Worldwide, more resources than ever are being devoted to empowering and protecting women and girls, says a top official of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Along with those resources, more laws and resolutions to protect women have been passed, said Nancy Lindborg, assistant USAID administrator for democracy, conflict and humanitarian assistance.
“There is no longer any question that the advancement of women, attention to gender issues and an inclusive approach is not only vital to protecting fundamental human rights, but also to meeting our overall development goals … and for building greater peace and security worldwide,” Lindborg said March 2 in an address to the Stanford Association for International Development in Stanford, California.
She added that “USAID has put women, girls and gender equality more broadly at the heart of our development efforts.” She pointed to some of those efforts.
The U.S. Feed the Future program now tracks the impact of its programs on women and girls in its target countries using the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index, developed in collaboration with Oxford University and the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute. The index, launched in February 2012, is the first tool to measure how much women are included in agricultural production, control how family income is used, and are leaders in their communities. USAID is the lead agency in Feed the Future.
President Obama established Feed the Future in 2009 following a pledge by leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations to invest more in country-driven efforts to form long-term solutions to chronic food insecurity and malnutrition.
Lindborg said USAID also supports women in agriculture by supporting programs that grant property rights to women, invest in small-scale irrigation systems and provide training in how to grow a variety of crops. Women who have benefited from this support have been able to “support their families with dignity, to send their children to school and even hire additional laborers,” she said.
Lindborg then highlighted USAID’s Global Women’s Leadership Fund, launched with nongovernmental groups, which supports women’s ability to influence political transitions in developing and post-conflict countries and participate in peace negotiations, peace building and donor conferences.
In Yemen, Lindborg said, USAID supported advocates of a 30 percent seat quota for women in Parliament, which awaits discussion in the country’s upcoming National Dialogue to draft a new constitution and pave the way for parliamentary and presidential elections.
Lindborg said USAID has called on the international public to identify solutions to development challenges that affect women and girls. One call is for students and scholars to meet the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Campus Challenge, launched in late 2012.
Another challenge launched in December 2012 is the $45 million public-private Grand Challenge to Make All Voices Count to help bring people who are often excluded from decision-making to participate in identifying their communities’ solutions.
“Democracy and development fundamentally require the full inclusion of all groups,” Lindborg said.