August 28, 2020

Reps. Barbara Lee, Grace Meng, 86 other Members of Congress Spearhead letter to head of USAID Calling for Changes to Agency’s New Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Grace Meng (D-NY), members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, today led a total of 86 Members of Congress in a letter to Acting U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator John Barsa calling for changes to the agency’s new 2020 Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy, a proposal which threatens to replace a decade’s worth of U.S. government policies that have improved the lives of women and girls around the world.

The draft of the new policy, which was released last week, seeks to replace the original version implemented in 2012. It would weaken numerous provisions such as those dealing with reproductive health. It would also reduce the focus on girls and eliminate references to LGBTQ people, among many other things. In addition, this draft ignores important previously implemented U.S. policies relating to youth empowerment and women’s roles in peacekeeping.

“America needs to be fighting to make sure that development includes everyone---particularly women and girls,” said Congresswoman Lee, Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus. “This draft USAID policy would move us decades backward in the effort to advance gender equity and globally recognized human rights. As Co-Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus and Vice Chair of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, I urge Acting Administrator Barsa to slow down and craft a new policy that reflects the best of America’s values. It’s imperative we uphold our commitments to defend the rights of women, girls and LGBTQI+ people around the world.”

 “The draft of the new Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy is a disaster, and if enacted will roll back years of progress made towards gender equality and empowering women,” said Congresswoman Meng. “Acting Administer Barsa must immediately reverse course. He must engage Congress and address the concerns of gender experts and stakeholders so that a better policy can be put into place. We will continue to do all we can to prevent the Trump administration from implementing these flawed changes; changes that undermine a policy which has been successful across the globe. I await the Acting Administrator’s reply to our letter.”

“An update of the USAID Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy is a prime opportunity to bolster the existing policy with new data, update it with best practices, and align it with new strategies and pieces of legislation,” said the Big Ideas for Women and Girls Coalition. “Unfortunately, the current draft of the policy is out of touch with current global best practices, and contains inaccurate and problematic elements that may stall or even reverse progress towards gender equality globally. We urge USAID to build on its technical strength and, in consultation with Congress and civil society, develop a new draft that will truly advance gender equality and USAID’s mission.”

The text of the letter can be found below and a copy of the correspondence can be viewed here.

USAID is an agency of the U.S. government that administers foreign aid and leads international development and humanitarian efforts around the world.