As USAID releases its plan for implementing the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (NAP), I cannot help but reflect on how important better involving women in peace processes will be to US foreign policy.

It was clear during my recent trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan that women in both countries deserve more influence. Not only would women benefit, their countries would. In Pakistan, female parliamentarians, noted to be among the most effective legislators, have passed critical laws combatting gender-based violence; they emphasized to me the need for investments in long-term development, a broader perspective than the one commonly heard from others in the country. Afghan women members of the National Peace Council abbreviated my conversation with them to meet with a large group of people who had arrived in Kabul after a many hour journey. The female council members were providing the critical link between ordinary citizens and officials in government, helping the population feel connected and invested in peace and stability.

The USAID plan for advancing the role of women in peace building is a small but important step towards ensuring women leaders their proper influence. I was honored to have been involved in its creation, particularly because I was invited to help with drafting after advocating from civil society for the development of a US NAP. It is a rare honor to advocate for change from outside government, only to be invited inside to help make that change.

Developing the plan involved some 150 USAID professionals around the world working in every sector. A great professional pleasure for me was leading global conference calls to discuss the USAID plan with experts in the Philippines, Russia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Colombia, Angola, Nepal as well as a dozen other countries around the world. The energy and enthusiasm exhibited during those conversations was palpable.

The USAID plan will only be as valuable as the action it prompts and the progress that results. That being said, I know women’s inclusion already is more central to USAID planning and execution of projects that advance global peace, prosperity and stability.”