USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Women

Progress Toward a World Without Violence Against Women and Girls

Originally posted to the White House Blog

Eqlima is a young girl from Afghanistan. She lived with an abusive father and stepmother who often beat her. They even set her hair on fire. She escaped to a U.S. State Department-supported women’s shelter. The staff helped move her away from her father and stepmother, and now is helping her move in with her older brother.

Stories like these are all too common. From beatings, to “honor” killings, to sexual violence as a tactic of war, from intimate partner violence to human trafficking– the forms of gender-based violence are varied, but their scope, and their impact are devastating.  Globally, an estimated one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.

When women and girls are denied the chance to fully contribute to society because of the violence or fear they face, our entire world suffers.  That’s why President Obama has made the treatment of women an essential part of our global vision for democracy and human rights. A key part of that effort is stopping violence against women and girls.

Last December, President Obama released the first ever U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security and signed an Executive Order directing the Plan’s implementation.  This action signaled a key commitment of the Obama Administration: to put gender equality and the advancement of women and girls at the forefront of our foreign policy.

Today, I am proud to announce that the President has taken another important step to prioritize and protect the rights of women and girls. President Obama issued an Executive Order on Preventing and Responding to Violence Against Women and Girls Globally.   The Executive Order requires enhanced coordination of the United States’ efforts through the creation of an interagency working group, co-chaired by Secretary of State Clinton and USAID Administrator Shah, designed to leverage our country’s tremendous expertise and capacity to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally as well as establish a coordinated, government-wide approach to address this terrible reality.

The Executive Order directs Federal agencies to implement a new strategy, developed by USAID and the State Department.  The  four objectives of the strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally are to:  (1) increase coordination of gender-based violence prevention and response efforts among United States Government agencies and with other stakeholders; (2) enhance integration of gender-based violence prevention and response efforts into existing United States Government work; (3) improve collection, analysis, and use of data and research to enhance gender-based violence prevention,  and response efforts; and (4) enhance and expand United States Government programming that addresses gender-based violence.

The Executive Order also requires that the work is evaluated in line with the Administration’s focus on data collection and research.  Recognizing that this is a long-term commitment, the Executive Order directs the interagency working group to update or revise the strategy after three years.  You can read more about the Executive Order here.

Our commitment to ending violence against women and girls is both a foreign policy priority and a domestic policy priority.  The United States has made tremendous progress on violence against women and girls domestically since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994.  Since the passage of the Act, annual rates of domestic violence have dropped by more than 60 percent.

As you all know, the Violence Against Women Act, something that should be above politics, is mired in just that on the Hill. The Senate passed a strong bipartisan bill three months ago. The House should take up the Senate bill so we can get this important bill to the President’s desk. Women should not have to wait a day longer.  As the Vice President has said, Congress should act now to protect women.

The Obama Administration is doing its part in the effort to end violence against women and girls In 2010, President Obama announced unprecedented coordination across Federal agencies to continue our  progress in reducing violence against women in the United States, and Vice President Biden has led the Administration’s efforts to reach teens and young women who are most at risk of dating violence and sexual assault.  Most recently, President Obama and Vice President Biden appeared with star athletes in a public service announcement speaking out against violence and launched our 1 is 2 Many Campaign.

Globally, the President’s commitment is embodied throughout the Administration’s foreign policy efforts, from the President’s National Security Strategy; to the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development; to the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. Ultimately, the President and his administration’s goal is a world free from violence against women and girls.

But we realize that government alone cannot end this problem. That’s why the Executive Order directs agencies to deepen their engagement with a broader set of stakeholders, including civil society, grassroots, and international organizations, all of which are a vital part of the effort to end violence against women and girls.

Today’s Executive Order and new strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally provide a blueprint to guide our next steps in working towards this goal.

Together, we can help protect more women and girls like Eqlima from senseless violence, and give them the opportunity to advance and thrive, living without fear.

Valerie Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama.

SMARTgirl Empowers Women in Cambodia

Originally posted to the FHI360 blog.  

Earlier this month, U.S. Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer, joined Assistant Administrator for Asia, Nisha Biswal for a special visit to the SMARTgirl project in Cambodia, a USAID funded project led by FHI 360. SMARTgirl aims to prevent and mitigate the impact of HIV and improve the sexual and reproductive health of entertainment workers, many of whom are sex workers. There are an estimated 35,000 entertainment workers in Cambodia, working at night clubs, bars, massage parlors, karaoke clubs (KTV), restaurants, beer gardens, as well as on the street. Prevalence of HIV is as high as 14 percent, among some groups of entertainment workers.

SMARTgirl stands apart from other programming among entertainment workers in Cambodia because of its positive, non-stigmatizing approach. It combines evidence-based interventions with the strong SMARTgirl brand, which empowers women to protect their health and well-being. SMARTgirl reaches nearly half of all EWs in Cambodia in their workplace, because it treats them respectfully, recognizes what is important to them and improves health-seeking behavior by raising self-esteem.

SMARTgirl is one of a number of projects that validates what the international community and national leaders have been emphasizing for more than a decade— that empowering women and girls are vital components of human development. Since coming into office, U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, as well as Ambassador Verveer, have continually underscored the importance of integrating these issues into Department of State foreign policy objectives.

During Secretary Clinton’s recent ASEAN development meeting in Phnom Penh, she was influential in integrating gender equality and women’s empowerment into the Lower Mekong Initiative agenda. In a statement, she emphasized the importance of reproductive rights for achieving gender equality; an area that the innovative FHI 360 SMARTgirl program has been integrating into its HIV mitigation program:

“Reproductive rights are among the most basic of human rights. … Millions of women and young people in developing countries don’t have access to information to plan their family. They don’t have health services and modern methods of contraception. This is not only a violation of their right…it’s also a question of equity as women everywhere should have the same ability to determine this fundamental part of their lives.”

As this short video on SMARTgirl reveals, the women in the program feel inspired, often for the first time. They see themselves as “smart girls”– women who are empowered to change their lives, and educate others about health issues and rights.

Says Kheng, “Before I became a SMARTgirl leader, I used to face issues on my own, … but we have the right to help each other and we have to participate in the community where we live.”

From Evidence to Action: What Works for Women and Girls

In the coming days, thousands of political leaders, public health experts, activists, people living with HIV and other delegates from around the world will gather in Washington D.C. to debate, discuss, reflect upon, and celebrate the achievements that have been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

But in Lesotho, and other southern African countries, the epidemic remains a painful reality.

During my recent trip to the Mountain Kingdom, a tiny country surrounded on all sides by South Africa, conversations about the epidemic inevitably turned to the fact that women and girls are a much greater risk for HIV due to a combination of biological, structural, and cultural conditions. In many ways, Lesotho clearly illustrates the nature of the epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, where 60% of those living with HIV are women. In the nine countries in southern Africa most affected by HIV, prevalence among young women aged 15-24 years is on average about three times higher than among men of the same age.

In Lesotho, where women and girls have much higher rates HIV than men, our U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Country Team and implementing partners are acutely aware of the realities facing women and girls and are continuously seeking ways to ensure that programs and services use the most up-to-date evidence to meet their needs.

Fortunately, the evidence of what works for women and girls is just a click away.

What Works for Women and Girls: Evidence for HIV/AIDS Interventions

First launched at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna in 2010, this groundbreaking resource is a comprehensive website documenting the evidence for effective HIV interventions. Spanning more than 2,000 articles and reports with data from more than 90 countries, What Works for Women and Girls contains—in one centralized, searchable location—the evidence of successful gender-specific programming from global programs and studies, with a focus on the Global South.

Having the evidence of what works is crucial for organizations working on the front line of the HIV/AIDS response. In Kenya, for example, the evidence has been essential for crafting national policies on gender-based violence and HIV prevention for women.

From Evidence to Action

As we celebrate the rich evidence base in What Works for Women and Girls, we must now focus on what this means for the implementation and scaling up of the HIV/AIDS response. How can we ensure that the evidence is applied correctly and consistently to ensure quality programs at scale? Are our programs and services addressing the underlying gender inequities that not only put women and girls at risk for HIV, but men and boys too? How will we use the evidence to inform sound public health policies and priorities?

Most importantly, how can we ensure that the available evidence helps us to maximize the benefits so that we can, finally, turn the tide against HIV/AIDS?

For the women and girls of Lesotho, and across the southern Africa, there is not a moment to lose.

Picture of the Week

Health workers practicing Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) techniques. HBB is an evidence-based educational program to teach neonatal resuscitation techniques in resource-limited areas. Since September 2010, the USAID-funded Health Care Improvement project has trained 691 providers in 9 out of 34 provinces on essential newborn care and resuscitation using the HBB curriculum. Implementing Partner: Health Care Improvement (HCI) Project Photo Credit: USAID/Afghanistan

 

 

Title IX creates Opportunities for Women in Sports and Development

Susan Reichle is the Assistant to the Administrator for USAID’s Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning. Credit: USAID

When Title IX was enacted, I was just six years old and had no idea how this one piece of legislation ensuring equal rights for women in sport and education would impact me and millions of girls over the next four decades.

Having equal access to participate in athletics did far more than just pay my way through college on a field hockey/lacrosse scholarship. More importantly, sports taught me and millions of girls critical life skills such as leadership, teamwork and perseverance. Sports empowered my generation to believe we could do anything if we just worked hard enough. No longer were we limited to playing only half court basketball, the barrier that my grandmother had faced because girls were still viewed as the weaker sex.

Because of Title IX and Billy Jean King’s iconic victory over Bobby Riggs in 1973, my generation was raised to believe we were just as strong as men and deserved the same rights to the playing field. When our team was given access to the turf only at 5 a.m. so that the boy’s football team could practice during prime hours, our coaches began to push back.

Eventually we were taught to demand the same opportunities and equal access as men, and this is reflected today in our drive to compete with men in the workforce, seeking to rise to the highest levels in the workforce.

Has the empowerment that came with Title IX been an easy road for women?

No, there is still debate as to whether women and girls can really “have it all” and achieve full equality. Clearly, there is still work to be done. But as I travel around the world, I see the impact when women and girls are not provided equal rights. When a country leaves 50 percent of its population behind – whether it’s denying access to education, sports or healthcare – development suffers.

At USAID, we aim to ensure women are more often seated at the decision-making table to realize their rights and to influence outcomes at all levels. The evidence is clear: investment in women and girls delivers a disproportionate dividend in a country’s development.

As many have said during this 40th anniversary, Title IX was more about social change than sports.   But sports taught us the importance of competing and never taking ourselves out of the game. Sports also taught us that while we may be able to go faster alone, teamwork is the key to winning.

As we celebrate all that has been accomplished these past 40 years, I am reminded of the words of Jackie Joyner-Kersee, member of the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and three-time Olympic gold medalist in track and field: “Girls playing sports is not about winning gold medals. It’s about self-esteem, learning to compete and learning how hard you have to work in order to achieve your goals.”

Video of the Week: Empowering Maasai Women in Tanzania

USAID is helping Maasai women in Tanzania gain literacy and numeracy skills so that they can obtain land rights, start businesses, and become involved in local government. By 2011, more than 2,000 women had completed the program. Their new communication skills allow them to conduct business activities more easily and empower them to assert their rights. For the first time in their lives, these women are earning incomes independently through small enterprises and farming. One graduate of the program says, “It has helped me to mobilize other women because the program saw potential in us.”

 

Helping Women Feed the World

Seema Jalan.   Photo: Women ThriveClose to a billion people worldwide go to bed hungry every night, and at least six out of ten are women. It’s ironic, because women in developing countries are largely responsible for feeding their children and growing the food that will feed their families. Around the world, the traditional image of a farmer is not a man on a tractor but a woman farming a piece of land about the size of a three-car garage.

That’s why we’re excited that governments, civil societies, universities, and private companies have begun investing in long-term programs to combat hunger and invest in farmers worldwide. Through the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, women are being recognized as playing a major role in tackling global hunger.

Over the next few days, G8 leaders from the world’s biggest economies will meet on critical global issues, including the challenge of feeding the world’s seven billion people. Here are seven things we at Women Thrive believe any program—whether from government, an NGO or private company– have to do to succeed by reaching women.

  1. Work with female farmers, who often play very different roles than men in agriculture. Women often grow different crops, work at different times of day and have different priorities than male farmers. Coming up with a one-size-fits-all program usually means you don’t reach women farmers.
  2. Ensure property rights for women, so that they can actually own the land they farm and gain control over their crops. Over and over, I’ve seen that women work on the farm, but don’t see the income from it because it’s usually men who own the land and take the crops to market to sell.
  3. Increase access to credit and financial services, so that women can properly save, and purchase seeds, fertilizer, and other tools to increase their productivity.
  4. Provide women farmers with time and labor-saving tools, which would make farming, cooking, and marketing easier and would allow women to carry out their household and childcare responsibilities more efficiently.
  5. Enhance transportation and technology infrastructure such as irrigation and roads, which would save women time and increase their income. But make sure they are roads from villages to local markets, not just four-lane highways from export-processing zones to ports.
  6. Expand skills training to women farmers so that they are more successful and productive in their work. And that might mean going to train them in their homes instead of setting up a training station far away from the village when women have children to look after at home.
  7. Integrate natural resource management, which simply means teaching women how to conserve things like water, land, and fuel to increase productivity as well as preserve the environment.

Women in developing countries may seem remote and far away but the more I travel the more I realize how much we all have in common. Mothers around the world just want to the basic dignity to feed and provide for their families. And simple, targeted investment can have an enormous gain. If women can feed their loved ones and themselves with maize, cassava and plantains, they can transform their families, communities, and societies. And since women are the majority of farmers in some areas, this makes an enormous impact on food security. We will all be the better for it.

For more information about Women Thrive Worldwide, please visit: http://www.womenthrive.org/

Video of the Week: Planting the Seed for Economic Growth

Ever wonder how Gladioli bulbs can help an estimated 1,000 families start earning their living and jumpstart a fledgling flower industry in Pakistan? USAID, through the Small Grants Program and the US Ambassador’s Fund, seeks to empower grassroots organizations and community groups working to strengthen civil society in Pakistan.

The U.S. Ambassador’s Fund provides small grants to improve basic economic or social conditions at the local community level. The Fund supports high-impact, quick-implementation activities, that can be completed within one year without requiring further funding.

On this occasion, we highlight one of the results of the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund in Rawalakot, known for its dire economic situation for the 540,000 residents who until recently only planted maize and wheat.

In a strategically located valley just 120 km from the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, Rawalakot’s high elevation (1,615 m.) makes it ideal for growing gladioli bulbs which are increasingly becoming popular in major cities.

USAID financed the purchase of gladioli bulbs, training sessions for farmers, and consultations of an agricultural specialist to help the families grow the flowers correctly.  Thanks to the project, families have increased their revenues by over 70%, with women being the main beneficiaries of the project.  This project has enabled women to become salient participants in the flower industry and because of related activities involving the sale and distribution of the flower, it is estimated that many more families in surrounding communities will benefit greatly from this project.  As a result of the increase in income, families are now able to invest the money into their children’s education and household expenses.

A Mother’s Fight

The following is a guest blog post from Florence-Ngobeni Allen. She is an HIV/AIDS educator and counselor, and a long-time Ambassador for The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Fighting a mother’s fight against HIV has been a very significant part of my life.

Florence-Ngobeni Allen and her baby. Photo Credit: A Mother's Fight

I have worked as an HIV educator for more than a decade, counseling thousands of women in South Africa who have struggled with loss, stigma, and illness because of this epidemic.

As an Ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, I have fought for mothers around the world to have access to the tools and support they need to keep their children healthy and HIV-free.

And I have fought my own, personal battle with HIV for more than 15 years.

I first worked as a counselor at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa, helping new mothers who tested positive for HIV. I discovered that my story was not that different from the women I met there.

A lot of the mothers could not afford HIV medicines and services for themselves or their babies. Some would report that they had not eaten for days. Others talked about feeling scared to disclose their HIV status to their partners for fear of violence. Too many of these women came to our clinic with bruises on their arms, their backs, and their hearts.

Every day, I was surrounded by the cries of babies who were fighting the effects of HIV, and mothers who were trying to care for them and keep them alive.

These experiences were so traumatizing for me. To get through the toughest moments, I would lock myself in the bathroom and cry. At that time, there were no treatment options available for HIV-positive mothers or their babies in South Africa.

I knew what was next for them. I knew that their babies were going to die.

The reason I knew is that I had experienced the same thing. I lost my beautiful baby girl, Nomthunzi, to AIDS when she was only five months old.

Nomthunzi was born with no complications to her proud parents. She was just a few weeks old when my husband grew ill. He passed away three months later.

Shortly after, Nomthunzi got sick as well. I brought her in for HIV testing, where I received the worst news a mother can hear. I learned that I was HIV-positive, and I had unknowingly passed the virus on to my baby. Nomthunzi passed away just a few weeks later.

When I became an HIV counselor, I knew the pain these new mothers were experiencing. The pain of losing a child is unbearable. But the pain of realizing that there is nothing you can do to save your child is equally intolerable.

Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A with the First Lady of El Salvador Vanda Pignato

The Impact Blog interviewed the First Lady of El Salvador Vanda Pignato about development issues important to her in El Salvador. 

The First Lady of El Salvador and Secretary of Social Inclusion Vanda Pignato meets with Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean Mark Feierstein.

First Lady, I know you are very passionate about women’s rights. How are you raising the profile of this issue in El Salvador?

As Secretary for Social Inclusion, one of the main goals during my mandate is to promote public policies based on a human rights approach to ensure the realization, respect and guaranty of rights of historically excluded populations. Women make up over half of the population in El Salvadorand have been excluded from access to governmental services, as these were designed without a gender specific focus. With this in mind, the idea to create a center specifically for women to promote and enhance their fundamental human rights became an issue that needed to be addressed. Ciudad Mujer is a program that has raised awareness of the invisibility women have had when it comes to accessing state services, and has begun to change the model of government by integrating services and having a gender based approach. But what is most important is that Ciudad Mujer is changing the lives of thousands of women and they have begun to recognize themselves as right holders.

Do women in El Salvador have an active voice at the table, be it in politics, business, or civil society? What can be done to enhance the role of women?

As in most societies and countries, women’s visibility within politics, business, civil society and others is not at the same level and condition than that of men. This is the heritage and legacy of secular discrimination based on gender issues, a discrimination that figures some jobs are for men and some jobs are for women, a discrimination that figures some colors are for men and other colors are for women, a discrimination that figures some toys are for boys and some are for girls, and so on. This discrimination has created a cleavage between men and women as an irreconcilable antagonism. No society or country is free of this kind of discrimination. Many countries have developed laws to prevent and punish discrimination based on gender issues. Many societies have advanced in their awareness on women’s rights. But the world itself has a long road ahead to walk. Some countries and societies have to walk more than others, but all have to walk.

Bearing that as a starting point, many actors are responsible to enhance the role of women, as much complex work needs to be implemented. The Government has a role to play: eradicate all de jure discrimination, promote the eradication –in a progressive manner– of all de facto discrimination (even using criminal law if needed) and to take the initiative to promote women in higher seats sharing the same responsibilities as men, as in the military forces, in the non-traditional jobs, etc. But what is most important, as a part of the Government’s role is to recognize –and conduct itself consequently and coherently– that men and women are not equal, but both have the same rights that must be ensured and respected equally.

 How does the spike in crime and violence affect women?

Let me start my point with this view: if discrimination against women is a matter of unequal distribution of power, than that makes women vulnerable –women are not vulnerable per se, however they have been historically vulnerated– so the main victims of crime and violence are women. I am not saying that women are killed more frequently than men; however I am speaking about victimization that is the result of crime and violence.

Many crimes and violent behaviors committed are mainly addressed towards women. Sexual harassment, rape, and all kind of sexually motivated crimes and violent behaviors do victimize women (and children, mostly girls). Domestic violence, in addition, occurs almost exclusively against women. And many –but I think I should say most– of these crimes and violent behaviors fall under the unregistered data, I mean, the system never realizes their occurrence. From this perspective, we will never know how many of these crimes and violent behaviors really occur.

Secondly, I can understand that many other crimes and violent behaviors will victimize men directly. It usually happens with murders and assassinations, but who is the indirect victim? Women. They will alone have to attend to their children’s necessities while growing up, as a widowed mother, as an older sister, as a grandmother. What I am trying to say is that women are indirect victims as a result of crimes and violent behaviors. All the exigencies of reproductive work fall upon her shoulders.

Thirdly, the spike of crimes and violent behaviors is not only a matter of quantity (as the frequency of these events) but also a matter of quality. Violence against women is increasing daily and it is hard to pinpoint the source of it. In the past, for instance, drugs were trafficked inside devices, baggage, etc., but now, women’s natural anatomic cavities are used to traffic or hide drugs. In the past, a crime of passion usually finished in killing the lover and his or her cheater, but now, most of the time, women’s body shows high levels of unnecessary roughness and violence. In fact, this observation applies not only to crimes of passion, but to any other crime or violent behavior where the intention is to kill a woman. The situation of Ciudad Juarez speaks for itself and El Salvador, as well as many other countries, is facing similar situations.

What I have said gives me the opportunity to express something: we cannot continue the traditional approach to analyze and understand crime and violent behaviors. It is absolutely necessary to provide those analysis and understandings with a gender approach too.

As Secretary of Social Inclusion, what are your top two priorities?

It is very hard to pick two priorities, since the Secretariat for which I am responsible for works with various groups; women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities, sexual minorities. We have taken firms steps in promoting these groups’ rights and continue to seek social change to include these groups in all public policies. However, the common denominator in my work rests upon two principles: to build and enhance public policies based on a human rights approach (keeping in mind the national Constitution and the international treaties that are operative to El Salvador) and to bring down any form of discrimination. Those principles are linked with reciprocity. I cannot address my work on human rights being tolerant with discrimination; and with the same token, I cannot fight against any discrimination if my work is not supported by an approach based on human rights.

With the intention to answer your question, I must then say, that my top two priorities in my work as Secretary of Social Inclusion is the human rights based approach in public policies and the thorough fight against any form of discrimination.

We work very closely with you and your government; do you have a favorite USAID project in El Salvador?

As Secretary of Social Inclusion I have to thank all the cooperation USAID provides to Salvadoran people and Government. But obviously, I do consider as my favorite, all the aid and help you provide in the coincidence of my work, mainly, the eradication of all forms of discrimination and the promotion, guarantee, realization and fulfillment of women’s rights. I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to the contribution you have made directly to Ciudad Mujer; thousands of Salvadoran women appreciate this gesture and would love to express their gratitude.

Page 17 of 25:« First« 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 »Last »