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Inclusive Development: USAID’s New Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy

USAID releases a new policy on gender equality and female empowerment, which makes great strides toward closing the gender gap in international development.

There are moments that make you proud. Proud to work in an Administration led by President Obama and Secretary Clinton who have made gender equality a top priority.  Last week was one of those times.

Last year USAID Administrator Shah and I established a task team to craft a new policy on gender quality and female empowerment, the Agency’s first in 30 years. I am proud to say that USAID released that policy, achieving great strides and reaffirming our commitment to close the gender gap in international development.

The goal of this policy is to improve the lives of citizens around the world by advancing equality between females and males, and empowering women and girls to participate fully in and benefit from the development of their societies.

USAID has long recognized that drawing on the full contributions of women is key achieving better, inclusive, and more sustainable results.  That’s why we’re integrating gender equality and female empowerment into the very DNA of everything we do.   From Presidential initiatives like Feed the Future (FtF), the Global Health Initiative (GHI), and Global Climate Change to the full range of the Agency’s programs, we are ensuring that gender is not just being included, but fully incorporated.  Eliminating gender bias and empowering women isn’t just a question of fairness or equity: it’s simply good business practice.   

Building on the Agency’s decades of experience, this policy will assist us in increasingly including women and girls as leaders, implementers, and beneficiaries; provideguidance on pursuing more effective, evidence-based investments in gender equality and female empowerment; build partnerships across a broad range of stakeholders; harness science and technology to tackle challenges; and address unique and complex issues in crisis and conflict-affected environments.

We have achieved a lot in the past year, delivering on promises.  USAID created a new policy on Counter-Trafficking Persons, building on our Code of Conduct that holds USAID employees and our partners to the highest standards of behavior; we worked closely with the White House a National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace, and Security, a major Administration effort, and we are working hard to put an implementation plan in place in the coming months.  We’ve also created a comprehensive list of indicators that will hold USAID accountable for progress, requiring gender assessments aspart of all country strategies, policies and programs.

As we focus on these actions, we are also committed to holding ourselves accountable by setting comprehensive and time-measurable goals.  We’re also pledging to aggressively monitor, evaluate, and learn from our challenges and successes. 

Most importantly, we are committed to involving women themselves in every step of this process.  In preparing this policy, we drew on the wisdom, ground truth, and guidance of women in the United States and developing countries, from civil society, governments, and the private sector.  In implementing the policy, we will be equally committed to inclusive development, involving not just women, but disabled persons, the LGBT community, youth, and displaced and indigenous groups in the decisions that affect their lives.  The watchwords from now on must be, “Nothing about us without us.”  

Ambassador Donald Steinberg is a Deputy Administrator at USAID.