroom offers short, self-paced, learning modules that are built from existing SBA and other cosponsored course material and formatted into easy-to-follow learning templates.  Certain courses are offered in both Spanish and English. 

USIA's WORLDNET TV has broadcast a dialogue/call-in program to Latin America on Internet Access for Women in Business.

The use of computers and the Internet are also vital in women's participation in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.  The Minister of Women's Affairs, Dr. Sima Samar, has identified computer technology as a key area where U.S. resources could help Afghan women get the training and education they have been denied for so long.  The U.S.-Afghan Women's Council is undertaking such a training program this summer for the benefit of Afghan women, their families and the country as a whole.



1) April W. Palmerlee
Senior Coordinator, International Women's Issues
U.S. Department of State

The Bush Administration appointed April W. Palmerlee as Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues at the Department of State in January 2002.  She is responsible for advancing women's human rights and empowerment as important elements of U.S foreign policy through public diplomacy, domestic and international exchange programs, and Foreign Service training. The Senior Coordinator and her Office also develop and utilize partnerships and alliances with other governments, international institutions, domestic and foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector to advance U.S. policies.

Before joining the administration, Ms. Palmerlee was an executive at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, the largest nonpartisan U.S. foreign policy think tank. Her most recent position there was as Director of Strategic Relationships for the Studies Department. Her areas of responsibility included involving Council members around the world in task forces, study groups, and roundtables; building support for corporate conferences; reviewing books and papers before publication; increasing media exposure of Council experts; and overseeing the think tank website.

Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, Ms. Palmerlee also served as Project Director of the Council's Roundtable on Afghanistan. The Roundtable, chaired by Vice President and Director of Studies Lawrence J. Korb, convened Afghanistan experts, journalists, aid workers, U.S. policymakers, academics, UN officials, and others from Kabul to Omaha.  The group reviewed the current situation, assessed past efforts, and formulated policy recommendations on issues ranging from women's professional and political participation in a post-Taliban society to securing internal stability to NGO involvement in relief and recovery efforts. 

For 3 years prior to that, Ms. Palmerlee served as Director of Communications for the New York and Washington offices of the Council. She led major public outreach efforts to engage foreign and domestic media in U.S. foreign policy and the 2000 presidential election. She also edited select publications and supervised the Council's websites.  From 1996-98, Ms. Palmerlee was Council President Leslie H. Gelb's special assistant.

Before joining the Council, Ms. Palmerlee worked directly for couturier and philanthropist Oscar de la Renta. In this capacity, she served as his liaison to key groups, including several women's organizations and publications, as well as nonprofits and charities.  In addition, she has also worked at the Spanish Institute in New York and the Bank Credit Analyst in Montreal.  

Ms. Palmerlee has been recognized for her contributions to U.S. foreign policy by Who's Who in the World and Who's Who in American Women

Ms. Palmerlee received a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, and a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.




2) Sahnya Shulterbrandt>> 
Development and Publications Director



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May 20, 2002


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