U.S. Foreign Aid, Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

Dining for Women is collaborating with Oxfam to elevate the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment in U.S. foreign aid. Oxfam, a global social justice organization working to end extreme poverty, offers resources and a depth of experience in this field that is valuable to Dining for Women as we develop our Grassroots Advocacy Program. We, in turn, have an extensive network of members passionate about improving the lives of women and girls in developing nations. By combining forces, we can increase the emphasis on U.S. foreign aid focusing on gender equality.



Understanding the International Affairs Piece of the Federal Budget Pie

By Nancy Jacobsen, member of DFW’s Advocacy Committee and the CA, Tiburon-1 chapter

Remember the pie chart from the Advocacy Committee blog in the September issue of The Dish? Many of you may have been surprised to learn that only 1% of the U.S. federal budget goes to international affairs. This month, we are going to dive more deeply into how that 1% is broken down and how the federal budget, including the amount designated for international affairs, is determined. It is important to know how this process works if we are to understand how we, as DFW members, can make an impact on behalf of women and girls. Details


U.S. Foreign Aid: Dispelling the Myths

In Tajikistan, Mahkfirat Saidrahmonova is showing other women in her community what it takes to successfully run subsistence farms thanks to a program called Feed the Future.

In Afghanistan, a challenging but rewarding internship program is providing Sayeda Korga with job skills that will give her independence and economic security as part of a program called Promote: Women in Government.

In more than 80 countries around the world, a network of projects on behalf of women and girls is promoting policies to ensure greater gender equality and empowerment.

Do these projects sound familiar? They should, as they are similar to the work that Dining for Women and its members support every month. But these are not programs supported by nonprofits like DFW and its grantees; rather, they are supported through a variety of government agencies and are part of what is commonly called foreign aid or foreign assistance.

What is U.S. foreign aid?

Foreign aid is a broad term that covers the many types of assistance that the U.S. gives to other countries. For example, foreign aid is used to fight terrorism and the illicit drug trade, provide disaster relief, vaccines, education and clean water, and stimulate economic development.

Why does the U.S. give aid to countries?

The purpose of U.S. foreign aid has changed over the decades since the modern-day concept of development assistance took shape with the Marshall Plan after World War II. The Marshall Plan provided financial and technical assistance to Europe to rebuild its infrastructure and economy and stabilize the region following the war.

In the sixties, our priority was creating markets for our products and fighting communism by reducing poverty. This time period became known as the “decade of development” with the creation of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Peace Corps. In the seventies, our aid focused on basic human needs, and in the eighties, it turned to improving free markets.

Today, the U.S. gives aid to countries for many reasons, including:

  • National Security – Aid can support efforts to reduce poverty and injustice, which fuel social tensions and destabilize countries.
  • Economic Interests – Aid can generate demand for U.S. goods and services and help build stable trading partners.
  • Goodwill – Providing aid can help advance human rights and democracy and demonstrate the goodwill of the American people.

How much does the U.S. spend on foreign aid?

 What do you think? If you are like the majority of Americans, you probably overestimate how much money the U.S. government spends on foreign aid. One of the greatest myths is that the U.S. spends as much as 30 percent of the federal budget on foreign aid to poor countries. This is absolutely untrue.

The entire international affairs budget,

which includes both diplomacy and development,

is only about 1 percent of the total federal budget.

And only half of that is poverty-reducing foreign aid.

In terms of absolute dollars, the U.S. is the largest development aid donor in the world, investing $33.59 billion in official development assistance in 2016. (Source:  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD) However, when you look at this contribution as a percentage of gross national income, the U.S. is in 20th place, behind Canada, the United Kingdom, and the top contributor, Sweden. Click here to see the full country list.

The U.S. currently spends nearly 50% less on foreign assistance today as a percentage of GDP than during the Reagan years from 1981-1989.  (Source: U.S. Global Leadership Coalition)

Has U.S. foreign aid been effective?

According to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, U.S. development and humanitarian programs save lives. Millions of people are alive today thanks to U.S. assistance to fight HIV/AIDs, malaria, and hunger. Here are a few impressive results:

  • Over the last 25 years, U.S. aid has helped cut extreme poverty in half around the world.
  • The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) alone has saved more than 11 million lives and prevented nearly 2 million babies from being born with HIV.
  • The world has seen a 99% reduction in polio cases, thanks to U.S. supported global vaccination programs.

Why should DFW members care about U.S. foreign aid?

The needs of the world’s poorest women and girls are too great for any one government or nonprofit to address. We at DFW are doing our part. Thanks to our generous and committed members, DFW will contribute more than $1 million to grassroots organizations this year. We have invested nearly $6 million since our inception – something that should make us all very proud.

DFW believes that the U.S. government must continue to do its part to end illiteracy, poor health care, violence, gender inequality, and lack of opportunity for women and girls. To eradicate poverty and achieve gender equity worldwide, we need to have a multi-pronged effort that includes both private charitable donations, like those given generously by our DFW members, and foreign assistance provided by the U.S. government.

The future of U.S. foreign aid, however, is uncertain as our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. grapple with a budget for the next fiscal year. In the coming months, we will talk about the U.S. international affairs budget, how it benefits women and girls around the world, and the potential impact of budget cuts.

U.S. Foreign Assistance: An Issue for Women and Girls

By Betsy Dunklin, Dining for Women Advocacy Committee Chair

Did you see that ecstatic dance of joy at the end of the video on Mali Health, our May grantee? It epitomizes what Dining for Women members often note, that despite extreme poverty and oppression, these women find happiness from their new-found skills, their support of one another, and, perhaps most of all, a sense of power and control over their own lives. And they use this to change the power dynamics within their families, their communities, and their nations. Details

Betsy Dunklin

Advocacy: A Best Practice to Change the World

By Betsy Dunklin, DFW Advocacy Committee Chair

When our board of directors adopted advocacy as one of DFW’s four programs, it put into place something that many members have been requesting for years. In fact, at DFW’s national conference in 2013, members called for a plan to add our voices to our dollars. They wanted DFW to have a larger role, through advocacy, in setting U.S. public policy related to poverty and inequality for women and girls in developing nations. Making advocacy part of DFW’s 2020 Vision is exciting because it means we can make an even bigger impact — by combining our collective donations, our collective knowledge, and our collective voices! Details

Our 2020 Vision Achievements

In looking at what DFW has achieved towards our 2020 Vision, the pieces that stand out the most over this year are our partnership with the Peace Corps’ Let Girls Learn Program, welcoming the voices of our members into more areas of decision making than ever before through committees and volunteering, and continuing to present life-changing and inspiring projects and issue education for our members.  I’m excited to share a more in-depth look at our achievements. Details


New Committees Set Up to Advance Our 2020 Vision

We are very excited to announce our latest steps toward achieving DFW’s 2020 Vision.  We are launching a new Operational Committee structure which will allow our members to engage more in the decision-making processes of DFW and influence the directions we will take in the future. Details


Dining for Women’s Theory of Change

As the board and I worked to culminate the voices of members, leadership volunteers, and staff for the 2020 Vision, we had to look hard at the desires of the future.  Most importantly, we had to understand what Dining for Women is trying to change.  This instigated a very interesting discussion because, as we have been pointing out throughout this year, there are many points of change in our model.  As we pursue our vision of change, we recognize that Dining for Women must create a number of transformations along the way: Details


DFW’s 4 Programs Add Up to Big Impact

In my very first week at Dining for Women, I sat around a table with our Board of Directors while Barb Collins, Board Chair and Co-Founder, asked each of us to share our “Dining for Women Story”. It was my first time meeting Anne Capestrain, but she told a story I will never forget. She shared how DFW had given her the opportunity to be a part of other women’s lives and, in doing so, she was inspired and her life had been transformed. I have visited about 50 chapters this year and have heard similar stories across the country.



Setting Our Course for 2020

A Special Message from DFW’s Board of Directors

Over the past year, our Board has been listening to and reflecting on many points of view from our members, our volunteer leaders, committee members, and our staff.   From this, a dream has emerged for the future of our organization, and we want to share it with you.

As DFW members and supporters, we know that you share our passion for improving the lives of women and girls around the world through gender equity and empowerment. No matter how far apart we live, or what our life experiences are, we are all connected in deep and meaningful ways because of our shared vision for what we want DFW to accomplish, and what it brings to each of us in terms of heartfelt connection with each other and the broader world.


Soure: CNN

Safety and security far from the reality of women caught in civil war

Women and children in conflict zones around the world are far more likely to be killed, raped, injured and torn from their homes than actual combatants. The Women Peace and Security Act offers protection for women on the ground and a seat at the negotiating table. But it is languishing in Congress. What can DFW do to help?


Is there hope for the International Violence Against Women Act



DFW Co-Founder

DFW recognizes that our mission of making a meaningful difference in the lives of women living in extreme poverty cannot be separate from our commitment to promote gender equality.

This is reflected in our recently revised vision statement: “We envision a world in which millions of lives have been transformed and extreme poverty has been reduced because Dining for Women has connected people in creative, powerful ways that assure gender equality. “

One of the most prevalent symptoms of gender inequality is gender-based violence. As Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn explained in the introduction to their book, Half the Sky, more women have been killed just because they are women than all the men killed in all the world wars of the 20th century combined.

Harmful practices like sex-selective abortion, female infanticide, suicide, honor killings, bride burnings, and rape are all components of gender-based violence. Estimates are that up to one in three women will be a victim of gender violence at some point, and in some countries, as many as 70 percent of women are victims. Gender-based violence, one of the most egregious of human rights violations, is a public health crisis and a barrier to some of the world’s greatest challenges: eradication of HIV and AIDS, extreme poverty and political stability in some of the world’s most conflict- ridden countries. Details

In the US and the world, the fight for women’s rights does not end

Gloria Steinem, far right, with (from the left) Diane Wege Sherodan, Marsha Wallace, Elizabeth Howard, Jessica Neuwirth and Joan Davidson.

Gloria Steinem, far right, with (from the left) Diane Wege Sherodan, Marsha Wallace, Elizabeth Howard, Jessica Neuwirth and Joan Davidson.

By Marsha Wallace
Co-Founder, Dining for Women

My recent tour of the Northeast region was a dream come true,. It began with visits to the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y., and Susan B. Anthony’s home in Rochester, and ended with dinner at friend’s apartment in New York City, where I had the privilege of spending the evening with Gloria Steinem.

I was thrilled to be able to share the mission of DFW with Steinem, who remarked that our model of fostering meaningful connections and thought-provoking dialogue among our members “is how the feminist movement gained momentum. …Making enough room for discussion is critical for deepening our understanding of the issues.” Details

Speaking Truth to Power: How to be an Effective Advocate

Nancy Delaney 2_0 Nancy Delaney 1





By Laura Haight
DFW Communications Director

If you talked to your child’s teacher, questioned your doctor or sent a letter to the editor of your paper, then you have acted as an advocate.
“We are each advocating for a host of important community and personal issues every single day,” noted Nancy Delaney, manager of community engagement for Oxfam America. “As members of the Dining for Women community, you’ve each become advocates for the women and girls whose lives and dreams you support.” Details