USAID Instills Gender Equality in All Its Operations

A Somali woman has gained economic opportunities as a result of USAID's Transition Initiatives for Stabilization program.
A Somali woman has gained economic opportunities as a result of USAID’s Transition Initiatives for Stabilization program.

By Kathryn McConnell
IIP Staff Writer
Washington,
January 24, 2013
The U.S. Agency for International Development has instilled gender equality into all parts of its operations, the agency’s deputy administrator said.

The action is in line with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s support for women’s empowerment and reducing gender gaps, Donald Steinberg said at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington research institute named for the 28th U.S. president.

In addition, Senator John Kerry, President Obama’s nominee to succeed Clinton as secretary of state, has demonstrated a commitment to women’s empowerment throughout his career, Steinberg said.

USAID’s focus on equality includes other previously disenfranchised groups like people with disabilities, indigenous people, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Steinberg said. “They must be planners, implementers and beneficiaries of all our development efforts,” he said.

In the early January speech, Steinberg listed some of the ways USAID has promoted gender equality.

The agency created a Center for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance with emphasis on women’s rights, anti-trafficking, and sexual- and gender-based violence. It trained hundreds of its staff members to champion gender in all of its offices.

It spelled out plans to end child marriage and meet the needs of married children. And it adopted a requirement that all new aid project proposals include a gender component.

Further, USAID launched projects to create safe schools for girls, protect women from sexual violence during disasters, expand family planning services, combat maternal mortality, and expand women’s use of clean cook stoves, Steinberg said.He noted examples of how the agency focuses on empowering women. USAID provided $14 million to teach women around the world how to participate in peace-building processes. It started programs to address the needs of women refugees. It helped train women in Colombia “to turn their backs” on coca production and produce alternative crops.

In Guatemala, with USAID assistance, officials developed a system to aid victims of domestic violence. And USAID put in place programs to help women get tenure of lands that they had lived on for years. With titles, the women could borrow money to improve the property, Steinberg said.

USAID’s commitment to the full participation of women and men in their societies involves integrating gender equality and female empowerment into efforts to increase food security, develop strong health systems and promote sustainable economic growth, the agency states on its website. The commitment also involves including gender in efforts to reduce the impact of climate change, provide humanitarian aid, and prevent and respond to conflict, the agency says.

EVOLUTION OF USAID

USAID’s gender equality and female empowerment policy “affirms the critical role women play in accelerating progress in development and advancing global prosperity and security,” the agency’s administrator, Rajiv Shah, said in a 2012 report.

Shah noted that in recent years USAID has built partnerships with host governments, other donors and the private sector to coordinate efforts and reflect country priorities. It also aims to harness science, technology and innovation to reduce gender gaps.

USAID’s effort “gives me great hope about the future,” Steinberg said.