WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Thea Lee and Women’s Bureau Director Wendy Chun-Hoon recently joined an interagency delegation that traveled to El Salvador and Honduras to highlight the importance of equity and opportunity through quality employment for working women amid more than $4.2 billion in private-sector commitments to create economic opportunities in northern Central America.
This first-of-its-kind, high-level interagency delegation traveled to the region from June 5 to June 9, 2023, in support of the Biden-Harris administration’s Central America Forward initiative to incorporate a focus on good governance and labor rights, including gender equity, as these private investments seek to address the root causes of regional migration.
“As a delegation, our mission was to gather knowledge – from stakeholders, private sector and activists – to make the commitments to quality jobs and inclusive economic opportunity in the Central America Forward initiative a reality for working people in the region,” explained Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Thea Lee. “Women’s equality, especially economic equality, is a cornerstone of the Department of Labor’s approach in Central America.”
In addition to Lee and Chun-Hoon, the delegation included U.S. Agency for International Development Deputy Assistant Administrator for Development, Democracy and Innovation Bama Athreya, U.S. Department of State Special Representative for International Labor Affairs Kelly Fay Rodriguez, and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Senior Advisor Jamila Thompson.
The delegation also included representation from the Partnership for Central America, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization working with a coalition of private organizations to advance economic opportunity across underserved populations in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The delegation met with worker organizations, governments, the private sector and civil society groups – including those representing Garifuna, indigenous and LGBTQI+ communities – to learn about challenges working women face and about how union representation, good jobs and access to job opportunities enabled working women to thrive in their home countries. They also heard about strategies for improving gender equity, economic security and working conditions. The trip will serve to inform U.S. engagement with northern Central America governments and guide the PCA’s efforts to increase good governance and good jobs.
Launched in February 2023 by Vice President Kamala Harris and the PCA, Central America Forward calls for private sector investment to promote good governance, quality employment and inclusive economic outcomes so that Central American workers can remain and thrive in their home countries.