Gender Focus: The Promise for Self-Reliance from a Transformed USAID

25897178921_13df6cb2b1_oThe DC community of civil society organizations (CSOs) has been buzzing, often in direct engagement with USAID, about the current USAID transformation. It seems promising and the timing could not be better, but given that the majority of the world’s poor are women living in patriarchal societies, will it deliver on gender?

The Agency has not undergone such an extensive transformation at all levels since the 90s, and this one could realize sustainable implementation that will be more efficient in cost, time and management. The new structure of USAID bureaus could also be more conducive to integrated solutions and adaptive programming, wherein local persons can take on greater leadership roles in their own development process.

The new Policy Framework for USAID (1. focusing on country progress, 2. seeking resilient, sustainable results, and; 3. partnering for impact) would purportedly preside others. There is concern among CSOs and USAID partners that without gender as a priority in the Policy Framework, USAID’s transformation will fall short in the transformation and implementation processes.

It is a fact that inequality undermines economic growth and development; gender inequality must be addressed as a key factor that pervades social and economic barriers. The Policy Framework is therefore the most promising “home base” for gender in order to build the self-reliance required for host countries to end their need for foreign assistance.

Gender analysis is good, but it is not enough.

The inclusion of the “economic gender gap” metric in USAID’s “Journey to Self-Reliance” does provide a valuable measure of the gender gap in salaries, work force participation, and professional leadership. It is in alignment with a 2015 McKinsey Global Institute study, which states that a “scenario in which women participate in the economy identically to men… would add up to $28 trillion, or 26%, to the annual GDP in 2025.”

Secondary metrics for gender in the areas of health and education offer space where USAID has a suite of indicators (see: USAID’s Child, Early and Forced Marriage Resource Guide) that can be “inserted” across silos. Women and girls’ health indicators, such as maternal mortality ratios and rates of HIV among adolescents, can help determine health and well-being as a key means to empowerment and gender equality. Sex- and age-disaggregated data should be collected across all sectors to show a holistic “picture” of the status of women and girls in society.

Finally, it will be beneficial for the Policy Framework and gender in secondary metrics for USAID to continue to use the standard foreign assistance indicators (F indicators). These measure country capacity and commitment, as they measure performance across multiple program categories and are structured to include both State and USAID spending.

Having gender roles is good, but it is not enough [if such are dual “hatted”].

Full-time staff – at any level – dedicated exclusively to gender would be ideal. The value of such could be well argued by the Gender Development team of USAID, which has extensive expertise and experience with gender-focus in USAID programming, monitoring and evaluation, and analysis.

It would be equally complimentary and useful for the Senior Coordinator on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment to maintain a full-time, whole-of-agency focus on strengthening gender integration while housed in the Office of the Administrator – with appropriate staffing to ensure relevant work can be done effectively.

Beyond staffing, embedding the Gender Development Office within the new Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation (DDI) would help to ensure and foster strong gender mainstreaming throughout USAID: 1) support for [evidence-based] gender program design and technical assistance to Missions, and; 2) cutting-edge monitoring, evaluation and analysis of gender investments for applied learning.

Gender as a priority in the Policy Framework of a newly transformed USAID makes deeper impact in monitoring host country progress and achieving self-reliance promising.

Advocating for Youth Leadership to Achieve the SDGs

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Mary Kate Costello addresses youth attendees of 2017 Winter Youth Assembly.

In keeping with The Hunger Project’s priority to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals through community-led development, advocacy for youth leadership and engagement has been at a forefront. The Hunger Project took a leading role in both the United Nation’s 6th Annual Youth Forum and the Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations at the beginning of February 2017.

Follow-up: Click here to read Mary Kate’s article on young women’s cooperatives.

The Hunger Project’s Senior Policy Analyst, Mary Kate Costello, has been an active member of the United Nation’s Interagency Network on Youth Development’s Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality, and is now co-chair of its new Task Force on Young Women’s Economic Empowerment. Such engagement afforded The Hunger Project the opportunity to chair two sessions during the Youth Forum: breakout sessions on SDGs 2 and 5.

Mary Kate participated in the SDG5 session as a panelist, focusing on the importance of young women-led cooperatives, especially at the grassroots. Not only will cooperatives provide improved income generation for young women, but also offer unique social inclusion – especially for marginalized persons such as those with disabilities and indigenous women. Mary Kate stressed Coop UK’s research that cooperatives have an 80% success rate in their first five years compared to 40% for other economic initiatives and investments. Discussion during the breakout session included hindrances to gender equality in the economy as a result of both discriminatory laws and discriminatory practices that do not adhere to favorable laws for women. One such example noted was Ghana’s policies entitling women and men to have the same allowances in owning land. However, this is not reflected in the percentage of land owned by women. Approximately 15% of men own land in Ghana, whereas less than 10% women own land.[1]

The Hunger Project, as a leader in integrated community-led development, was asked to moderate one of the Youth Forum’s Media Zone Panels. Mary Kate Costello engaged with three youth leaders about their work toward SDG2, ending hunger, in their respective home countries of Trinidad and Tobago, Nepal, and Colombia. Issues covered included how to encourage youth interest in agriculturally focused employment, mobile phone technology and grassroots capacity assessments and rehabilitation of abandoned fisheries to generate exponential income. The full panel is available here.

The week rounded off with chairing and speaking in the Winter Youth Assembly

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Winter Youth Assembly attendees discuss their leadership initiatives toward SDGs 1 and 2.

interactive session on SDG1, ending poverty. The Hunger Project, alongside cohosts Campus Kitchens Project and FeelGood, looked
at existing youth-led initiatives toward ending hunger that mitigate poverty. The United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) delivered the keynote address via their Lead Technical Specialist, Mattia Prayer Galletti, challenging that youth development need not only include youth in program design and implementation, but more important youth leadership in both aspects.

The Hunger Project, out of its pillar to empower women, is an organizing partner of the upcoming CSW Youth Forum from 10 – 12 March 2017, and will be featured in a plenary panel on the topic of young women-led cooperatives again. This year’s CSW Youth Forum is the second of its kind, chaired by UN Women and YWCA, as a youth-focused “opening” to the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN. The Hunger Project will maintain its engagement in the arena of youth development and leadership as a key element of community-led programming to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

[1] http://news.trust.org/item/20160516120134-jqvsx

Achieving Gender Equality though Economic Empowerment

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A Call to Action

In September 2016, the United Nation’s High-Level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment released its first report on the actions necessary to close the global gender gap in economic empowerment. The report, “Leave No One Behind”, emphasizes the unfair circumstances that disproportionately affect women in the workplace, i.e. wage gaps, job security vulnerability  associated with informal work, and lack of women in leadership. It also urges all economic actors to take the actions necessary to achieve economic gender equality.

Why Pursue Women’s Economic Empowerment?

The High-Level Panel is calling on governments, businesses, and development organizations to empower women as agents of change for their own economies. This contributes to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8, to “promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all”.

In the current global labor force, women are less likely to be participating in paid work compared to men almost everywhere globally, as “only one in two women aged 15 and over is in paid employment compared with about three in four men”. Not only do women earn less than men on average, but women also “take on more than three times more unpaid work and care than men”. They tend to work in the informal and agriculture sectors, which are less secure and protective of workers rights than male-dominated sectors, i.e. government and public sectors. 

Women are under structural pressure to sacrifice both education and paid work opportunities in order to support their families at home with childcare and housework (view a UN fact sheet on this here). Additionally, when women do have paid work while having a family, their wages are subject to gender discrimination. A fatherhood pay premium exists where “men’s earnings increased by more than 6 percent on average when they had cohabiting children while women’s earnings decreased by 4 percent for each child”. These double standards are crucial to overcome if we want to empower women in the global workforce.

Priorities

In order to create a sustainable, permanent impact on women’s economic empowerment, we must prioritize the seven drivers of change (the outer wheel) identified by the High-Level Panel: UN Women EE image.png

Changes must be made in all four work sectors (the inner wheel, consisting of: agriculture, enterprises, the formal sector, and informal work) in order to achieve women’s economic empowerment. Economic gender equality is associated with human development as a whole, higher income per capita, faster economic growth, and stronger national competitiveness. These advances are critical to achieving SDG 1, to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere”.

Recommendations

Unequal pay and discrimination must be eradicated in every economic sector, and women must be represented in leadership roles at every level. In the formal sector, governments must not only provide protection in hiring, maternity, and wage situations, but must also ensure that women’s organizations are given full representation. Businesses must support women’s enterprises and women as role models in their own organizations. Both civil societies and international development institutions must increase women’s participation, leadership, and mentorship. They must include gender-specific strategies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Women’s economic empowerment is crucial to achieving gender equality and the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The UN High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment has officially called on the world’s economic actors to achieve women’s economic empowerment, and we must work to end discrimination in the workplace for all women worldwide.

7 Drivers image courtesy of UN High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment.

View the original presentation of the UN High-Level Panel’s first report here

Image courtesy of thp.org.

An International Look at Women’s Rights

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Until recently, the human rights of half the world’s population – women – were not universally protected, nor accepted in most parts of the world. In 2014, the United Nations (UN) released a publication, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” to further the international understanding of women’s human rights. The framework outlines key areas of women’s rights that must be addressed by all states around the world.

In 1948, the UN established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all human rights applied to both men and women, using inclusive wording that eliminated the question of human rights applying only to men. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 and other human rights treaties followed suit to be more inclusive of women in both its wording and the rights it guarantees (i.e. marriage rights, maternity and child protection, etc.). An official declaration of women’s rights was officially adopted in 1967 by the UN titled the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, proclaiming discrimination against women as a barrier to “the full development of the potentialities of women in the service of their countries and of humanity”.

Out of the fact that women’s rights are indeed human rights, women’s rights have become more widely understood as inalienable and of utmost priority for international development.

There are several key priorities toward the advancement and inclusion of women globally:

  • Identifying and citing private party violators of women’s rights, (i.e. individuals, small organizations, businesses, etc.)
  • Standardizing women’s rights – regardless of culture and traditional customs and practices
  • Ending discrimination that neglects women and prohibits their decision making influence, as well as their social and economic empowerment

Advocacy has a huge role to play in the achievement of gender equality. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, which is to assure we “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, specifically targets several ways in which we can end gender inequality. We must end discrimination against all women, eradicate violence against women, ensure the opportunity for women to be leaders and decision-makers, protect all women’s right to reproductive and sexual health, guarantee women’s economic rights, and certify that the legal systems in place can protect these rights. Below are eight human rights that must immediately be achieved in each country to ensure the achievement of gender equality internationally.

  1. Education – Barriers to universal education must be eliminated. This includes child marriage, teen pregnancy, child labor, discriminatory policies, poor access to schools, and cultural tendencies.
  2. Political Roles – Women should not only have the right to vote, but also be constitutionally allowed to run for government office. (See SDG 5.5)
  3. Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) – A women should be able to receive sexual and reproductive health care wherever she lives, including family planning and informative services. This care must also be provided by trained and safe providers. (See SDGs 3.7, 3.8, & 5.6)
  4. Adequate Standards of Living – Women must have access to basic resources such as food, clothing, and housing. These resources ultimately affect a woman’s economic prosperity, lifelong health, and her social capital. A food security system and economic opportunities must be in place to achieve adequate standards of living.
  5. Prevent and End Violence Against Women – Often occurring from entrenched patriarchy, violence against women further burdens vulnerable and impoverished populations. Victims of domestic abuse, female genital mutilations (FGM), and rape suffer severe psychological and health repercussions that can hinder development advancements. States must prioritize preventing violence against women and girls. (See SDG 5.2)
  6. Immigration and Displacement Protection – States involved in the origin, travel, and destination of migrant and displaced women should all be held accountable for protecting women against harm. Migrant and displaced women are at a higher risk of physical and sexual abuse, discrimination, depression, forced prostitution, and unacceptable working conditions due to their citizenship status.
  7. Protection in Conflict and Crises – Conflict can normalize and amplify the mistreatment of women, who are “often used as a tactic of war”. Woman are more vulnerable to rape, sexual violence, trafficking, and other human rights violations in these situations. Legal action and victim protection must be available and effective to protect women in these situations.
  8. Access to Legal Assistance and Justice – To achieve gender equality, we must have effective and accessible law and justice procedures to protect women at the local, national, and international level. Justice systems must be non-discriminatory, accessible to all women, and states must make it a priority to educate both women and law officials on the rights women are entitled to. (See SDG 5.c)

Women are capable of lifting their families, communities, and countries out of poverty. They have the ability to change the world if their human rights are recognized as not only important, but inalienable. We must ensure that humans rights are inclusive of women globally and that they enable women reach their full potential as agents of change.

To learn more about the SDGs, click here.

Image courtesy of UN News Centre.

Women and the Role of Husbandry for Stronger Community-led Development

THP-Burkina Faso’s Director,  Evariste Lebende Yaogho, with program participant.

We live in a world where women still continue to fight for equal rights. They are not given the option to make decisions and their needs are only secondary to men. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), women comprise an average of 43 percent of the agricultural labour force of developing countries up to almost 50 percent in Eastern and Southeastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Women produce more than half of all the food that is grown but ironically, a greater number of the world’s hungry are women.

In many rural communities, women are not granted the freedom to generate their own income or even leave the confines of their home. A huge number of them are illiterate because they are denied to receive an education. They are mandated to spend most of their days care-giving and perform other household responsibilities. They have to face different challenges on the road in order to achieve literacy. When they grow up, their daughters go through the same oppression: a cycle of poverty. It can be very difficult to break that cycle given that a girl’s future is determined by the time she takes her first breath.

The Hunger Project believes that development requires gender equality. This begins with empowering women. When women join the working sector there is an increase in economic productivity. One of the Hunger Project’s most recent initiatives, “Projet d’appui à la production animale dans les Communes de Arbollé et de Kirsi (PAPA/AK),” is a twelve month project funded by FAO that attempts to break the cycle of poverty through livestock husbandry. Fifty have chosen 3 rams during a community fair, each benefiting from the inclusion of monthly health monitored for each animal.

Educating whole communities, including men, about the benefits of empowering women can affect a critical social mindset shift to improve household income and bring families out of poverty. This can also lead to different possibilities and opportunities for women to build greater agency and roles within her community.  Women empowerment does not equal to male inferiority. Women empowerment seeks the closure of gender-gaps that consequently results to development and betterment of the lives of women, men, families and communities.

Heifer International, co-founder of the Movement for Community-led Development with The Hunger Project, also aims to empower citizens and communities at the grassroots level to become agents of change for the eradication of world hunger and poverty. They strengthen local economies by distributing livestock and leading husbandry trainings to help families become self reliant. Heifer also provides veterinary services to project participants to maximize benefits and reduce livestock mortality rates.

According to the U.N. Development Programme, “when women have equal access to education, and go to participate fully in business and economic decision-making, they are a key driving force against poverty.” A community cannot meet full development unless women receive the same treatment and opportunities as men. Women posses the essential skills for development, they just need the transition to reach that goal.

The Hunger Project’s recent animal donation project with FAO places particular priority on women, as it empowers them to become financial providers for their family. It generates opportunities for women to cut the cycle of poverty and hunger, and an opportunity for them to participate to fostering equality and breaking the norms of inferiority. They become the key agents of their own development and the innovator their community needs.

Sustainable Development by 2030 Requires Community-led Development

“For us, then, to reach our twin goals, three things have to happen—inclusive economic growth, investment in human beings, and insurance against the risk that people could fall back into poverty. Grow, invest, and insure: that’s our shorthand for it…We reject “trickle-down” notions that assume that any undifferentiated growth permeates and fortifies the soil and everything starts to bloom, even for the poor.  We need to find an economic growth model that lifts up the poorest citizens rather than enriching only those at the top.”

-Jim Young Kim, President, World Bank Group address at the 2015 WB/IMF Annual Meetings

At the United Nations on September 30, over a dozen INGOs and other likeminded development stakeholders officially launched the Movement for Community-led Development during UNGA70. The motivation for this Movement stems from the need to push for an exponential increase in bottom-up development initiatives that mobilize and empower citizens as the key agents of change for their own development.

Co-hosted by the Government of the Philippines, featuring local representatives from the Kalahi-CIDSS program, the Movement launch yielded provocative discussion around the inefficiencies of prioritizing top-down development approaches and resource provisions [in the absence of humanitarian needs]. On the heels of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, there are already sobering concerns around the realistic capacity and resources to achieve all of the goals and targets by 2030. Experts from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Restless Development, Institute for State Effectiveness and Heifer International explained how the sweat equity from community-led development, notably youth and women, would undoubtedly provide crucial capacity to achieve the goals at all levels. 

The discussion included two prominent elements: 1) strengthening good, local governance for effective partnerships with communities, and; 2) integrated strategies to build the whole of communities and individuals.

Using the example of rebuilding infrastructure and effective service delivery in his community after Typhoon Haiyan, Mayor Pelagio R. Pecson Jr, of Tanauan, Leyte in the Philippines, one of Kalahi-CIDSS’ operational areas, explained how strides in community-led development built significant resilience to trauma and devastation in the wake of disaster. The accountability and leadership skills of citizens and their responsive local government meant shorter crisis and less costly crisis management to rebuild.

Heifer International’s Partnerships and Business Development Manager, Kamil Madanat, spoke specifically about the crucial need for integrated programming at the community level in order to break the cycle of poverty. Strategic interlinkages between sectors such as health, education, sanitation, improved agricultural techniques and food storage results in increased income due to healthier living standards and overall improvement in livelihoods. This includes decreasing time poverty, and expanding local economies through better market access and new value chain entry points. Kamil explained that the key implementers of these interventions were few others than trained community leaders and grassroots volunteers. He stated that “empowered communities will make better decisions,” defending that investment in human capital is greater than resource or monetary investments. John Coonrod, Executive Vice President of The Hunger Project added to this, saying that the “2030 agenda demands that people work together.”

While continuing the unveiling of the Movement for Community-led Development, Clare Lockhart, Founder and President of the Institute for State Effectiveness gave examples of how [at least] millions of crucial donor dollars are wasted as they “trickle down” from high-level and managerial positions through resources spent on program design without input or leadership from community members. Implementation and monitoring is then not only carried out in shorter time frames than from which significant impact can occur, but it often fails to fulfill intended goals due to poor applicability to the community and a lack of community ownership to ensure sustainability. One such example was the distribution of logs to repair and strengthen clay homes in rural Africa. The logs did not fit the existing home structures and time did not allow for complete reconstruction of the homes. The time and money intended to repair homes became fuel for local stoves; the people were still essentially homeless and the project did not yield a sustainable outcome.

Civil society and its most important partners – the local citizens for whom our work is intended – are increasingly demanding community-led prioritization from donors, bi-laterals and government funding agencies. This includes multi-sectoral funding streams, longer funding windows and flexible funding to ensure community ownership and leadership. This global call for action begins with the Movement for Community-led Development.

If your foundation, organization or company wants to join the Movement, please visit the site and submit your inquiry: www.communitydev.net

Achieving the SDGs in Africa

May 12, 2015 – The Hunger Project and the Nelson Mandela Foundation held a high-level dialogue on achieving the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa by 2030 in Johannesburg, South Africa tomorrow, May 12.

a (181)“Africa has taken the lead in developing continent-wide strategies for ending hunger and poverty within the framework of the SDGs,” said The Hunger Project’s Vice President for Africa Programs Dr. Idrissa Dicko. “The African Union has already set an ambitious target to end hunger by 2025, adopted an Implementation Strategy and Roadmap for 2025, and created a Common Africa Position on the Post-2015 Agenda. We want to use this opportunity for important stakeholders to each identify our highest leverage contributions toward these initiatives.”

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Welcome remarks by Hunger Project board chair Steven Sherwood and acting CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation Verne Harris.

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Introductory remarks by Hunger Project President and Åsa Skogström Feldt highlighted our gender-focused approach to community-led development, and called for large-scale alliances to achieve the SDGs.

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Introductory video message from Tom Arnold, acting coordinator of the SUN: Scaling Up Nutrition Movement.

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Keynote address by NEPAD’s CEO Dr. Mayaki delivered by Principle Programme Officer Mariam Sow Soumare.

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Remarks by Athini Nyatela, community organizer of Restless Development, a youth-led organization.

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Remarks by Sara Longwe, Consultant and Former Chair, Femnet.

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Remarks by Nokuthula Mhene, Food Justice Expert, Oxfam-South Africa

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Remarks by Henry Malumo, Advocacy Head, ActionAid-South Africa

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Remarks by Jabu Ntsele, Corporate Social Investment Manager, Tiger Brands

Note – we regret that the video company was unable to record all the discussions.

Participants from across sectors — multilateral organizations, regional bodies, government, corporates, donor agencies, non-governmental organizations, civil society and academia — reviewed the current framework for the SDGs and identified specific gaps where new initiatives can be taken.

The Hunger Project implements a gender-focused, community-led holistic development approach called the Epicenter Strategy in eight countries in Africa, reaching nearly two million people. “This dialogue will provide us with valuable strategic insights so we can adjust our program priorities in Africa and around the world for the coming years,” noted Dr. Idrissa Dicko.

The Hunger Project awarded Nelson Mandela its Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger in 1994, at a ceremony with Former US President Bill Clinton in Washington, DC, and is thrilled to be partnering with the Nelson Mandela Foundation for this meeting. Nelson Mandela Foundation Director of Research and Archive Verne Harris shared, “This is an excellent demonstration of honoring the legacy of Nelson Mandela, through convening dialogues for engagement around critical issues to promote social justice.”

Participants included: Steven J. Sherwood, The Hunger Project Global Board Chair; Åsa Skogström Feldt, The Hunger Project President & CEO; Verne Harris, Nelson Mandela Foundation Director of Research and Archive; and representatives from NEPAD, SADC, the UN, FAO, WFP, USAID, UN Women, Oxfam, ActionAid, World Vision, Tiger Brands and more.

Ruma: an insuperable woman against early marriage and poverty

Written by Nazrul Islam, Senior Program Coordinator for Monitoring & Evaluation, The Hunger Project – Bangladesh

Story - Ruma is describing her success to M&E OfficerRuma is the first born of a lower income peasant family, still living with her parents in Udampur Barni in Hemanagar in Gopalpur under Tangaail. After passing primary school, she qualified for admission into high school. Her days passed as they should: playing and studying. This soon took a turn when she was in class eight.

Convinced by neighbors and close relatives, her parents decided to marry her off at her early age. Hearing the news, she became upset and worried about her future; she was not ready to marry. She talked with her parents to give her decision that she would not marry. Surprisingly, it was her mother that was difficult to convince. She persisted and her parents finally decided not to marry her off. She was able to escape from the curse of early marriage.

She passed SSC in 2010 and her parents tried again to marry her off, but failed. She started to earn her own school tuition, relieving her family of extra financial burdens. She then got admitted into college. Sadly, however, she failed to protest her younger sister’s early marriage. Her parents married her off when she was only a student in class seven. New burden arose in her home: why did her younger sister marry before her? It was at this time that her uncle learned about The Hunger Project’s Animator Training from Union Coordinator Biplob.  She joined her uncle in attending the four days of training in 2013.

After training, Ruma’s brain was busy with how she can do something special for herself as well as for her family. She decided to rear poultry. She bought three hens from the local market. Within a few days she added 30 chickens and eight ducks. She began to earn Tk. 3000-4000 ($39 – 51) per month from poultry farming.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 10.58.35 AMShe also attended a three-day Residential Women Leaders Foundation course in 2014. She learned know about gender discrimination, violation and women’s empowerment. Mainly this training enabled her to realize herself as human, not just woman. With the other women in the course, she took an oath declaring herself as a woman leader.

Success - Ruma is providing feeding to her poultryAs a woman leader, she began to take initiatives. She held courtyard meetings for pregnant women about maternity and child nutrition and lead campaigns on sanitation, woman violence and gender discrimination, birth registration, and dowry. She also conducted five courtyard meetings on child marriage, two on school dropouts, five on violence against women (VAW), two campaigns on school enrollment and three discussions on sanitation. Presently, she monthly earns Tk. 3000 ($39) from meeting tuition, TK. 1500 ($19) from homestead gardening and Tk. 1000 ($13) from poultry rearing.

Most importantly, people’s acceptance of and respect for Ruma increased as a result of her leadership in these activities and economic independence, because she involves herself with what is good for the society. She was awarded “Joyeeta” on 9 December 2014 in recognition of her work.

Now, Ruma is a studying for a degree and is married to a man of a financially sound family. She dreams to be a teacher and dreams of a good and prosperous society. She believes that her perseverance through any ill-thinking and gender discrimination in society will lead to its elimination. Toward this end, she plans to recruit another 20 women leaders within the next two years. It is through dreams and actions like Ruma’s that a hunger-free, poverty-free and self-reliant Bangladesh will be built.

Multi-purpose Nutrition Indicators: Measuring Progress of Comprehensive Post 2015 Development Agenda

IMG_0895The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are meant to be a comprehensive and universal framework for improving development and eradicating hunger and poverty – in all of its forms. Its current draft is favorably ambitious. However, there is wide concern among implementing multi-laterals, NGOs and member states about the capacity to achieve the goals given the large number of targets and a possibly exponentially larger set of indicators.

During the United Nation’s Inter-Governmental Negotiations last week (March 23rd – 27th) member states expressed general favor for indicators and targets that are cross-cutting and multi-purpose to ensure that implementation, monitoring and measuring be feasible without compromising the goals; indicators must heed synergistic approaches for multi-sectoral prioritization. The United Nation’s Standing Committee on Nutrition’s policy brief, Priority Nutrition Indicators, notes that 194 Member States unanimously endorsed the below eight nutrition indicators at the 65th World Health Assembly, broadly consenting that they can efficiently and comprehensively measure progress in the most critical areas of nutrition and other development outcomes.

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On Friday, the 27th, members of the International Coalition on Advocating Nutrition (ICAN) – World Vision, The Hunger Project, Save the Children, CONCERN and Action Against Hunger – hosted a timely, multi-stakeholder discussion at the United Nations to discuss specific nutrition indicators that are inherently multi-purpose and thus critical for inclusion in the SDGs. Moderated by World Vision Ireland’s CEO, Helen Keogh, panelists discussed achievements in various development areas via nutrition initiatives, opportunities to leverage the comprehensive nature of the SDGs, why nutrition indicators are so crucial and how nutrition can be fully addressed in the Post 2015 Global Development Agenda Framework.

Anthony Caswell Pérez, Director of International Affairs, Advocacy and Child Rights Governances of Save the Children Mexico, noted that these eight indicators were devised from lessons in development over the last 15 years and have strong, supporting scientific evidence. Pérez pressed the importance of breastfeeding as a multi-purpose indicator: high impact, but low investment for food security and nutrition, and also benefits the SDG health target on ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under five years of age by 2030.

Hien Tran, Global Policy and Advocacy of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, challenged that the current targets of Goal 2 lack strength and ambition to truly improve nutritional impact for all people, not just those considered to be “low hanging fruit.” The nutrition indicators above will not only pave way for improved nutrition for marginalized people, but will also behoove other areas of development (i.e. education, health and decreases in maternal morbidity). This allows for broader application, increased capacity in measuring across sectors and feasibility in their application at both the national and grassroots levels.

Nutrition is a driver of development, but also an outcome of development improvements. Ambassador Caleb Otto of the Mission of the Republic of Palau to the UN noted that achievements to improving nutrition can be hindered by a multitude of issues: addiction, poverty, breastmilk substitutes and poor policies supporting gender equality. He called for stronger political will to address the critical issues of poverty and women to enhance nutrition. While this will rely heavily on much needed data about ideal methodologies of implementation, it is nevertheless an example of needed policies for an enabling environment.

Attendees furthered the technical discussion by highlighting the linkages between agriculture and nutrition, stating that without good agricultural practices, access to land, women’s labor rights and access to markets, nutrition will not be possible for all people. Additional attention was placed on linkages between WASH and nutrition and others discussed the impact of climate change on nutrition as it affects crop availability or composition.

Nutrition is not only a cross-sectoral issue, but also universal. Almost every country in the world faces longterm health risks attributed to some form of malnutrition. This is true across classes, ages and gender. Addressing malnutrition will not only save lives, but will also reduce inequalities and build resilience (ICAN, February 2015). If the development community intends to achieve sustainable development in a mere fifteen year period, efficiency and effectiveness through nutrition initiatives as they are specified in the SDGs’ indicators will be critical.

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.