US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Peru on Monday to push for greater access for women to capital and know-how to start their own businesses and become a motor for economic growth.
Clinton was to meet with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala late Monday for talks, followed by a dinner at the presidential palace in the capital Lima.
On Tuesday, the final day of her two-day trip, the top US diplomat was to address a conference on "Power: Women as the Drivers of Social Growth Inclusion," before touring the Gamarra textile district.
"The focus on women as driving economic growth is obviously a very critical topic today as there isn't a country that doesn't want to drive growth and create jobs," a State Department official told reporters.
"There is an amount of research... that shows that women are accelerators of economic growth, particularly women-run small and medium-sized businesses" but key areas "need to be accelerated," the official said, asking not to be named.
The regional conference, sponsored by the State Department, the Peruvian government and the InterAmerican Development Bank, would focus "on the need to enable women to overcome hurdles that they confront as entrepreneurs."
These include a lack of training, and mentoring, the difficult access to the networks needed to start businesses, as well as the need to connect women to the markets and help them raise capital.
Speaking to reporters travelling with Clinton, the official added there has been a 15 percent growth in women's economic activity in the Latin American region over the past decade.
According to the World Bank without that activity "poverty would be 30 percent higher" in the region, the official added.
"No country is going to get ahead if it leaves half of its people behind. Women's participation in the economic workforce and as entrepreneurs is critical to countries' economic growth and stability," the official added.
Clinton was to announce extra support for the establishment of a new entrepreneurship trust at Tuesday's conference, building on commitments made to the 2011 APEC Leaders summit.
She will also tour the Gamarra district in Lima, the center of the country's textile industry, where a quarter of Peru's textile workers -- some 50,000 people -- work. A further 200,000 families work in wool and cotton production.
According to Peruvian figures, the South American nation exported $2 billion (1.5 billion euros) in raw and processed textiles last year, amounting to 1.5 percent of its gross domestic product.