QDDR Blog Series: Women Thrive Worldwide on Gender Integration

The fourth  installment in MFAN’s QDDR blog series comes from MFAN Principal Ritu Sharma, president and co-founder, and MFAN member Nora O’Connell, vice president — both of the leading women and gender advocacy organization Women Thrive Worldwide.  To see other posts in the series, click on the following names – George IngramNoam Unger, David Beckmann.

Women ThriveGender and effective development: Not “separate, but equal”; it’s “together, but different.”

By Ritu Sharma & Nora O’Connell

Each year, the U.S. spends billions on global development – and that money does a lot of good supporting programs that provide vaccines, help kids go to school, and help mothers feed their families.

The problem is that while these programs may look good on their own, when you put them all together, the system is outdated, fragmented, and uncoordinated.  Think of it like a computer you bought back in 2000 and are still trying to use today. You can get new add-ons – a new mouse, a faster modem, or a web cam – but the components don’t really work that well together and it’s a lot less efficient than you need it to be.

The QDDR presents a real opportunity for the U.S. to modernize its foreign assistance for the 21st century and to put into practice things that we know work in a cohesive, comprehensive way across programs.

One of the things we’ve learned over the past five decades of doing this work is that men and women in developing countries play vastly different roles in their families and economies, and unless we take these gender differences into account, our efforts will fall short of their potential.  And when we don’t do this, most often, women are the ones left out.

Take agriculture. Worldwide, more than half of food producers are women, and, in Sub-Saharan Africa, up to 80 percent of food is produced by women.  But women are found to receive just 5% of agricultural extension services globally. This is clearly a lost opportunity.

Secretary of State Clinton has made investing in women a centerpiece of her foreign policy efforts at the State Department.  To do this will require integrating gender across all U.S. foreign assistance, and the QDDR provides an opportunity to do just that.  Doing so would exponentially increase our return on investment in foreign assistance and increase its sustainability – for women and for men.

Ritu Sharma is the Co-Founder and President of Women Thrive Worldwide.  Nora O’Connell is the Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs at Women Thrive Worldwide.

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