The Women, Faith, and Development Alliance (WFDA), a coalition co-founded by MFAN partners Women Thrive Worldwide and InterAction, hosted a Capitol Hill event last week focusing on how supporting women and girls leads to more effective development. The event featured House State Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Ranking Minority Member Kay Granger (R-TX), along with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).
MFAN Principal and Women Thrive Worldwide Co-Founder and President Ritu Sharma, who spoke at the event, argued, “The key thing that all these groups show about women benefiting from programs is intentionality: we have to design programs that take women into account, it does not happen on its own. Our foreign assistance programs should do the same.” She went on to say, “We have a once-in- a generation opportunity to reform U.S. foreign assistance and ensure that women, the poorest citizens of the world, benefit from it.”
The plight of women and girls, however, can only be tackled if foreign assistance is made more efficient and effective. A new report by Women Thrive Worldwide, “Time to Listen: Global Women’s Views on U.S. Foreign Assistance,” shares the perspectives on U.S. foreign assistance by women and girls around globe with the goal of making their voices heard amidst the reform dialogue in Washington DC. Recognizing that an increased focus on women and girls calls for a new approach to development, the report draws the following conclusions:
- Make a clear distinction between poverty-focused assistance and political assistance;
- Have a clear strategy based on a long-term commitment to poverty reduction;
- Foster country ownership by engaging local civil society;
- Focus on evidence-based approaches that work; and,
- Integrate gender into U.S. foreign assistance so that both women’s and men’s needs and roles are taken into account.
The WFDA event helped keep the issue of empowering women and girls in the public spotlight, building on pledges by Secretary of State Clinton and reporting by author/columnist Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. Two weeks ago, President Obama reaffirmed the “opportunity for women and girls to pursue their own potential” in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, while the Clinton Global Initiative made women and girls a focus of its efforts.
See also: An op-ed by Sharma and Esta Soler, President of the Family Violence Prevention Fund, calling for support of the International Violence Against Women Act in the Huffington Post.