Women call on Congress to protect life-saving foreign aid.
This blog is written by Vicky Rateau, GROW Campaign Manager.
While Congress is paralyzed over how to solve the US budget deficit, engagement and will to address global poverty outside the Beltway are strong. Today, Members of Congress and their staff on Capitol Hill opened one of their favorite Hill rags, Politico, for political news and tidbits, and saw a full page ad calling on them to protect life-saving funding for millions of women and children around the world. It lists nearly 100 women’s names with impressive titles, impressive enough that it may cause some to pause and skim the list. And that is the point.
From the beginning of the long US budget planning process, a number of women from different walks of life–leaders in their cities, states, and fields–have vocally supported a strong US role in tackling global hunger, poverty, disaster relief, and the destructive effects of a changing climate. Inspired by the need and sisters here and abroad, they have been raising awareness for years about these issues. And they have been vocal in Congress, with members of the Obama Administration, and in their communities. Members of Congress have listened and responded individually and with resolutions supporting our intent. These leaders are ambassadors for the world’s poorest and hardest hit by rising food prices and climate change, those who don’t have well-heeled lobbyists pounding the halls of Congress. Many of these women leaders are Oxfam’s Sisters on the Planet ambassadors. Among them are writers and thought leaders, leaders from the League of Women Voters from around the country, corporate CEO’s and executives, local business leaders, grassroots leaders, and also Members of Congress. They are Democrat and Republican. The Sisters on the Planet Ambassadors Program is currently 277 strong.
What’s most important is that they profoundly understand that at the core of the solutions for addressing global hunger and poverty issues means empowering and engaging women. They know that targeting women can have a greater impact on poverty than targeting men. Like Secretary Hilary Clinton said earlier this week in a speech at the UN focused on women and food security, it comes down to a simple matter of numbers:
Women make up the majority of the agricultural workforce in many developing countries. They’re involved in every aspect of agricultural production, from planting seeds to weeding fields to harvesting crops. Yet women farmers are 30 percent less productive than male farmers, for one reason: they have access to fewer resources. They certainly work as hard and they, like farmers everywhere, are at the mercy of nature. But these women have less fertilizer, fewer tools, poorer quality seeds, less access to training and the ownership of land.
As a result, they grow fewer crops, which means less food is available at markets, more people go hungry, farmers earn less money, and we’re back in to that vicious cycle. The production gap between men and women farmers disappears when that resource gap is closed. If all farmers, men and women, had access to the same resources, we could increase agricultural output by 20 to 30 percent. That would feed an additional 150 million people every year.
And the incomes of women farmers would increase, which means more financial security for their families and more money circulating in local economies, which in turn will help other businesses grow. Furthermore, because women tend to devote more of their money to the health, education, and nutrition of their children, a rise in their incomes pays off over generations.
But we won’t get there without poverty-fighting, life-saving programs and that is the immediate challenge, especially here in Washington. But with challenge comes opportunity, and these American women leaders are taking action today, lending their names to show that there is support for life-saving foreign aid. Will you add yours?