My One Cent: Tamara Shukakidze
My One Cent: Tamara Shukakidze
Tamara Shukakidze is Deputy Director of Strategy for CARE USA’s Emergency and Humanitarian Assistance Team. She recently returned from four weeks in Nigeria and we met up at the National CARE Conference in Washington D.C. where we had the chance to ask: Tamara, why do you care about foreign assistance? This is Tamara’s "One cent":
In my job, I deal with lots of emergencies every day. I spent about 5-and-a-half years in Haiti and I just recently returned from Nigeria, which is another hotspot that’s facing famine, conflict and insurgency. I basically work with the region and our country offices to identify how to improve a country’s humanitarian response program and identify better, more innovative partnerships. We help link them to the Sustainable Development Goal strategy that CARE has adopted for 2020, which is all about working with local structures, reaching more people, identifying different ways of doing business and typically becoming more active at the humanitarian response. My role is to facilitate those linkages, identify technical and financial resources and plug them in where possible.
Physically I’m based in Washington D.C., but lately I’ve been traveling so much that I see airports being my duty station. I just spent four weeks in Nigeria helping CARE set up a brand new country office where we will be running programs, supporting women and girls as well as the most affected population. I was there scoping out our programming strategy, working with partners and identifying what CARE’s niche would be, where can we really reach impact. We’re always asking what can we do differently so that our presence makes a difference in the lives of those who are most affected.
I came to the conference this year to support our colleagues who are running it but also as an opportunity to network with other people, meet our advocates and link with people who do this as part of their voluntary contribution. They have passion and feel really strongly about everything we’re trying to achieve through legal and policy-level discussions. It’s rewarding to hear some of those people, but also to expose them to some of our achievements so they understand they are part of the bigger picture. It’s not just their single attempt in one of the states. Our advocates' efforts are part of an overarching framework and they contribute a lot.
Good examples are food aid reform and funding for food aid programs that CARE, with the support of its advocates, really pushed for. In response to their advocacy efforts, Congress made an unprecedented allocation of an additional billion dollars, which was in no way expected. These funds are critical for saving lives and for helping impoverished countries develop their own capabilities. In Haiti, for example, we run a huge social protection program and we’ve supported the government of Haiti by putting together a system that identifies the most vulnerable families, the ones who are on the verge of critical food insecurity situations. We enroll them into a system that provides support through vouchers with access to nutritious food and then continue that support with other projects, programs or services. Those programs rely heavily on funding that comes from institutional donors or governments, including Europe and the United States. Funding cuts like the ones the new Administration is proposing mean that millions of people that we’re currently supporting will be left without help. These are programs that really alleviate suffering and provide opportunities for people to thrive so that the poverty is not inherited through generations. It’s not a lot, considering the security it provides. In Haiti, the program is about 80 million dollars over four years to enhance the government’s capacity to become independent and to run the whole social safety net system without CARE’s handholding. That’s how we provide sustainable solutions.
That’s where voices of people, like our key advocates who are present at the conference, really make a big difference. When it comes, just beyond an NGO, a non-governmental organization, and it is a passion of the constituents, it really makes a difference as to where the taxpayer dollar is invested.
I think that advocacy doesn’t start and stop with the Hill and it has to continue as part of your community, your smaller circles because it is awareness-raising, which has to penetrate all across the country. Tolerance and acceptance of refugees is not only the problem of the Hill. It has to be part of a nationwide movement. My sincere recommendation and wish would be that those people who leave the conference, go back to their places, their neighborhoods, and really are the role models and champions of some of the key messages so that they have more supporters and people who share those values and principles around them because it takes more than one voice and the more we are, the better and stronger change is. Yes, we re looking for transformative change and it doesn’t happen with only one person. It has to be infectious and I guess that’s where I see the strength of people that are spread across the nation.