Late last month, a letter was sent out to Congress urging the funding of important programs in support of gender equality in the Fiscal Year 2021 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations bill.
The letter urged the government to not only continue to meet the requirements of bills from years before, but also to add more provisions that would promote gender equity in the U.S. government’s national, diplomatic and development efforts.
This letter was supported by several progressive organizations including: Amnesty International USA, The Guttmacher Institute, The National Organization for Women (NOW), The International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), and the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Its opening remarks read:
Women and girls are chronically undervalued members of society who face abuses and violations of their human rights in staggeringly high numbers, but who deserve the same economic, social and political opportunities as others in their communities. Promoting gender equality is a matter of justice and equity, but U.S. investments in women’s and girls’ rights and leadership also advance American interests in security, development and growth. A conclusive body of research and experience has shown that when women and girls are meaningfully included in all aspects of decision-making, countries are more likely to be peaceful and prosper economically. As such, advancing the political, economic, and social status of women and girls should be an essential component of U.S. Government efforts to promote global stability and strengthen our national security.
We strongly believe that American investments in programs that support the rights, agency, and health of women and girls are critical to ensuring U.S. global leadership, economic growth around the world, peaceful transitions of power, development and prosperity, countering violent extremism, and more. We also believe that robust funding for gender programming that is strategic, coordinated, and easy to track, monitor, and evaluate will increase the effectiveness of U.S. assistance dollars throughout the U.S. foreign assistance portfolio.
This letter included a range of requests and proposals for the federal government to include in their appropriations bill, highlighting the need for “robust funding” to be be made available to promote gender equality in the United States government and diplomatic efforts—both at home and abroad.
The letter urged a total of $2 billion—as defined by Congress’s 2018 Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act, which states:
Because women make up the majority of the world’s poor and gender inequalities prevail in incomes, wages, access to finance, ownership of assets, and control over the allocation of resources, women’s entrepreneurship and economic empowerment is important to achieve inclusive economic growth at all levels of society. Research shows that when women exert greater influence over household finances, economic outcomes for families improve, and childhood survival rates, food security, and educational attainment increase. Women also tend to place a greater emphasis on household savings which improves families’ financial resiliency.
The estimate of $2 billion covers the cost of all the efforts and programs outlined below.
The letter requests funding for: leadership opportunities for women’s political opportunities; the expansion of women’s participation in political parties and elections; and increased opportunities for leadership positions in the public and private sectors at the local, provincial and national levels.
Women’s Economic Empowerment
Activities under the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (WGDP) initiative must be adequately funded, the letter reads, as well as the implementation of the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act of 2018 (mentioned above).
The letter also requested that Congress allocate new funding to implement the gender analysis requirement of the Act and for the renewal of the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi).
The letter also called on the Development Finance Corporation to spend program funds to support projects under the Development Finance Corporation’s 2X initiative—and that some funding also be used to ensure that the Development Finance Corporation has sufficient staff and training to fulfill the mandate of their administrative tasks.
Adolescent Girls’ Empowerment
Around the world, one in five girls will be married before their 18th birthday. And this number escalates during times of crisis.
As such, the groups requested funds to ensure the successful coordination and implementation of the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls Globally, a portion which would be dedicated to Child, Early and Forced marriages—in accordance with United States Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls.
These funds would also go toward ensuring that the Department of State, USAID and OMB engage in an intra-and inter-agency effort to end child marriage.
The letter called for adequate implementation of activities that address gender-based violence, some through Safe from the State Program at the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Of the sum requested to be directed toward gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies, a portion would specifically go towards female genital mutilation/cutting, including advocating for an increase in assistance for programs focused on the abandonment of the practice, as well as support for those who have already undergone FGM.
Women, Peace and Security
The groups also called for enough funding to support a multi-year implementation of the U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security (2017 and June 2019) to expand, and improve the coordination of the government’s efforts to empower women to participate in conflict prevention, management and resolution as well as peace-building processes.
These funds would also go towards training U.S. military, diplomatic, development, contractors and other staff—as well as partner governments and militaries—on how the inclusion of women increases the effectiveness of security and peace-building efforts worldwide.
Women and Girls at Risk of Violent Extremism
Increased participation and influence of women in political processes and institutions at the local and national levels is another major component of the letter.
This includes developing legal reforms and protections for women and girls at the national and local government levels in order to protect women and girls at risk of violent extremism, as well as a call for increased resources to facilitate women’s involvement in efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism nationally and worldwide.
Offie of Global Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State
The Office of Global Women’s Issues ensures that gender equity is integrated into U.S. foreign policy, programming and assistance efforts.
As such, the letter requested adequate funding support the programming of this key government office.
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