Surprise: Ivanka Trump’s Signature Women’s Initiative Was a Massive Failure

Surprise: Ivanka Trump’s Signature Women’s Initiative Was a Massive Failure


When she wasn’t conveniently on vacation with Jared Kushner every time Donald Trump found himself embroiled in scandal, Ivanka Trump spent most of her time in Washington claiming to be working on behalf of women both in the U.S. and around the world. Obviously, the idea that the then first daughter was using her role in the White House to champion women was a uniquely Trumpian load of horseshit, given the many ways her father’s administration actively hurt women both in and outside of the country, a list that includes but is in no way limited to: relentlessly attempting to undermine the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit; weakening Title IX and putting students at increased risk of sexual assault and harassment; scrapping an equal-pay initiative (a move blessed by Ivanka herself); blocking the State Department from mentioning reproductive or sexual rights in its annual human rights report; separating families at the border, including ones with infants; replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a woman who wouldn’t rule out making abortion a crime punishable by death; and banning foreign aid to groups that discussed abortion. And now a damning report from the Government Accountability Office has revealed that Ivanka’s signature women’s initiative was a flop.

Per Politico:

[Ivanka] Trump’s stump speech on the global conference circuit was anchored in stories about the legal and regulatory barriers many women face around the world in establishing their property rights and starting businesses, and she had a solution: W-GDP. Launched weeks after President Trump signed the WEEE Act in early 2019, supporters of W-GDP saw it as a groundbreaking whole-of-government approach to female empowerment. Critics of W-GDP derided the work as too limited to make a real difference.

W-GDP aimed to codify gender analysis and deliver targeted finance across the women’s programs of 10 U.S. government agencies. At the individual level, the hope was that poor women entrepreneurs would receive the financial kick start they needed to build a business. One of the 10 agencies involved was the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is mandated to allocate $265 million a year for support to micro, small, and medium-size enterprises under the WEEE Act. Half of the money is required to go to women, half to the very poor (some overlap between the two groups is expected).

While the first daughter claimed that W-GDP was a cohesive program “enabling us to rigorously track the execution and the efficacy of the money that we are spending,” the GAO’s audit shows that, at least at USAID, that was not the case.

While USAID launched at least 19 new women’s empowerment programs in 2019 alone, there were extensive failures in both the targeting of the money and the measurement of its impact. USAID was unable to say what proportion of funds went to the very poor, and women-owned and managed businesses. Shockingly, the agency couldn’t even define what actually constitutes a business owned and run by women, the GAO concluded.

One of Ivanka Trump’s favorite anecdotes about women’s empowerment on global conference stages from New York to Doha focused on her efforts to empower Colombian women, whom she visited in September 2019 with USAID administrator Mark Green.… Below the surface there were already problems with USAID’s programs in Colombia. The GAO singled out USAID’s Colombian funding of a Productive Entrepreneurships for Peace program and a Rural Finance Initiative as examples of projects with important general inclusion goals, which also failed to meet the WEEE Act requirement to fund the very poor directly.

A senior Trump administration official naturally insisted to Politico that Ivanka and company inherited the mess. “Everything was scattered with no real clear goal or purpose. That is not a good use of taxpayer dollars and doesn’t help people anywhere.” Yet Lady Trump’s team reportedly held “weekly and sometimes daily calls” with USAID officials to “monitor implementation” and apparently failed, so presumably that’s on them.

Of course you won’t find Ivanka taking the blame for any of this or even acknowledging that there were issues, given her long history of trying to give herself credit where no credit is due. In the last months of the Trump administration, she tried to claim that her father’s administration was responsible for a drop in greenhouse gasses in the U.S., failing to note the reason for the drop was Trump’s disastrous handling of the pandemic, which led to a situation in which no one could go anywhere. She also patted herself on the back for the news that changes at the Agriculture Department had led to more food-insecure people being able to redeem their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits at farmers markets…

…while leaving out the fact that the administration tried to strip approximately 700,000 people of their SNAP benefits in the midst of a pandemic, and that the only reason it didn’t end up doing so was because a judge intervened and wouldn’t let it.

Anyway, just some things to think about when the ex-first daughter emerges from her Miami sabbatical and tries to run for office.

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