International Women's Day Breakfast Panel to Explore Role of Women in Development

Mar 04, 2011, 12:34 ET from American Jewish World Service

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leading advocacy organizations American Jewish World Service (AJWS), Women Thrive Worldwide (WTW) and the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) will mark International Women's Day, on March 8 at 8:30 a.m. with a breakfast and panel discussion highlighting the importance of women to a more effective, accountable, and results-oriented U.S. approach to promoting development in poor countries.

The discussion, featuring panelists Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS, Ritu Sharma, co-founder and president of Women Thrive Worldwide and a principal of MFAN, and Deputy Administrator Donald K. Steinberg of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will take place at the Reserve Officers Association Building, One Constitution Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. Former Clinton Administration Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, who wrote the best-selling book Why Women Should Rule the World and is a managing director at The Glover Park Group, will moderate the panel.

Gender equity has been a core theme of the ambitious foreign assistance reform agenda pushed by the Obama Administration. Last fall, President Obama outlined the first-ever government-wide global development policy and the State Department released the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, both of which committed the U.S. to integrating gender into all development and international diplomacy strategies. In releasing the Administration's development policy, President Obama said:

We also know that countries are more likely to prosper when they tap the talents of all their people.  And that's why we're investing in the health, education and rights of women, and working to empower the next generation of women entrepreneurs and leaders.  Because when mothers and daughters have access to opportunity, that's when economies grow, that's when governance improves.

AJWS President Ruth Messinger echoed that sentiment saying, "Without such a commitment to gender equality, tremendous barriers for women to participate in the shaping of their communities' future will persist. A great deal of research has found that when we invest in women, communities see significant benefits in their members' health and educational opportunities, both of which are critical in eradicating poverty through sustainable economic development."

"This is an exciting time, as so many forces have come together to bring gender to the forefront of foreign assistance," said Ritu Sharma, Co-Founder and President of Women Thrive Worldwide, and a principal of MFAN, which has been advocating for an overhaul of U.S. foreign assistance. "There is still much more to do, but after 30 years of advocacy by the women's community, we see tremendous progress in the bold vision set forth in the QDDR on including gender. What this means is that all assistance programs that the U.S. implements moving forward have to take the needs and voices of women and girls into account. This is a turning point for how our country thinks about and delivers aid. There is no going back. The biggest challenge right now is to ensure that there are enough funds to make sure we can invest in women and girls across the globe."  

At the panel, Messinger will also release a new AJWS policy paper entitled Empowering Girls as Agents of Change: A Human Rights-Based Approach to U.S. Policy. With examples from AJWS-supported programs in India, the paper shows how U.S. policy can apply a rights-based approach to empower girls. This includes emphasizing locally led solutions; integrating strategies and programs that address holistically the underlying political, socioeconomic and legal factors driving poverty, non-discrimination and equality; and better monitoring, evaluation and accountability. Ritu Sharma will also present on how the gender and foreign assistance reform movements have evolved and where they are headed, and why now is the time to implement key pieces of the QDDR.  

SOURCE American Jewish World Service