This is cross-posted from the Women Make News website for which the article was originally written.
"Women's entrepreneurship will be a focus of US foreign policy", said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in April 2010.
Finally, it seems, women are getting the attention they deserve as engines of productivity, as entrepreneurs and as humans-who possess rights.
Whether it's Hillary Clinton and Melanne Verveer's TechWomen program, the Secretary's Fund for Women and Girls or the Secretary's Innovation Award for Women's and Girl's Empowerment, the U.S. State Department has made a clear push in this area.
But it's not just the US government that is recognizing the potential of using entrepreneurship to promote women's well-being and economic development. Similarly, Ashoka/Changemakers recent contest on 'Women, Tools, Technology: Building Opportunities & Economic Power" pulled over two hundred ideas out of the woodwork and helped to demonstrate the diversity of approaches being taken to empower women. Finalists include 'Geared for Change-Women bicycle mechanics in Namibia and Souktel, a mobile phone enabled job matching project in the Palestine Territory. The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and the GSMA Development Fund published Women & Mobile: A Global Opportunity, which noted the ways in which the development-by-mobile-phone revolution is bypassing too many women. This publication is a cautionary note that highlights the divide between the promise of technologies and the gender gaps in their accessibility. We need to close that technology gap.
Entrepreneurship can be harnessed for women's health alongside economic development. In order to live a productive life, a girl needs to be adequately nourished in order to learn and to thrive and she needs to have access to health care. If she chooses to become pregnant, she deserves to face childbirth without the astronomically high risk of death, which in some countries carries a lifetime risk of 1 in 8.
Despite some reports of progress, rates of maternal mortality still need to be improved. The risk of death is still too high. Quite simply, the full power of technology and innovation needs to help change the odds of death faced by girls around the world simply because they are pregnant. There is so much that is needed and there is room for experimentation, ingenuity and yes, failure. We need bright female engineers from the U.S., India and Ghana to bring down the cost of solar headlamps for midwives. We need brilliant biochemists and entrepreneurs to continue to develop the new science of "labs on a chip" (tiny chips that miniaturize diagnostic procedures so that they can take place in the field instead of the lab) to diagnose sexually transmitted infections, eclampsia and sepsis. We need logistics experts to get these ideas to the point of care rapidly and cheaply. We need mobile health experts to expand access to health messaging and training for the hundreds and thousands of female health workers who work on the frontlines of the health system around the world.
There are dozens of technology challenges and there is a huge wave of young energetic talent eager to make a difference in the world. We believe that by radically changing the odds of death faced by today's cohort of adolescent women in the lowest resource areas of the world, this generation can better take advantage of all technology has to offer women.