Christian Children’s Fund’s Washington, D.C., Office has been engaged in advocacy around U.S. foreign aid for the past several months. As part of this work on aid reform, CCF’s Washington Office Director Laura Henderson joined a group of 25 nonprofit organizations that met with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team on Jan. 8.
The meeting took place in response to a Dec. 16 letter on the importance of gender integration in U.S. foreign assistance that Women Thrive Worldwide drafted and CCF and 40 other organizations signed.
Women Thrive Worldwide organized the meeting and participants had an in-depth conversation with the presidential transition team about the importance of gender integration within foreign assistance.
The group’s primary recommendations were to make gender integration and gender equality a required strategic objective in foreign assistance; establish a high-level central office on gender integration; require gender experts to be systematically involved in designing development strategies and projects; and monitor evaluations to ensure both women and men benefit from and contribute to U.S. development efforts.
The group laid out its recommendations for what needs to happen in the first 100 days of Obama’s term, including nominating a USAID administrator who ensures that gender integration is an explicit priority and is personally committed to the issue, as well as replacing USAID's Women and Development Office with an Office of Gender Integration under the highest ranking officer for U.S. development assistance.
The group also stressed that gender integration should take place within a new foreign assistance regime, which involves the U.S. developing a national strategy for global development, enacting a new Foreign Assistance Act, streamlining organizational structures and increasing funding for, and accountability of, foreign assistance.
Ten participants had speaking roles at the meeting. Henderson spoke about difficulties in carrying out gender integration in projects in the field without the full commitment from USAID and other development agencies from the level of the USAID administrator to the level of technical officers.
The transition team thanked the entire group for caring and having such a diverse set of people and organizations to talk about the issues. Obama’s Office of Public Liaison is tracking all of the meetings with the president's transition teams so that relationships are now starting with what will be the White House's Office of Public Engagement.
The participants went away feeling that this historic meeting – the first that the gender equity community has ever had with an incoming presidential transition team – was an excellent first step in working to ensure that integrating gender into foreign assistance strategies, structures and programs will be seen as a priority by the Obama administration.