Meng, Meeks, and Lee Issue Statement on USAID’s Revised Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy

Jan 11, 2021
Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (NY-06), Gregory Meeks (NY-05), and Barbara Lee (CA-13) issued the following statement after the U.S. Agency for International Development revealed its revised Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment policy which reverses decades of work by gender experts. Meng and Lee are members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. Meeks is Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. 
 
“Last Wednesday, USAID published its final Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy. We are concerned this document would adversely impact the lives of women and girls around the world and reverse decades of work by gender experts. We are particularly concerned about the agency’s effort to push this policy through despite voluminous concerns from Congress and the public.
 
The published policy excludes whole categories of people from its scope with no policy rationale. While there have been marginal improvements to this document, we are disappointed that the final policy remains neither inclusive nor intersectional. This new policy fails to recognize the existence and specific needs of LGBTI people or other marginalized groups, refusing to even reference LGBTI communities once throughout the policy. It breaks with decades of effort—led by the United States—to strengthen the globally recognized human rights approach and the treaties that define and strengthen human rights frameworks around the world. Lastly, it fails to recognize the critical role that comprehensive reproductive health plays in ensuring gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment. Family planning is exclusively discussed as an issue between spouses, while ignoring the importance of modern, evidence-based contraceptives. In fact, contraceptives are pushed aside as a footnote.  
 
In addition to concerns over the substance, we question the process and timeline of this final document. In August, Congress and civil society groups were given only six days to submit public comments to the draft policy. Despite the abbreviated time frame, 86 Members of Congress signed a letter providing guidance in good faith on how this policy could be improved. Finally, it is disingenuous for such a significant policy change to be announced with just two weeks left in this current Administration.
 
We urge the incoming Biden-Harris Administration to reject the implementation of this policy and, instead, to work with Congress and civil society groups to implement meaningful gender equality programming that reflects and builds on decades of evidence and experience. We stand ready to help.”