It has been five months since I began my fellowship with CARE USA as a Policy Fellow with the Gender & Empowerment (GE) team. This year has been very impactful for me – the fellowship itself has and not to mention living in the United States. 2015 is the year when the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is finally evaluated and at the same time the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is announced. What is more, the “Goal: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” is included in the SDGs as Goal 5, which will be the momentum to drive the realization of equal gender rights and better life for all women and girls, especially for those marginalized up until 2030.
CARE, established in 1945, has been serving the poorest people in the world. Among different teams at CARE, the Gender & Empowerment (GE) team does a variety of work that has made great contributions to bettering the lives of women and girls. and also to achievement of the MDGs and the SDGs.
While the headquarters of CARE USA is based in Atlanta, Georgia, the CARE office where I am serving is based in DC. , where, as you already know, there is the center of the Congress, President, and Supreme Court of the federal government. Also, there are international organizations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Washington D.C. is the international hub for the latest news on various international issues and is at the center of international policy. Lobbying is one of the essential roles of DC office i.e. the issues that are being discussed actively among politicians, academics, and NGOs in D.C. are likely to provide the direction where the world’s development is going in the near future.
You can also learn about huge funding resources like the United States Assistance International Development (USAID). For your information, the USAID is known to have the biggest Official Development Assistance aid fund in the world. For instance, “Let Girls Learn Initiative,” being led by the First Lady Michelle Obama, was created to help adolescent girls attend and complete school. CARE supports the implementation of the initiative by doing relevant research as well as suggesting critical views. Early this month I had an opportunity to attend a meeting held in the White House where key figures like Tina Chen, Chief of Staff to the First Lady Michelle Obama, Susan Malkham, Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality at USAID, and Cathy Russell, Ambassador of the Office of Global Women’s Issues at US State Department, announced key plans and had a discussion with NGO representatives. As a policy fellow from another country, it was very impressive to observe the participants openly discussing and sharing concerns on the initiative.
Apart from the work on issues in cities, the GE team also conducts gender-related research and provides gender analysis for designing projects to be implemented in developing countries. Communications with country offices frequently occur to ensure the progress and discuss pressing issues. Sometimes GE team members conduct field visits to monitor and evaluate the program. Tipping Point, one of the GE team’s major projects is focused on ending child marriage in Nepal and Bangladesh with the key goal of addressing young girls’ rights, children’s secondary education, and addressing the maternal mortality rate. In the long run the utmost goal of Tipping Point is to promote empowerment of girls and women in those countries. Therefore, to bring change in a local community it is very important to study the social norms on child marriage as well as the cultural background in the country because these traditions come with a complex history. It is interesting to observe the progress and the virtual communication itself among team members in D.C and Atlanta as well as other countries despite the physical distance.
CARE released a report, titled Vows of Poverty, on October 11th, National Girl’s Day. The report provides an overview of the state of child marriage, and early and forced marriage, in 26 countries. One of my privileges in my role with CARE is that I observe and experience development work from different vantages – from the project’s inception, development, exposure to policy making, and field work.
For the last five months there have been many episodes I have faced as a fellow who not only comes from abroad but also has different career background in disability field. I have learned so much from the GE team it is my goal to explore and broaden gender for a year is already half way done. There are much more things to study and maybe endure like feeling homesick. But now my prospect for the rest of my fellowship is quite positive. Because I have a belief that what I have learned, experienced and felt here at CARE USA will deepen and enrich my insight and vision on development.
There is only one way to learn,” the alchemist answered. “It’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.” – Paulo Coelho, Alchemist