Targeting the Needs of Women and Girls in Programming to End Extreme Poverty ~ USAID Frontiers in Development Forum

Panel: Graça Machel,Caren Grown, Susan Markham, Tony Gambino, Abbigail Muleya.

Panel: Graça Machel, Caren Grown, Susan Markham, Tony Gambino, Abbigail Muleya.

Friday 19th, September 2014

Washington, DC — Engaging in a dialogue on development and eliminating extreme poverty couldn’t be done without talking of the role of women in reaching this goal, as Justine Greening, the UK Secretary of State for International Development quoted “Girls and Women are at the heart of the set of Development’s goals“.

Justine Greening, UK Secretary of State for International Development, USAID "Frontiers in Development" #EndPoverty

Justine Greening, UK Secretary of State for International Development, USAID “Frontiers in Development” #EndPoverty

Well, “WE” should be at the heart of any development goal. It is supposed to be an obvious statement. But guess what! that is NOT.

In  my conversation with Mr. Tony Gambino, Interim CEO of “Women for Women International” who was one of the speakers at this session, I said that I am a woman but I never considered myself as feminist* because I believe that empowerment and support should be given to both woman and man as a human being at first place. For me, Human rights shouldn’t have a gender. [*Feminism: The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. (Oxford Dictionary)]. But when I gave it a second thought, I realised how I just had naively decided for many years to think this way. to believe that equality exists already but many women didn’t want it or decided to not embrace it. I was in fact inside the same box.

Tony Gambino

Mr. Tony Gambino, Interim CEO of “Women for Women International”

But the reality is otherwise. This decision wasn’t made only by women.

Women were and still, in many places, NOT equal to men, either we’re talking of rights or obligations. Most of women I met in my country though, didn’t claim equality. Some of them even rejected it (conscientiously or unconsciously), but many were asking for more freedom and mainly for moral support from their families and their MEN specifically.
Currently, Women cannot really reach any development without men’s support especially in our patriarch societies, and I speak from my own perspective as an African and Arab woman. The equality that I was taking for granted has never been granted to all woman around me, I was just not as exposed to the shocking reality that the majority of women in my continent was facing, and I would like to quote Mrs Graça Machel when she said at this same session “We are here because our families made a simple, single and one strategic decision which is, as girls, sending us to schools“.

Graça Machel, Founder, Foundation for Community Development, Mozambique; Founder, Graça Machel Trust.

Graça Machel, Founder of Foundation for Community Development, Mozambique; Founder of Graça Machel Trust.

Now, in this 21st century we cannot “afford” to ignore anymore the role of women in development.  And all the money and grants invested so far on women’s empowerment in the last decade, have shown to all the world and especially Governments, how woman is capable of, not only driving the development, but also of making it sustainable, scalable and spread it to all her family and thus to her community.

Graça Machel: “There is a mismatch between “what we do, what we can and what we are doing with the magnitude of the problems we are addressing”

(video) … Indeed, the magnitude of the problems that Nonprofit, Civil Society, some Corporate and Governments are addressing, is tremendous. And tackling an easily accessible to media neighbourhood or setting a 2 or 5 years plan, is not going to end any Poverty, the National indicators don’t reflect the extreme reality of some “forgotten” populations. A more strategic planning is required and more effective work than paper work is vital.
Building and empowering “LOCAL” capacities to find “THEIR OWN WAYS” to development instead of pitching to them some ready solutions, can be in my opinion, the only and wiser way; and I think many organizations who failed in implementing their own maladjusted solutions, learnt this the hard way.

I would like again to pay attention to empowering women by involving MEN. I have seen many women who ended giving up joining a cooperative because their husbands didn’t agree with that, for no matter reason, and these women, mainly illiterate or with very basic level of education will chose to stay at home. [to be continued on a separate article]

Unfortunately, as we speak now, we are still talking of “Ending Poverty” which many of us see only on television or on some shared photos and videos on the social media. It sounds like a myth or science fiction for many, but in fact it’s not. And rather than speaking of “Development” we feel trapped with the word “Poverty” and all the shame and guilt that holds within it.

And lastly, I would like to recall this poem’s line of the Egyptian Poet Hafez Ibrahim:
A Mother is like a school, If well-raised/prepared, Then you have raised a Good Nation.
الأم مــدرسـة إذا أعــددتـهـــا       أعـددت شعبا طيب الأعــراق

To be continued … #EndPoverty #2030

By Safa Hajjaj @safahajjaj
Nonprofit Leader, Woman Entrepreneur
Atlas Corps Fellow from Morocco
Meridian International Center, Curriculum Developer
Link to this same article on my blog

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