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Celebrating USAID’s 52nd Anniversary

A child eats food delivered by USAID. Photo Credit: USAID

A child eats food delivered by USAID. Photo Credit: USAID

On November 1, we celebrate our 52nd birthday as an agency. Two years ago, we celebrated USAID turning 50. This year, we took a look back at some of our progress and see how our programs will continue to advance in the coming years. This past week, we focused on highlighting our work in the following areas:

  •  Partnerships
  •  Innovation
  •  Energy/Power Africa
  • Resilience
  • Food Aid
  •  Child Survival
  • Ending Extreme Poverty

We publicized our work on on social media using the hashtag: #USAIDProgress. Check out our Storify Feed that shows some of the highlights on social media from the week .

 

Video of the Week: Partnering to Feed the Future in Ethiopia

As part of USAID’s 52nd birthday celebration, we highlight a Feed the Future partnership that is helping to improve nutrition in Ethiopia. 

Ethiopia has the highest cattle population in Africa, at 52 million, including 10.5 million dairy cattle.

In 2011-2012, Ethiopia produced 3.3 billion liters of milk but only about five percent of it was sold in commercial markets. Despite an active dairy sector, individual consumption of milk in Ethiopia is only 19 liters per year and child undernutrition rates are among the highest in the world.

About an hour and half drive outside of Addis Ababa, Project Mercy, a faith-based relief and development organization, owns a 350-acre dairy farm in Cha Cha, Amhara Regional State. Through its Dairy Cattle Breeding Program, Project Mercy has a vision to help improve the nutritional status of men, women and children and generate new incomes by cross breeding Ethiopian indigenous cattle with the local British Jersey breed.

Currently, Ethiopian indigenous cattle only produce one to two quarts of milk per day, which is not enough for the typical Ethiopian family of eight. As a result, the majority of children in Ethiopia do not consume milk, leading to malnourishment and other complications such as stunted growth.

As part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, the USAID Agricultural Growth Program-Livestock Market Development project is partnering with Project Mercy to help the organization achieve its vision.

Through this partnership, the project is providing technical assistance to beneficiaries before and after the dairy cows are transferred to local families. Technical assistance includes activities such as developing a farm management plan, hosting training sessions and improving animal feed production. All of these ensure that the crossbreed will achieve its highest levels of production and will increase milk production up to 12 quarts per day. In addition, the project is linking targeted households to new markets where families will be able to sell their milk products.

This project contributes to the goals of Feed the Future, which works to reduce poverty, hunger and undernutrition in 19 focus countries around the world. USAID is the lead agency for this whole-of-government initiative.

Watch the short video below to learn more about this partnership.

Harnessing S&T for Global Development

This originally appeared on the White House Blog

Recently, I interviewed Dr. Andrew Sisson, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director in Indonesia, who is leveraging science and technology (S&T) and innovation to help tackle development challenges in Indonesia.

Why is USAID focusing on S&T and innovation in Indonesia? What are some of the economic and societal challenges that S&T can help address?

Science, technology, and innovation have the potential to solve important global development problems. S&T can help communities and governments control the impact and spread of infectious diseases; protect marine environments; strengthen resilience to natural disasters and climate change; and much more. In just one example, we are working with the Indonesia National Tuberculosis Program (NTP) to test a new, simple and rapid tuberculosis (TB) diagnostic called GeneXpert. The goal of this technology is to increase the rapid detection and treatment of TB in HIV patients. The results of pilot testing in 17 locations across Indonesia will be published soon and, with support from the Global Fund and TB REACH, the Indonesia NTP has already expanded  use of the new diagnostic to private-sector hospitals.

Indonesia Laboratory technical at Hasan Sadikin Hospital in Bandung (West Java) performs multi-drug resistant TB tests using GeneXpert as part of a pilot project supported by USAID. Photo credit: Roni Chandra

Indonesia Laboratory technical at Hasan Sadikin Hospital in Bandung (West Java) performs multi-drug resistant TB tests using GeneXpert as part of a pilot project supported by USAID. Photo credit: Roni Chandra

What is the mission’s strategy around S&T over the next few years?

USAID is partnering with the Government of Indonesia to use new and innovative approaches to achieve Indonesia-specific development goals. We’ve also decided together to focus part of our investment on developing components of Indonesia’s “scientific ecosystem,” including by developing merit-based research systems and strengthening the scientific evidence-to-policymaking cycle. Our joint work also includes scholarship opportunities, joint research between Indonesian and American scientists, and private-sector partnerships to adopt advanced technologies for development goals.

What are some opportunities to strengthen collaboration between Indonesian and American scientists?

Indonesia and the United States have many overlapping scientific interests: climate change, marine conservation, healthcare diagnostics, renewable energy, disaster risk reduction, and more. And so we’d like to open more doors for scientific collaborations to take root in these areas. The State Department has established an official dialogue with Indonesia on making scientific exchanges a top priority. But, it can’t only be a government-to-government effort. For scientific collaboration to flourish we’ve got to place it in the hands of our top scientists and students – and so networking among students and universities in both countries has also been a promising area of partnership.

Can you give an example of an individual or project that exemplifies USAID and Indonesia’s collaborative work in S&T?

What’s been incredible to see is how quickly an international network of scientists can come together to create something big when given the opportunity. One great example is the broad network for biodiversity research that has been created by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Udayana University in Bali, and the State University of Papua through the support of USAID and the National Science Foundation. Some of the researchers that are part of this network converge at the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center – a facility in Indonesia where American and Indonesian students come together every summer to get trained in the latest genetic techniques for applications in marine biodiversity and conservation.

What advice do you have for other USAID Missions that are interested in elevating S&T efforts?

We’re still on the early part of the curve so there is a lot to learn, but we’re eager to share as we move forward. What’s been very important in our strategy development are the ongoing conversations and consultations with Indonesian counterparts who are helping define what areas of science and technology we can work on together. For this to be a successful and sustainable part of the U.S.-Indonesia long-term relationship means that Indonesia will be an equal partner each step of the way, as a collaborator and co-investor – and I believe we are making good progress down that path together.

Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at OSTP

USAID in the News

AllAfrica reported on a newly-announced USAID partnership with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund USA and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust, which is aimed at supporting the proposed Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa. The new hospital, scheduled to open in June 2015, will provide high-quality medical care to children regardless of their social or economic status.

A statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled on Sep. 21, 2013 at the Embassy of South Africa in Washington, DC. Photo credit: USAID

A statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled on Sep. 21, 2013 at the Embassy of South Africa in Washington, DC. Photo credit: USAID

The Express Tribune featured a story about the fourth National Youth Peace Festival in Lahore, Pakistan, which is being supported in part by USAID. The organizers expects to see 500 young people from across Pakistan attend the festival, the theme of which is “One Nation, One Agenda; Democracy and Peace.” Politicians will attend the festival in hopes of engaging youth by taking up issues that are relevant to them.

Jamaica Observer reported USAID’s tool donation  to 105 cocoa farmers in Jamaica as a part of a two-year project, which focuses on “protecting rural lives, livelihoods and ecosystems” in communities affected by climate change. The tools will be used by farmers to combat the negative effects of climate change on agriculture.

Vibe Ghana detailed USAID efforts to support the Western Regional Health Directorate in Ghana. USAID contributions to the health directorate include training, performance-based grants, and equipment that will be distributed throughout district hospitals and health care centers. Dr. Edward Bonko, Leader of the Focus Region Health Project of USAID, explained that the efforts would assist with “maternal, reproductive and child health, HIV/AIDS and malaria preventions and neonatal care” in the Western Region.

Pakistan’s The Nation reported on the visit of a group of U.S. government officials, including USAID Mission Director for Pakistan Gregory Gottleib, to the Jamshoro Thermal Power Station. The power plant will provide an additional 270 megawatts of power to the national grid.  In addition to the Jamshoro power plant, USAID is working to rehabilitate thermal plants in Muzaffargarh and Guddu and a hydro-plant in Tarbela.

The website OpenEqualFree detailed a USAID effort to educate student gardeners in Liberia through the Advancing Youth Project—a partnership with Liberia’s Ministry of Education and community organizations that offers “alternative basic education services and entrepreneurship training for young people across Liberia.” The initiative will provide agricultural experts to train students to grow their own gardens and teach them the about agribusiness as a possible career choice.

The Hill featured a piece written by Representatives Albio Sires and Mario Diaz-Balart spotlighting USAID efforts to combat tuberculosis. The story, which describes legislation geared toward encouraging development of health care products in low-resource health systems, includes an overview of USAID’s contributions in the area of research and development in global health, saying, “As a leading funder of breakthrough products for global health, USAID is a key partner in later-stage research that ensures the development of safe and effective health tools.”

Taking Our New Model of LGBT Inclusive Development to UNGA

This year’s United Nations General Assembly focuses on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities.

This week during United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings, USAID made important connections with leaders from other development organizations and private-sector institutions that work to advance global development. Among the topics explored was how we can collaborate to promote inclusive development, ensure equal access to foreign aid, and protect the human rights of one of the world’s most vulnerable populations – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Around the world, LGBT individuals are often among those who least enjoy the benefits from human rights protections, opportunities, and freedoms; they often face discrimination, harassment and violence and are regularly excluded from receiving public services.  Eighty-three countries still criminalize LGBT behavior and seven countries impose the death penalty for same-sex relations.  In some countries the lived experience for LGBT people is getting worse.

Protecting the human rights of LGBT people around the world represents a difficult challenge yet USAID is leading. And USAID can lead more effectively in partnership with others. As a global community we must leverage our resources and technical expertise to effectively and efficiently further LGBT global equality. As Administrator Shah pointed out in the Agency’s 2013 annual letter, collaboration and partnerships are powerful ways to harness the public and private sectors as engines of growth, innovation, and development expertise.

USAID’s LGBT Global Development Partnership promotes foreign assistance to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality in emerging markets and developing countries. Photo by: Pat Adams/USAID

USAID’s LGBT Global Development Partnership promotes foreign assistance to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality in emerging markets and developing countries. Photo by: Pat Adams/USAID

I had the privilege this week at UNGA to participate in a meeting centered on USAID’s goal to promote LGBT equality through collaboration with others. USAID, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, and the Ford Foundation convened public and private donors to strengthen relationships between and among government donors, private foundations, and the businesses supporting LGBT development issues globally. We identified areas for shared learning and increased future collaboration.

At this meeting I was particularly proud to share how USAID has already made great strides with partners to secure better lives for LGBT people, their families, and their communities around the world. USAID’s LGBT Global Development Partnership launched earlier this year brings together a broad coalition of public and private sector partners who are leveraging their joint resources and expertise to advance LGBT equality in the developing world. It aims to strengthen the capacity of local LGBT civil society organizations, train LGBT leaders in how to participate more effectively in democratic processes, and undertake research on the economic cost of discrimination against LGBT individuals. With 12 resource partners co-investing $12 million, it is the largest LGBT global equality initiative.

Last month I had the privilege to witness this partnership in action when I visited a training in Colombia conducted by the Victory Institute for 30 local LGBT people interested in running for political office or managing campaigns.  It was the second such training in just three months–brought back by local demand, as the first training was over-subscribed by 500 percent.

While the challenges remain great, USAID should be proud that it put LGBT inclusive development through public-private partnership on the UNGA agenda this year. I am excited that USAID is taking a leading role in convening partners to solve this very important development problem. Individually, and even more so collectively, strategic investments in global LGBT equality can make a very positive impact on the lives of people around the world.

Learn more about this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and its focus on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities.

USAID at UNGA 2013: Day Three

This year’s United Nations General Assembly focuses on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities. 

UNGA Day Three: September 25, 2013

Recap of Wednesday’s Events:

  • The Global Business Coalition for Education, chaired by Gordon Brown, hosted a breakfast meeting to facilitated conversations between the business community and the education sector with the overall goal of more coordinated collaboration to improve education. Malala Yousafzai was in attendance as a special guest and together she and Administrator Shah encouraged the business community to invest in improving educational outcomes, with a particular emphasis on increasing equitable access to quality education, especially for girls.

    Administrator Shah with Malala Yousafzai; Alhaji Aliko Dangote, founder of the Dangote Group (far left); Christie Vilsack, USAID Senior Advisor for International Education; and Malala's father (far right). Photo credit: USAID

    Administrator Shah with Malala Yousafzai; Alhaji Aliko Dangote, founder of the Dangote Group (far left); Christie Vilsack, USAID Senior Advisor for International Education; and Malala’s father (far right) at the Global Business Coalition for Education event. Photo credit: USAID

  • Administrator Shah gave opening remarks at the Learning for All: Education Finance and Delivery event. This event was a follow-on to the high-level “Learning for All” Round One Ministerial Meetings that took place in April. Gordon Brown and the Global Partnership for Education invited the Heads of State, Education Ministers and Finance Ministers from a new set of six countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Timor-Leste, Somalia and Chad – to hold meetings on accelerating progress toward Education First. Of these, two of the focus countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) were USAID “Room to Learn” countries. The meeting was attended by Ban Ki Moon, Jim Kim, Gordon Brown, Irina Bukova (Director-General of UNESCO), the President of South Africa, the President of Mozambique, and many others.
  • As a part of the Learning for All meetings, Administrator Shah participated in the “Learning for all Pakistan” meeting.  The Administrator expressed the USG’s continued interest in working with the Government of Pakistan and provincial governments to improve access to education and education quality. He also encouraged Pakistani government official to continue to show increased leadership and commitment to education. Malala Yousafzai also spoke and expressed the importance of education, particularly for girls, In Pakistan and worldwide. She encouraged the leaders in Pakistan to further increase spending on education and make secondary school compulsory.
  • Yesterday afternoon Administrator Shah gave closing remarks at the Responsible Investments in Myanmar forum hosted by the Asia Society and McKinsey Global Institute. The forum discussed the challenges and opportunities of Burma‘s transformation and ways to foster sustained growth and development through responsible investment. The discussion centered on two reports — Asia Society’s Sustaining Myanmar’s Transition: Ten Critical Challenges and the McKinsey Global Institute’s Myanmar’s Moment: Unique Opportunities, Major Challenges.

New Blogs:

Event’s Happening Today at UNGA (Thursday, September 26th):

  • No public events scheduled today

Learn more about this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and its focus on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities.

Follow @USAID and @RajShah for ongoing updates during the week and join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtags #UNGA and #UNGA2013.

From the Field in Afghanistan: A Media Revolution

Like many people, I remember staying up late on Friday nights to watch Indian movies on TV. The difference was that there was only Afghanistan National Television — the only TV station in my country until about 10 years ago. This was a fully state-run station, without programs for people to freely share their points of view or their thoughts and ideas for better governance. Everyone watched the national station, because there was no other choice. There was no chance for others to establish TV stations, because of the political and security situation.

Right now in Afghanistan, there are 35 TV stations, more than 100 radio stations and more than 150 newspapers in both official languages — Dari and Pashto — that reach 15 million Afghans. We have come a long way in the last 10 years.

USAID has funded more than 50 community radio stations and trained more than 11,440 journalists since the fall of the Taliban. Photo credit: Internews Afghanistan

USAID has funded more than 50 community radio stations and trained more than 11,440 journalists since the fall of the Taliban. Photo credit: Internews Afghanistan

Since 2002, access to independent media has expanded in part due to USAID’s partnership with the country’s premier media training and advocacy organization, Nai, to empower members of the media through training and advocacy sessions. USAID also works with the Afghan government to revise its laws on mass media and access to information so that there is a more welcoming environment for journalistic outlets.

This kind of work has also started to close the gap between the media and the Afghan people. I remember my father telling me how difficult it was for Afghan people to face TV cameras. In the past, cameras weren’t common in Afghanistan, and people were reluctant to give interviews, so their voices were missing from media coverage of issues.

The establishment of different media organizations after 2001 was a big step in bridging this gap, connecting media outlets to their viewers, listeners and readers. USAID’s work has also helped to increase trust in the media. Step by step, people have gained a better understanding about how the media works. Today, media reports are more balanced, because people have more trust in the media and are now more willing to go on-camera to discuss their views.

The media revolution in Afghanistan has had a big impact on the people of this country. The new TV stations broadcast music and TV dramas from other countries, which is a new experience for people who lived through three decade of war. People have become fans of international music and TV serials. If I ask someone about political issues in our country, he or she might give a short response, but I could also ask a nine-year-old boy about an American TV series, and he will talk for hours! That’s the choice we were missing when I was a small boy.

When I walk around Kabul, I see and hear people discussing new music shows and Turkish dramas because they are tired of political and security issues. They want a break from tribal and ethnic discussions, and want to live happily with their families. But no matter what the issue, Afghans are better informed of issues in their own country.

Learn more about USAID’s work to promote independent media around the world. To learn how Internews is supporting open media in Afghanistan, please visit www.internews.org

Like USAID Afghanistan on Facebook and follow on Twitter (@usaidafghan) for ongoing updates in the region!

Coordination Counts: Fostering Mobile Money in Malawi

One year ago, USAID joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi, Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network, United Nations Capital Development Fund and Visa Inc. to launch the Better Than Cash Alliance.

This summer, the Government of Malawi joined those organizations in their work to lift millions out of poverty through electronic payments. Citing opportunities for transparency and reduced costs, the Government will begin by shifting $3 million of its existing payment streams away from cash. That may sound modest, but it’s a truly dramatic shift for Malawi.

Just a few days ago on September 13, Malawi Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo was shot because of his leadership to fight graft in the public sector by replacing cash payments with electronic, and thus transparent, payment methods. It is a sobering but incredibly important reminder of just how much this work matters.

A customer checks the details of a text message received after transferring funds via mobile money. Photo credit: Manpreet Romana/AFP

A customer checks the details of a text message received after transferring funds via mobile money. Photo credit: Manpreet Romana/AFP

When I first learned about mobile money, many people were working on it in Malawi but no one was doing it well. The mobile network operators, banks, government, and donors were focused on their own incentives rather than supporting the ecosystem in a coordinated way that would accelerate the creation of products Malawians could use. But to me coordination was critically important because I believe mobile money can have significant impact on the people we target in our programs in agriculture, education, health, and governance.

In Malawi, roads don’t reach many areas and are often in rough shape. Poor access to electricity and low incomes make brick-and-mortar banking too expensive to deliver to rural areas. However in just 10 years, more than half of Malawi has obtained access to a mobile network. In this expansion, we saw an opportunity for reaching financially excluded groups. But Malawi isn’t a country where we could immediately start using mobile money. So what did we do?

We started simple. We started with a demand assessment. This helped us understand the local champions, people’s needs, and how USAID could help bring mobile money to scale.

Our stakeholders were interested in mobile money, but they were fragmented, and no one could do it on their own. So we created a working group of mobile network operators, banks, the government, and donors. The working group allowed us to hear and understand each other. Through the group, we are solving common challenges and compromising where incentives conflict. For example, mobile network operator Airtel used this foundation to launch its mobile money platform in 2012 with its competitor TNM following in 2013.

Though we are a small country, and maybe because we are a small country, we have made great progress since we started. We’ve learned a lot, and I want to share a few of these lessons. I hope they will help any champion in any country or organization to think about supporting mobile money in your country.

  1. Plan for sustainability: We don’t want the working group to depend on donor funding or leadership, so we’ve institutionalized it as a subcommittee under the National Payments Council to encourage local ownership. By doing so, we are convinced it will continue to exist beyond USAID’s involvement.
  2. Maximize coordination: USAID’s ability to convene different partners taps into one of its unique strengths. For example, the World Bank is working on an access to finance project and targeting financial regulations. With the working group, USAID has also helped them understand the regulatory challenges with mobile money, and they’re taking on policy work that they’re best positioned to do.
  3. Prove your case: Mobile money is still a young technology. Many people haven’t used it and don’t see its value, so USAID is helping organizations transition from cash to electronic payments. When they see increases in accountability and find cost and time savings, we gain adopters that help us get to scale.

So, what’s next?  This technology could be expanded to help government fulfill its obligations to pay civil servants in a timely manner by giving it a simple vehicle for payroll transaction; it could help public utilities increase the proportion of customers who pay their bills on time; and it can provide a mechanism for simplifying the management and operation of social cash transfer programs. Most importantly, though, it can provide the means for millions of poor Malawians to participate more fully in the economic life of the country. Sometimes, revolutions start small.

Making All Voices Count is Open for Business

Two short years ago, I was googling my way to google, skeptical about what some were calling the open revolution. That day in September 2011, when the Open Government Partnership was launched changed my mind.

A woman on a phone in India. Photo Credit: USAID

A woman on a phone in India. Photo Credit: USAID

Today, another September day in New York with the world gathering again at the United Nations General Assembly, I’m proud to see the White House touting the contribution that my team and I at USAID — together with DFID, SIDA, and Omidyar Network– have made to that revolution. Today Making All Voices Count: A Grand Challenge for Development is open for business and calling for proposals. And today the Open Society Foundations have joined our effort.

Some say that when you join government you spend down your intellectual capital. Not so in the 21st century! In the last few years, I’ve been witness to and learned from this open revolution. Citizens all around the world are getting more information and demanding more from their governments and technology is helping to close the gaps between citizens and governments.

But many of us in government need help listening and responding to how we can do better. This is where Making All Voices Count comes in: we expect to see proposals for innovative ideas to close that feedback loop, proposals to scale up important efforts that already exist, and proposals that will help the world understand how transparency and accountability are critical in helping new democracies deliver to their citizens.

So today, the President has called on all of us to double down on the open revolution and think in creative ways about how to support innovations for civil society. I’m excited to work with my team to respond to that call. We’ve got some great ideas and we will be working with partners around the world to make them real. I predict whether two years from now or in twenty, it will be increasingly hard to remain a closed society while the rest of the world opens up.

Join us by making all voices count! The first call for proposals is open now. Applications close November 8, 2013.

Learn more about this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and its focus on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities.

Follow @USAID and @RajShah for ongoing updates during the week and join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtags #UNGA and #UNGA2013.

 

Empowering LGBTI people in Colombia to Advocate for Their Own Rights

I recently had the privilege of traveling to Bogotá and Cartagena, Colombia to observe the incredible work USAID is doing to support Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Intersex (LGBTI) populations advocate for their own rights under the law. As an advocate and supporter of the LGBTI community here in the United States, I know firsthand the importance of LGBTI physical safety, the issues of workplace discrimination, and access to education and health care.

As part of USAID’s historic LGBT Global Development Partnership launched earlier this year, we are expanding our support to local civil society organizations in Colombia through our partnership with the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. Activities include partnering with the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute to conduct trainings on how to run for office and participate in democratic processes. This partnership forms part of USAID’s wider commitment to inclusive development, and to engaging LGBTI communities as important actors in international development who have the potential and power to advance human rights, promote broad-based civic participation, and drive inclusive economic growth.

Victory Institute, with support from USAID, conducts training on on respecting and protecting LGBTI rights in Cartagena

Victory Institute, with support from USAID, conducts training on on respecting and protecting LGBTI rights in Cartagena. Photo credit: Victory Institute

Since 2006, USAID/Colombia has been a flagship bilateral mission for its work in supporting LGBTI community efforts fighting discrimination and stigmatization. In addition, USAID/Colombia has provided training for police and other public servants on respecting and protecting LGBTI rights. These continued efforts and strong ties to grassroots LGBTI organizations made Colombia a good fit for piloting the LGBTI Global Development Partnership trainings.

As reported in the Washington Blade, from August 29th-September 1st, the Victory Institute – with support from USAID – led a four-day training in Cartagena for 30 Colombian LGBTI activists interested in running for political office or managing campaigns. These inspiring individuals, who hailed from as far away as the Amazon rainforest, rural regions along the Atlantic Coast and Bogota, came together to learn the art and craft of running successful political campaigns in an effort to become more effective advocates for LGBTI rights in their own communities.

One such activist I had the pleasure of meeting was Jhosselyn Pájaro, a transsexual woman who ran for municipal council in the city of Arjona outside of Cartagena. She ran for office to let her community know that LGBTI people like her lived in the community and wanted to make a difference. Although she did not win a seat on the council, she was successful in raising awareness about LGBTI people and the rights and concerns they have living in Colombia. She attended the USAID-supported training to learn new skills as she hopes to again run for political office, and next time, win.

It is inspiring stories like these, from LGBTI individuals who face discrimination on an almost daily basis that makes the work of USAID all the more important. Through the LGBTI Global Development Partnership, USAID is working with our partners to strengthen LGBTI civil society organizations, enhance LGBTI participation in democratic processes, and undertake research on the economic impact of LGBTI discrimination.

At USAID, we are bringing together local activists and community leaders. In Colombia, organizations such as Colombia Diversa, Caribe Afirmativo, and Santamaria Fundación illustrate the dedication and service to their constituents that USAID values.We are helping these community leaders to advocate for a more inclusive society that embraces what LGBTI people have to offer in the development of their own societies, economies, and local institutions. Together, in partnership, we are working to ensure LGBTI people have equal rights as enshrined in international human rights and domestic law, and access to education, employment, health care and housing – what we consider as important elements of inclusive sustainable development.

Learn more about how USAID is advancing and protecting the human rights of the LGBTI community.

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