The U.S. Department of State established the AWE program in 2019 to provide women with the knowledge, networks, and access they need to start and scale successful businesses. By promoting women’s economic opportunities and ensuring women have the capabilities and resources needed to participate in the economy, the AWE program directly supports the U.S. National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality.
The Quito Chamber of Commerce has implemented this women’s entrepreneurship program with the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador for four years, starting in 2017 as a pilot program which since then has trained more than 1,000 women across 20 of Ecuador’s 24 provinces. In 2020, the Chamber and the U.S. Embassy worked together to spearhead a novel fundraising campaign that raised $200,000 from provincial governments, private sector companies, and the Ministry of Culture and Patrimony, significantly expanding the AWE program to hundreds of women during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the World Chambers Competition awards ceremony in Dubai in November 2021, the Quito Chamber’s president, Carlos Loaiza, credited a strong partnership with the U.S. government as one of the keys to the program’s success. “AWE was born four years ago with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Quito, and has had a big impact on its participants who have increased revenues and created jobs. But most of all, AWE has generated new opportunities that have transformed lives.”
The AWE program has a strong track record of promoting prosperity, despite the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. According to a 2021 survey of Ecuadorian AWE graduates, 70 percent stated their business income grew after completing the program, and nearly half reported hiring more staff, even during the pandemic. These findings mirror ECA’s 2021 evaluation of the AWE program, which found that 74 percent of women worldwide increased their earnings and 29 percent hired new employees.
Implemented in nearly 80 countries, AWE has helped more than 15,000 women entrepreneurs around the world grow their businesses and adapt to new economic realities under COVID-19. When they complete the program, AWE graduates join a global community of millions of International Exchange Alumni, to continue their journey to connect, empower and inspire those around them.