We are pleased to share that on Wednesday, December 2nd at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Confirmation Hearing for Dr. Rajiv Shah, the nominee for USAID Administrator, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) posed a a question to Dr. Shah on gender integration, and specifically asked for Dr. Shah’s commitment to carry out gender integration as part of U.S. foreign assistance.
Please see below for an excerpt from Senator Cardin’s remarks as well as Dr. Shah’s response to his question. Also, please click here to view a few additional mentions of women and gender made by Dr. Shah during the hearing.
I want to mention one area that Congress has talked about for the last 35 years, and that is gender integration into foreign assistance. We’ve been talking about that for a long time. And yet the resources that have been devoted towards gender integration seem to be meager at best, and very little progress has been made over the years. In Afghanistan today, we talk a great deal about women and their rights, and we have made some progress and we’re proud about that. But across the world, we have not done as much as we should as far as gender integration… I want your commitment that you will report to this committee steps that you are taking to carry out congressional intent that gender integration be part of foreign assistance.
Senator, I can absolutely make that commitment. I will absolutely make that a priority and will be quite pleased to continue to counsel with this committee on that point. I believe effective gender integration is often the difference between success and failure of a broad variety of development investments…I’ve had a history while at the Gates Foundation and at USDA in participating in the Food Security Initiative of making sure that gender integration is done well in the context of implementing programs…A lot of times there’s a fair amount of language about gender integration, but there is less specific strategies to make it happen in programs – our programs measuring women’s incomes in a disaggregated way from household income; our programs serving and listening to the people that they’re trying to serve, mostly women, and understanding what their unique constraints are to participate in these efforts. If we’re hiring extension officers, are we matching the ratio of extension officers hired to the ratio of women to men that are trying to be directly served and touched by these programs?…And so I think there are a lot of tools that can be employed to actually do this work very well, and I look forward to putting those tools in place where they could be most effective in AID programs. And I’m also glad you mentioned Afghanistan, where I think there has been real progress in this area, with more than 70,000 microloans provided to women and an infant-mortality rate that’s come down significantly because of better access women have to health services.
Let me just point out the challenge you’re going to have is going to first be on the budget in hiring of personnel. You have, I think, a significant shortage of personnel to carry out the responsibilities that have been expected here. And you’re going to need to devote resources to this issue. So I thank you for your commitment to come back to us and let us know how you are doing in regards to gender integration.
Now, Afghanistan has a lot of focus, and it should. It’s one of the highest-priority countries of our national interest. But there are places around the world that we have development programs that we could leverage much more effectively for women. And I urge you to come back to us and let us know what we can do to be helpful.
Opportunity International makes it a priority to serve the particular needs of women. A staggering 70 percent of all those living in extreme poverty are female. Women are often excluded from education and the workplace, from owning property and from equal participation in politics. They produce one half of the world’s food, but own just one percent of its farmland. Opportunity believes the most effective way to interrupt cycles of extreme poverty come from microfinance programs that target female entrepreneurs. Nearly 85 percent of Opportunity’s loan clients are women. When women improve their circumstances, they also improve the lives of their children. They invest in nutrition and education, helping to create a better future for their children.
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