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.

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.

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.

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. 

UNCoLSC Recommendations to increase access to, and use of Life-saving commodities

EVERY WOMAN EVERY CHILD
EVERY WOMAN EVERY CHILD

Every Woman Every Child. This focus is long overdue. With the launch of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, we have an opportunity to improve the health of hundreds of millions of women and children around the world, and in so doing, to improve the lives of all people.” — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

The United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities (UNCoLSC) for Women’s and Children’s Health made ten, specific, time bound recommendations in three main areas to increase access to, and use of, these commodities.

The following are lists of areas and recommendations by UNCoLSC:(Adopted from Early Woman Every Child website)

Area 1. Improved markets:

  1. Shaping global markets: By 2013, effective global mechanisms such as pooled procurement and aggregated demand are in place to increase the availability of quality, life-saving commodities at an optimal price and volume.

  2. Shaping local delivery markets: By 2014, local health providers and private sector actors in all Every Woman Every Child countries are incentivized to increase production, distribution and appropriate promotion of the 13 commodities.

  3. Innovative financing: By the end of 2013, innovative, results-based financing is in place to rapidly increase access to the 13 commodities by those most in need and foster innovations.

  4. Quality strengthening: By 2015, at least three manufacturers per commodity are manufacturing and marketing quality-certified and affordable products.

  5. Regulatory efficiency: By 2015, all Every Woman Every Child countries have standardized and streamlined their registration requirements and assessment processes for the 13 live-saving commodities with support from stringent regulatory authorities, the World Health Organization and regional collaboration.

Area 2. Improved national delivery:

  1. Supply and awareness: By 2015, all Every Woman Every Child countries have improved the supply of life-saving commodities and build on information and communication technology (ICT) best practices for making these improvements.

  2. Demand and utilization: By 2014, all Every Woman Every Child countries in conjunction with the private sector and civil society have developed plans to implement at scale appropriate interventions to increase demand for and utilization of health services and products, particularly among under-served populations.

  3. Reaching women and children: By 2014, all Every Woman Every Child countries are addressing financial barriers to ensure the poorest members of society have access to the life-saving commodities.

  4. Performance and accountability: By the end of 2013, all Every Woman Every Child countries have proven mechanisms such as checklists in place to ensure that health-care providers are knowledgeable about the latest national guidelines.

Area 3. Improved integration of private sector and consumer needs.

  1. Product innovation: By 2014, research and development for improved life-saving commodities has been prioritized, funded and commenced.

Reference:

Every Woman Every Child, 2014. Retrieved on 1 April 2014 from http://www.everywomaneverychild.org/resources/un-commission-on-life-saving-commodities/recommendations.

Celebrating International Woman’s Day 8 March 2014

Source: International Women's Day
Source: International Women’s Day

“Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

It is a universal fact that women make nearly half of the world’s population (UNFPA, 2013), and their role in societal development and cohesion is indispensable. March 8 is designated as an International Women’s Day (IWD), and the celebration takes place around the world featuring meetings, rallies, conferences, forums and etc.  Similarly, the United Nations (UN) will be celebrating the IWD every year and this year’s theme is “Equality for women is progress for all”. The theme emphasizes how gender equality, empowerment of women, women’s full enjoyment of human rights and the eradication of poverty are essential to economic and social development (UN, 2014).

To learn more about UN’s International Women’s Day Programs, click here.

The following is a quote from the Huffington Post on IWD and the importance inclusion (both men and women) to ensure equality:

“As a man, I affirm this: Feminism is not exclusively for women or exclusively about women. Feminism is the simple, radical notion that women and girls are human beings. That affirmation means that men are inherently involved in feminism and it means that men’s lives improve when we embrace the full equality of women.” (Gary Barker, Founder of Promundo)

The followings are links to celebrations and programs related to the 2014 International Women’s Day around the world:

UN Programs: http://www.un.org/en/events/womensday/

http://www.internationalwomensday.com/

CARE.ORG : http://www.care.org/get-involved/care-national-conference-international-womens-day-celebration