Policy Paper on U.S. Foreign Assistance and Women Released

By Rachel Walden — October 28, 2008

The Center for Gender and Health Equity has released a policy paper on U.S. foreign assistance and its implications for women and reproductive rights, entitled, “Making U.S. Foreign Assistance Work: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Human Rights as Key to Global Development [PDF].”

The authors explain that “many NGOs are preparing to give input to Congress’s considerations for reforming the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act,” but that “overhauling the Foreign Assistance Act will achieve nothing unless policy makers embrace the principle of advancing human rights, specifically by prioritizing the wellbeing, rights, and empowerment of women.” In examining the Millennium Development Goals, they argue that goals of reducing child mortality and poverty, improving maternal health, improving access education, combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and other goals all depend on Goal 3, which specifically calls for gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The authors also note that other organizations such as Oxfam have made proposals with important recommendations for reform, but that these existing recommendations “fail to address sexual and reproductive health and rights and women’s equality, even though these have been identified as critical components to global development.”

Among the topics and U.S. activities discussed in the report as hindering the achievement of development goals are prohibitions against prostitution, the Global Gag Rule, the withholding of UNFPA funds, and the push for abstinence-based programs. CHANGE proposes 6 specific reforms, including:

“Eliminate restrictions (including the Mexico City Policy, Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath, and denial of funding for UNFPA) and unnecessary reporting requirements, and fund comprehensive sexual and reproductive health programs that integrate HIV prevention based on human rights and public health best practices, allowing communities to determine what interventions meet their needs.”

Other recommendations include the creation of cabinet-level posts on global development and women, aligning U.S. foreign assistance with ICPD Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals, greater transparency in U.S. foreign policy goals on sexual and reproductive health, affirming the sexual and reproductive rights of all people, and getting funding directly into the hands of grassroots groups and women.

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