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Walmart’s women’s initiative opening doors

Wednesday, May 16, 2012  
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Sylvia Mathews Burwell

Through its Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, Network of Executive Women Foundation sponsor Wal-Mart Inc. is creating opportunity for women and girls in markets around the world, according to Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Walmart Foundation.

By investing in training, sourcing products from women and increasing the gender diversity of its partners, Walmart is supporting women who are "lifting themselves up and laying the groundwork for a stronger tomorrow,” Burwell wrote in a Huffington Post Mother’s Day commentary.

"Across the globe, regardless of nationality or financial status, there is a common dream every mother has for her children -- for them to live full, healthy and productive lives,” said Burwell, who spent a number of years with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation leading its Global Development work before joining the Walmart Foundation to work on the Global Women's Economic Empowerment Initiative. "One of the reasons I am here is because I believe that hundreds of thousands of women's lives, and their children's lives, will be positively impacted by our efforts.”

One example of the Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative in action: Walmart's Social School of Retail in Brazil. Women and girls who enroll are able to obtain their first formal job, Burwell noted.

In addition to supporting such efforts in retail training, Walmart is training factory workers through its partnerships with organizations like CARE. The Walmart Foundation and CARE are working together in Bangladesh on an effort that will eventually enable 5,000 women factory workers to learn reading, writing, math and analytical skills, as well as health and nutrition information. In India, Walmart and CARE are creating additional women-owned and -operated cashew processing institutions that will help 1,250 women in the cashew business achieve more equitable and consistent incomes, Burwell said.

Walmart's role with the Initiative supports the larger global women's empowerment movement being led by trailblazing women like Secretary Hillary Clinton, Burwell noted. "[She] recently said, ‘You can run the world in heels and pantsuits.’ We aim to help women all around the world prove it.”

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