New Paper from Women Thrive Assesses USAID’s Gender Policy

Two years ago, USAID implemented a Gender Equality and Female Empowerment policy. Women Thrive recently released a paper examining the successes and shortcomings of the policy, entitled “The Path to Inclusive Development: Assessing the First Two Years of USAID’s Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy.”

The paper notes the importance of this policy, saying that it demonstrates USAID’s desire to lead the U.S. government into an era of inclusive participatory government. The gender policy works alongside and reinforces other USAID initiatives. In particular, the gender policy advances the USAID Forward aid reform agenda.

To determine whether the policy had a tangible effect, Women Thrive applied five qualitative indicators: implementation strategy and leadership, the amount and quality of resources, capacity building, the level of collaboration, and the success of monitoring and evaluation. The paper notes the successes of the policy, praising USAID for taking a flexible approach instead of a one-size-fits all model, its excellent design and implementation of gender resources, increase in local capacity building, strengthened collaboration with partners, and increase in sex-disaggregated data.

The report is not without its criticisms, however, saying that USAID must increase capacity building for mission and implementors as well as with men and women at the local level.

Women Thrive gives eight recommendations to USAID for the next stage of Gender Policy Implementation, which include translating annual estimations for gender programming into obligations and permanently filling gender leadership positions with experts at each mission.

  1. Translate annual estimates for gender programming contained in the Congressional Budget Justification into actual obligations.

  2. Permanently fill key gender leadership positions with qualified experts, including the Senior Gender Advisor in the Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning and Gender Advisors at each mission.

  3. Improve collaboration with and capacity building of civil society, especially local grassroots, women’s and gender-focused organizations.

  4. Strengthen gender-focused reporting and disseminate country gender assessments and project gender analyses where appropriate. Mandate the collection and analysis of sex-disaggregated data for implementing partners and USAID. Regularly report results on the Foreign Assistance Dashboard.

  5. Require “Gender 101,” and “Gender 102” trainings for all USAID staff and “Gender 103” training for all gender advisors. Develop sector specific trainings and incentivize their use by all staff and implementing partners.

  6. Engage gender-focused economic development specialists to improve gender integration within economic growth program design, monitoring and evaluation. Create a clear strategy for how to address the issue of gender integration within economic development projects writ large.

  7. Work closely with other agencies and private sector partners to collaboratively lead gender integration in joint initiatives such as Feed the Future, Power Africa, Partnership for Growth and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

  8. Operationalize the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) for missions and implementing partners. Adapt WEAI for use within and across other bureaus and sectors, such as for economic growth writ large, to develop a more comprehensive understanding of women’s vs. men’s empowerment.

There are also three recommendations on how the U.S. Congress can support USAID’s Gender Policy Implementation, which include supporting the President’s 2015 budget request for USAID funding.

  1. Support the President’s FY15 budget request for USAID funding to ensure that the agency has the resources to fully implement its Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy.

  2. Codify the position of Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Female Empowerment to ensure that high-level gender leadership becomes a permanent function within USAID.

  3. Engage USAID more regularly in both public and private dialogue to understand gender policy implementation challenges, learn, and disseminate success stories. Support gender funding obligations.

The full study can be downloaded here.

Image courtesy of Women Thrive.

World Bank Releases Report on the Importance of Empowering Women

cq5dam.resized.735x490!The World Bank recently released a report called Voice and Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity, compiling data and studies about the challenges that women and girls face worldwide. The report finds that education is key to advancing the role of women around the world. Girls with little education are at greater risk of child marriage, domestic violence and poverty, which harms both them and their communities.

Group President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, launched the report with Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Kim said that “expanding women’s ability to make decisions and take advantage of opportunities is critical of opportunities is critical to improving their lives as well as the world we all share.”

Though there have been key improvements to women’s rights, many challenges remain.

The key facts in the report include:

  • Gender-based violence occurs globally, and often occurs within a woman’s own home. Domestic violence is widespread.
  • Work choices are restricted for women because of laws or social norms.
  • There is a widespread lack of reproductive and sexual rights, such as the inability to refuse sex with a partner.
  • Teenagers in developing countries are more likely to get pregnant. In one year, one in five girls in developing countries under 18 gives birth. Half of all teen pregnancies in the developing world occur in South Asia.
  • Women do not have the same level of access to technology and ICT (information communications technology) as their male peers.
  • Property ownership increases the social status of women and thus their agency.
  • “Poverty increases gender gaps.”
  • Women’s groups and collective action build momentum for reform.

This is an urgent agenda that needs to be addressed by politicians and lawmakers. This is not a zero-sum game because gender equality helps men and boys as well. Increasing education and achieving gender equality are longstanding development goals.

More and better data is needed to close the gender gap. There is a need for gender disaggregated data. To address this need, the World Bank has introduced a Gender Data site and Clinton has announced a new initiative, Data 2X, to develop new standards for data collection.

You can read the full report here.

Image courtesy of the World Bank.