What makes it #WorthThePenny?

What makes it #WorthThePenny?

4/17/17

Last year, I was given the great privilege of being part of a CARE Learning Tour to Benin.  The opportunity to be an eyewitness to CARE’s programs and US foreign aid, turned me from a committed advocate to a fierce champion.  I went from a place of theoretical belief, to being blown away by the sheer effectiveness of these programs and services. 

I can no longer tolerate the nonsensical rhetoric about cutting the foreign affairs budget, which constitute less than 1% of the total United States budget.  The effectiveness of this infinitesimal amount of money is exponential. I am so proud of my New Hampshire Senator, Jeanne Shaheen. I can remain hopeful because she is there. She is taking on the challenge in a meaningful, practical, largely bi-partisan way.  She is asking the right questions and demanding thoughtful responses.  When some of us were just beginning to understand the ramifications of the executive order to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, she had already introduced bi-partisan legislation for its permanent repeal.  She is extremely aware of the global humanitarian crisis and its effect, particularly on women and girls

As Senator Shaheen stated in remarks during a recent hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “We know that pregnancy related deaths and instances of sex violence soar in times of upheaval. That in 2015 the UN estimated that 61% of maternal deaths took place in humanitarian crises and fragile settings where health services were not available to women.”  One fourth of the approximately 129 million people around the world in need of humanitarian assistance are women and girls of reproductive age.  During a humanitarian crisis of this magnitude, they are at extremely high risk of harm, especially increased threats to sexual and reproductive health.  The fraction of the 1% of the US aid budget that went towards family planning in 2015, gave 27 million women and couples access to contraceptives; prevented more than 2 million unsafe abortions; 6 million unintended pregnancies; and helped prevent 11,000 maternal deaths worldwide.

Research has proven that when foreign aid is cut, it is woman and girls who suffer the most. A few staggering facts I have learned through my advocacy have been:

Every 2 seconds, a girl younger than 18 is forced into marriage somewhere in the world?

Girls with no education are three times more likely to wed early than girls who have completed secondary school?

A girl’s income potential increases by 20% for every school year she completes beyond fourth grade?

Child brides are more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s?  

During my trip to Benin, I was shown how immediate the impact of the programs is, how far reaching and how long lasting I saw a savings and loan program that empowered women to start their own businesses, that provided a role model to young girls AND boys, that enabled villages to provide for themselves in times of crisis, that provided lifesaving education. I learned that one piece of machinery that could turn an entire village into a producer of value added Ag products, in turn providing for a greater economy, more time and better nutrition resulting in decreased child stunting. I understand mobile technology can save the lives of hundreds of women and babies in the remotest villages and family planning services –can change the course, not just of a woman’s life, but that of her husband and her children What I saw for myself and became to understand is when a woman is empowered economically, there is a near immediate benefit to the children and the entire community. I have lived and travelled all over the world since I was a kid and the United States has always been a first responder, a leader in times of crisis, a believer in humanitarian support, and a big believer in the goal of self-reliance.  If we are ever to live in a world where there is stability, prosperity and equality, it won’t be achieved by ignoring the leadership role the US must take for the sake of political ideology.   #WORTHTHEPENNY

Dawn Wivell, New Hampshire State Chair