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Posts Tagged ‘women’

Women’s empowerment — not a partisan issue

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
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Heather Coleman, senior policy advisor on climate change at Oxfam America, recently posted a blog commemorating International Women’s Day and sharing stories about women who inspire her in the developing world. Coleman can relate to the struggles these incredible women face as they try to produce food for their families and communities, as she is a new mother herself.

“As a new mother I’m deeply touched when I hear stories like that of Sahena Begum in Bangladesh who has two children and whose family has been ravaged by increasingly severe and persistent floods. Sahena invests in disaster preparedness measures like flood early warning systems and raising homesteads with a local organization. I wonder how she has time to invest in such efforts with a family to take care of and food to put on the table. Even with a comfortable home, adequate resources, and no direct threat of natural disasters (or at least none that I know of), I barely have enough time to breathe, never mind invest in community development projects.”

“And while Sahena protects her family and community from yet another flood in Bangladesh, a US Congressional budget battle threatens to slash international development funding accounts that build human security in some of the poorest countries in the world. It looks like the House and Senate will agree to a compromise this week that prevents a government shutdown in the immediate term, but it’s still unclear how long this will last and whether international food security and climate finance will be cut in the end.”

To read more about what Oxfam America is doing to help women around the world, click here. For the latest updates on the budget battle, click here.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
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Tuesday, March 8 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, but MFAN Partner Women Thrive Worldwide is drawing attention to the importance of women’s empowerment a few days early. Tomorrow morning they will have their 3rd annual International Women’s Day breakfast as the community takes stock of the progress made in agricultural development and food security and explores important questions for charting a path forward for gender equality. Just five days later Women Thrive Worldwide will be partnering with MFAN and American Jewish World Service to host a discussion on “Forging the Path to Effective Development: Getting Gender Policy Right”. For details about the event, see below. Be sure to visit ModernizeAid later this week and next for more highlights on International Women’s Day and what our partners are doing to mark the occasion.

Forging the Path to Effective Development: Getting Gender Policy Right

With Keynote Remarks By:

Deputy Administrator Donald K. Steinberg

U.S. Agency for International Development

Who Will Join a Panel With:

Ruth Messinger and Ritu Sharma

Presidents of American Jewish World Service and Women Thrive Worldwide

Moderated by

Dee Dee Myers

Political Analyst and Commentator

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Reserve Officers Association Building, Minuteman Ballroom A

One Constitution Avenue, N.E., Washington, DC

To RSVP for this event, please e-mail

The first government-wide global development policy issued by the President last fall and the State Department’s recently released Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) both commit the United States to consider the unique needs of women and girls, as well as men and boys, in designing U.S. diplomacy and poverty-fighting efforts around the world.  When gender is taken into account, foreign assistance can truly reach the people it is intended to benefit—so that both women and men can contribute to the growth and development of their countries. However, without a commitment to gender integration, women are usually the ones left behind; even though research shows that investments in women yield economic, health, and education benefits in lifting families and communities out of poverty.

Join us on International Women’s Day for this timely discussion with Deputy Administrator Steinberg on the importance of taking gender into account when designing development and foreign assistance programs. Hear about a new analysis and recommendations for the QDDR from Women Thrive Worldwide, as well as a new AJWS paper, entitled Empowering Girls as Agents of Change: A Human Rights-Based Approach to U.S. Development Policy.

Women First: The GHI’s Women- and Girl-Centered Approach

Monday, September 27th, 2010
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A Guest Post by the International Women’s Health Coalition

President Obama’s Global Health Initiative is promising for many reasons—the most revolutionary of them being that this Initiative is, by definition, a women- and girl-centered package of services delivered through strong health systems that are accessible to all. The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) and our colleagues and partners around the world have long stood by the belief that better health outcomes for women and girls translate into healthier communities—and having the support of the United States in ensuring that women and girls are the center of global health policy is a step forward. Let’s make it happen.

Focusing the Global Health Initiative on women and girls will have a multitude of benefits, including improved reproductive and maternal health outcomes. Through an integrated, easily-accessed package of sexual and reproductive health services (comprehensive sexuality education; reliable access to contraception; safe abortion services; quality maternity care; prevention, testing, and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV; and human rights protections) maternal mortality can decrease drastically and a just and healthy life can become a reality for every woman and girl. Although the GHI’s package of services for women and girls does not yet include all of the above elements, it includes many of them and is an important step in the right direction.

This integrated package of services is also an entry point to make significant progress in other areas, including the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and preventable and easily treatable illnesses such as diarrhea.  We know that HIV/AIDS devastates the lives of people of all backgrounds, identities, and ages—but the numbers show that to make serious progress against the epidemic, we must start with rights-based programming focused on women and girls, who are often at increased risk of infection. In 1985, just 35 percent of adults living with HIV/AIDS were women–today, they are 48 percent of this group. The figures are even starker when it comes to young women who comprise 60 percent of 15-24 year-olds living with HIV/AIDS and are 1.6 times more likely to be living with HIV/AIDS than their male peers. Accessible and affordable prevention, care, treatment, and support services including comprehensive sexuality education, contraception, screenings for STIs including HIV, and providing HIV-positive IHIHIV women the information and services needed to prevent an unintended pregnancy or have a safe pregnancy and delivery would have a dramatic impact on the global pandemic.

When a woman is healthy and able to make informed choices about if, when, and how often she has children, it’s more likely that her children will be born at a healthy weight, and that she will have the ability to provide proper food and care for her family. Furthermore, if able to access comprehensive sexuality education, she is more likely to instill the principles of sexual health and gender equality in her children. These are just a few of the many examples of how commitments to women and girls are also commitments to healthy and prosperous families, communities, and nations.

We are excited about the Global Health Initiative’s women- and girl-focused approach because we know that U.S. leadership has the potential to set off a ripple effect across the world that will drastically improve women and girls’ reproductive and maternal health; the health and nutrition of newborns, infants, and children; and slow the spread of infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS. We know this because our partners in Asia, Africa, and Latin America transform communities in this way every day. Take for instance Girls Power Initiative (GPI), which was born from two mothers who were frustrated with the abuse and neglect of young girls and women in conservative Nigeria. As a result, they created a program to change sexual and reproductive health outcomes and provide women and girls with the information they need to make healthy and informed decisions about their own lives. From what started in the 1990s as a series of empowerment meetings in their living rooms, their organization now reaches a huge audience through their TV and radio programs; and has directly empowered over 300,000 girls with information about their bodies and rights. In addition, the leaders of this organization have convinced the Nigerian government to adopt life skills education in public schools, and are now working on implementing the curriculum in the Nigeria’s 36 states. Their work is transforming not just Nigerian girls’ lives—but all of Nigeria.

As the United States undergoes a much needed overhaul of the way it thinks of and practices development, the health and wellbeing of women and girls is and should continue to be at the center of President Obama’s and Congress’s vision of a healthier, prosperous, and more secure world. Implementing the principles of the GHI, including a women- and girl-centered approach, throughout all U.S. foreign assistance policies and programs will translate into better development outcomes in other areas—the environment and poverty alleviation just to name two. For decades, we have urged policy makers and funders to focus development efforts on women and girls, and President Obama and Secretary Clinton are answering that call.

We applaud the Administration’s recognition of the critical role that women and girls play in the success of U.S. foreign policy efforts and we urge Congress to work with the Administration to make this vision a reality for women and girls worldwide.

MFAN Principal: “Once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform foreign assistance”

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009
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WFDA Event Speakers

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).

Ritu Sharma at WFDA

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.