Mar 27
March 27, 2014

Penny Abeywardena

Former Director of Girls & Women Integration, Clinton Global Initiative

Expanding CGI's Commitment To Girls & Women


On the last day of Women's History Month, Penny Abeywardena, Director of Girls & Women Integration, shares how CGI is evolving its commitment to promote and advocate girls' and women's empowerment.

The landscape of philanthropy has evolved since the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) began connecting leaders across sectors in 2005, a shift accelerated in part by the Commitments to Action created by our members and the vision of the Clinton family. And CGI has evolved, as well. One of the most important and impactful shifts has been in our approach to convening members around girls' and women's issues. A defining moment for CGI came in 2009, when we introduced dedicated programming and year-round opportunities for members to learn about gender-related challenges, helping them to develop strategies that better address the needs of half of the world's population. 

This year marks the fifth anniversary of our renewed and retooled effort to empower girls and women. Our evolution includes the launch of the Girls & Women Track, which integrated the gender lens into all of CGI's Tracks and programs. In addition, we've made a concerted effort to work with our members to incorporate a gender lens into their CGI Commitments to Action. Over the years, leaders from every sector have leveraged this focus area to make high-impact CGI Commitments to Action that integrate women along the corporate supply chain, keep girls and women top of mind in development efforts, and advance gender equity through sports.

In addition to our commitments, CGI's meeting programming reinforces our belief that girls’ and women’s issues are not independent, but central to every global challenge, from energy efficiency to disaster response.

Girls and Women Strategy Session - 2013 CGI Annual Meeting

Above: Secretary Hillary Clinton, Valerie Jarrett, and other leaders speak at the Girls and Women Strategy Session, during the 2013 CGI Annual Meeting.

This  integration of the gender lens has led to encouraging results: In 2013, more than 60 percent of the 180 Commitments to Action made that year incorporated girls and women as decision-makers and beneficiaries in their strategic framework.

This year, as our members embark on reimagining impact, we are ready to lead by example. I am excited to announce the evolution of the Girls & Women Track into a stand-alone CGI effort that will allow us to enhance our existing work.  This new effort will elevate our Girls & Women-related work – and ensure that, through an organizational mandate and strategic restructuring, we do it even better.

This integration of women and girls is part of a larger effort at the Clinton Foundation to emphasize impact for women and girls within our initatives, including No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project. Led by Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, No Ceilings brings together partner organizations to assess the gains and gaps for women women and girls 20 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. CGI will work closely with No Ceilings to create commitments that contribute to the full participation of women and girls. 

Our reimagined dedication to addressing the challenges in this space is inspired by the work of our members. In the weeks to come, we will present a blog series on “Reimagining Girls' and Women's Empowerment Through Private-Sector Investment,” featuring interviews with several of these change-makers from the business community---including leaders from ANN INC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Walmart ---whose commitments to gender inclusion are ahead of the curve. Their work never fails to remind us that honoring girls and women as both beneficiaries and decision-makers is one of the most effective, sustainable, and surefire ways to build a better world.