Women farmers in Liberia receive cassava cuttings, tools, boots, a wheelbarrow and agriculture training from the USAID Food and Enterprise Development Program. A slight but significant change in language in the omnibus spending bill ensures that the $150 million for efforts against gender-based violence is an express authorization, not a mere nonbinding mandate. Photo by: Nico Parkinson / USAID FED / CC BY-NC-ND

The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act 2015 could spell a difference in how the United States integrates gender into its development assistance.

Section 7059 of the omnibus spending bill states that at least $50 million will be devoted toward promoting women's leadership and at least $150 million will be channeled toward implementing a multiyear strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.

These funding levels are equal to last year’s appropriations. A slight but significant change in language in the spending bill, however, ensures that the $150 million for efforts against gender-based violence is an express authorization, not a mere nonbinding mandate.

Funding is just one facet of safeguarding the efforts needed to deliver the United States’ gender-focused aid. Christine Hart, senior manager of policy at Women Thrive Worldwide, told Devex that they expect more resources devoted to staff for technical training on gender; greater transparency surrounding the disbursement of funds for gender-related programs; and an increased focus on female empowerment through the engagement of civil society, including subgranting and procurement processes.

“Organizations on the ground are the best placed to provide insight into gender dynamics and related challenges, as well as helping to identify opportunities and key areas and conduits for potential intervention,” Hart said.

Providing the tools necessary for conducting gender analyses and gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation should be another priority.

“We know that a lot of agencies are struggling with how to do gender well, and [the U.S. Agency for International Development] has an important role to play in providing guidance through tools such as their sector-specific toolkits on integrating gender-based violence prevention and response across sectors,” Hart said.

More importantly, the full implementation of the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally — a blueprint that requires coordination across U.S. agencies worldwide — should be strengthened, especially since gender-based violence is a cross-cutting issue that “has an impact on development outcomes across sectors and is a critical component of humanitarian response efforts,” according to Hart.

The United States has been improving the way it delivers — and reports — gender-focused assistance. In 2011, the United States refined its assignment of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s gender policy marker, which counts activities that “target women specifically, men specifically, or both men and women.” It was also in 2011 when the Millennium Challenge Corp. added Gender Integration Guidelines to the implementation of its gender policy, as well as included a gender-focused indicator in its country scorecards.

A recent report from Women Thrive Worldwide notes that USAID has built a solid enabling environment to disseminate gender knowledge across various sectors. The agency, according to the women-focused nonprofit, has also enhanced its reporting on gender-specific outcomes and has significantly scaled up the collection and analysis of sex-disaggregated data.

Under the tenure of Rajiv Shah, who recently announced his departure from USAID, the aid agency created and started to implement a gender equality and female empowerment policy — a huge step for an institution that traditionally has not had gender as a focus of its projects.

“We’ve already seen enormous changes in the delivery of U.S. foreign assistance in terms of addressing gender more consistently and effectively,” Hart said. “USAID, in particular, has done a tremendous job of beginning the process to change agency culture around gender.”

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About the author

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    Anna Patricia Valerio

    Anna Patricia Valerio is a former Manila-based development analyst who focused on writing innovative, in-the-know content for senior executives in the international development community. Before joining Devex, Patricia wrote and edited business, technology and health stories for BusinessWorld, a Manila-based business newspaper.