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Trump’s Global As­sault on Women, Peace, and Global Pros­per­ity

Bitch: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture - - THE FACTS ISSUE - By hi­lary mat­fess

Se­cur­ing the fu­ture of women is strong for­eign pol­icy.

In early May, it was re­ported that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion planned to cut Barack and Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn pro­gram, which launched in 2015 to in­crease ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion for girls around the world. The an­nounce­ment was met with shock and dis­dain—and im­me­di­ately de­nied by the Depart­ment of State.

The agency re­leased a state­ment as­sert­ing that “The Ad­min­is­tra­tion sup­ports poli­cies and pro­grams to em­power ado­les­cent girls, in­clud­ing ef­forts to ed­u­cate them through the com­ple­tion of secondary school.” Many in the devel­op­ment com­mu­nity breathed a sigh of re­lief: Girls’ ed­u­ca­tion is one of the few is­sues that re­mains bi­par­ti­san, in no small part be­cause of the abun­dance of ev­i­dence that coun­tries with ed­u­cated girls are more sta­ble and pros­per­ous than those with­out. Just a few weeks later, how­ever, the White House re­leased a bud­get that takes care­ful aim at projects cre­ated specif­i­cally to aid women and girls—clearly demon­strat­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s lack of con­cern for girls’ wel­fare.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posed bud­get is also a reversal of Amer­ica’s decades-long com­mit­ment to women’s rights as a key component of for­eign pol­icy—and a quiet threat to the in­ter­na­tional health and safety of girls. Un­like the re­in­state­ment of the “global gag rule,” a par­ti­san move that pre­vents over­seas or­ga­ni­za­tions that dis­cuss abor­tion from re­ceiv­ing Amer­i­can aid, Trump’s bud­get guts women’s em­pow­er­ment and health pro­grams that have re­ceived ac­claim from both sides of the aisle. Ox­fam Amer­ica found that “pro­grams with an exclusive fo­cus on gen­der equal­ity and women’s em­pow­er­ment are cut by 61 per­cent in the Trump Bud­get—much higher than the over­all 32 per­cent cut to in­ter­na­tional af­fairs.”

Even global health pro­grams with a gen­der component have been cut by more than 26 per­cent. The pro­posed bud­get ter­mi­nates the Am­bas­sador-at-large for Global Women’s Is­sues, a State Depart­ment–based po­si­tion that is crit­i­cal in co­or­di­nat­ing women’s pro­gram­ming in ev­ery coun­try where the United States has a diplo­matic pres­ence. The role was a means of em­pha­siz­ing the U.S.’S com­mit­ment to rais­ing the sta­tus of women’s is­sues. Lyric Thomp­son, the di­rec­tor of pol­icy at the In­ter­na­tional Cen­ter for Re­search on Women, told the Chicago Tri­bune that elim­i­nat­ing the pro­gram— which costs the fed­eral gov­ern­ment a mere $8.25 mil­lion ev­ery year—“is essen­tially say­ing ‘off with her head’ to ev­ery­thing that we’ve built over th­ese years.”

The Trump bud­get also elim­i­nates the $607.5 mil­lion that the United States in­vests an­nu­ally in pro­vid­ing women abroad with re­pro­duc­tive health­care and birth con­trol. The cuts were jus­ti­fied as a cost-sav­ing mea­sure, but to put this pur­ported sav­ings in per­spec­tive, Trump’s bud­get calls for a $54 bil­lion in­crease in de­fense spend­ing.

But th­ese cuts are not just cruel—they’re also coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to Amer­i­can in­ter­ests abroad. Even Trump’s own Sec­re­tary of De­fense, James “Mad Dog” Mat­tis, told Con­gress in 2013, “If you don’t fund the State Depart­ment fully, then I need to buy more am­mu­ni­tion ul­ti­mately.” Draw­ing down fund­ing from the State Depart­ment and devel­op­ment pro­grams to fi­nance the Depart­ment of De­fense will, iron­i­cally, cre­ate a sit­u­a­tion in which a mil­i­tary re­sponse is nec­es­sary. This is not merely a mat­ter of opin­ion, but an em­pir­i­cally backed ob­ser­va­tion from the most re­cent re­search on the driv­ers of global con­flict.

A May 2017 re­port by the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion Fu­tures With­out Vi­o­lence pulled to­gether the most re­cent re­search on the ef­fects of women’s op­pres­sion and gen­der­based vi­o­lence, and the con­clu­sion was clear: Im­prov­ing the po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, and so­cial sta­tus of women and girls leads to more sta­ble and pros­per­ous coun­tries. The link be­tween eco­nom­i­cally em­pow­ered women and eco­nomic devel­op­ment is in­tu­itive and well-doc­u­mented: Stud­ies have demon­strated that an ex­tra year of school­ing beyond the av­er­age can in­crease women’s wages by up to 20 per­cent, while the World Bank es­ti­mates that a one-per­cent in­crease in women with a secondary ed­u­ca­tion can raise a coun­try’s an­nual per-capita in­come growth by 0.3 per­cent. Keep­ing girls in school re­quires not only mak­ing schools and teach­ers ac­ces­si­ble, but also en­sur­ing that girls feel safe and able to con­trol their fer­til­ity to pur­sue their ed­u­ca­tion—both ob­jec­tives that Amer­i­can for­eign aid has sup­ported for more than two decades. Slash­ing sup­port to women’s re­pro­duc­tive health and em­pow­er­ment pro­grams will not only rob th­ese women of bod­ily au­ton­omy and ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties, it will ham­string their lo­cal and na­tional economies.

In ad­di­tion to the eco­nomic damage done, there is com­pelling ev­i­dence that cutting th­ese sorts of pro­grams en­dan­gers Amer­ica’s na­tional se­cu­rity. Af­ter sur­vey­ing more than

175 coun­tries and ex­am­in­ing more than 300 met­rics, Va­lerie Hud­son, a pro­fes­sor at Texas A&M Univer­sity, con­cluded that “the very best pre­dic­tor of how in­se­cure and un­sta­ble a nation is not its level of democ­racy, it’s not its level of wealth, it’s not what ‘Hunt­ing­ton civ­i­liza­tion’ it be­longs to, but is in fact best pre­dicted by the level of vi­o­lence against women in the so­ci­ety.” And in a 2017 study on the “Hil­lary Doc­trine,” which re­searchers Ni­lay Saiya, Tas­neem Zaihra, and Joshua Fi­dler de­scribed as the idea that “Hil­lary Clin­ton has long main­tained that the sub­ju­ga­tion of women poses a na­tional se­cu­rity threat to the United States,” it was found that im­prov­ing women’s rights in a coun­try ac­tu­ally de­creased the like­li­hood of an anti-amer­i­can ter­ror­ist at­tack em­a­nat­ing from said coun­try. Those who write off women’s se­cu­rity and rights as a “soft” for­eign-pol­icy ob­jec­tive, or con­sider them to be mar­ginal to Amer­i­can in­ter­ests, are ig­nor­ing strik­ing em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence to the con­trary.

Not only do th­ese pro­grams lit­er­ally save women’s lives while build­ing more eco­nom­i­cally re­silient and se­cure com­mu­ni­ties, but they’re also among the most cost-ef­fec­tive devel­op­ment pro­grams. The High-level Task Force for the In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence on Pop­u­la­tion and Devel­op­ment iden­ti­fied re­duc­ing gen­der-based vi­o­lence, pro­mot­ing gen­der equal­ity, and im­prov­ing sexual and re­pro­duc­tive health rights as “key smart in­vest­ments.” The Cen­ter for Global Devel­op­ment es­ti­mated that the to­tal cost of a “Health, Sex­u­al­ity, and Gen­der Ed­u­ca­tion Pack­age”— which in­cludes ed­u­cat­ing girls about risks to their sexual health through me­dia, es­say con­tests, and de­bates, as well as train­ing teach­ers on rel­e­vant top­ics—is just over $6 per girl per year for ado­les­cent girls in low and low-mid­dle in­come coun­tries such as Nige­ria and South Su­dan. The re­port also es­ti­mated that it would cost less than $9 a year per girl to fund a pro­gram that in­cludes ev­ery­thing from treat­ment for stis, youth out­reach, test­ing and coun­sel­ing for hiv, and the train­ing of health work­ers. Just as an ounce of pre­ven­tion is worth a pound of cure, fund­ing pro­grams that em­power girls and women is sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper than the al­ter­na­tive of re­spond­ing too late to chron­i­cally un­der­de­vel­oped and un­sta­ble coun­tries.


The emer­gent “Trump Doc­trine,” in which the fund­ing for pro­grams ben­e­fit­ing women and girls is ze­roed out to in­crease the mil­i­tary’s bud­get, will in­crease global in­se­cu­rity. The bur­den of the doc­trine will be borne not only by the mil­lions of women world­wide who de­pend on Amer­i­can sup­port for re­pro­duc­tive health­care and ed­u­ca­tion, but also by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, which will have to grap­ple with less pros­per­ous, more un­sta­ble coun­tries. Joe Bi­den fa­mously quipped, quot­ing his fa­ther, “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your bud­get, and I’ll tell you what you value.” This ad­min­is­tra­tion’s short­sighted, cruel bud­getary pro­posal demon­strates more than a lack of con­cern for women’s is­sues— it amounts to a dec­la­ra­tion of war on women and girls world­wide.

HI­LARY MAT­FESS is a se­nior pro­gram of­fi­cer with the Cen­ter for Democ­racy and Devel­op­ment in Nige­ria, a re­search an­a­lyst, and a free­lance jour­nal­ist. Her work fo­cuses on the in­ter­sec­tion of governance, se­cu­rity, and gen­der in sub-sa­ha­ran Africa. Her book Women and the War on Boko Haram will be avail­able from Zed Books in Novem­ber 2017. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @hi­lary­mat­fess.

GLOBAL EF­FECTS OF TRUMP AD­MIN­IS­TRA­TION ON RE­PRO­DUC­TIVE HEALTH* 6.5 mil­lion 8 mil­lion 4.3 mil­lion 3.3 mil­lion Abor­tions: 7.6 mil­lion

Un­in­tended Preg­nan­cies: 14.5 mil­lion Un­der Global Gag Rule With the elim­i­na­tion of birth con­trol and re­pro­duc­tive rights fund­ing 21,700 15,000 Ma­ter­nal Death: 36,700

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