What does girls' education in Bangladesh have to do with global security? A lot.

What does girls' education in Bangladesh have to do with global security? A lot.

3/2/17

Just a few days ago, I got home from a week in Bangladesh where I traveled with a delegation of congressional staff and other influencers to see first-hand the development work that CARE and our partners are doing on the ground. I had the opportunity to see programs that provide education to young kids who have fallen through the cracks of the formal schooling system. Where teenage girls and boys are teaching their communities about the dangers of child marriage and convincing parents and elders to let girls finish school and not force them into marriage as minors. Where young women and mothers are joining together in a savings and loan program to gain financial independence and support each other through micro loans that have enabled them to start businesses and pay for health care. 

And throughout our visits to all these programs, I saw how modest funding was paying big dividends in creating more stable, prosperous communities where women and their families were gaining the tools to pull themselves out of poverty and become self sufficient. In Bangladesh and across the globe, these kinds of programs are saving millions of lives, increasing global security, improving the global economy, addressing the root causes of poverty, decreasing dependency, and building stronger, more resilient societies.

It's so inspiring to see this work in action. With every visit to countries where CARE works, I come home feeling incredibly energized and more committed than ever to advocating on behalf of global poverty and humanitarian programs. 

But this time, I also happened to come home to news reports that the president's budget will propose deep and disproportionate cuts to the funding that supports these very programs.  

Justifying cuts to foreign assistance is an easy argument to make: why spend money over there when we have significant problems here? It's easy, but it's horribly misguided. What I saw in Bangladesh, as I've seen in so many places around the world, is that investing in development is like preventative medicine. Our foreign assistance budget -- a mere 1% of federal spending -- helps to innoculate ourselves against the conflict, instability, economic shocks, pandemics and other social ills that arise from extreme poverty and threaten our security and prosperity as Americans. For just a single penny out of the federal budget dollar, we are creating a safer, better world for all of us. Cutting this 1% won't balance the budget and it won't make room for significant new spending in the U.S. What it would do is destroy our greatest tools for preventing crises before they start and responding to crises when they arise. It would bring to halt so much vital work being done to transform lives and transcend the entrenched poverty that causes so much conflict, violence and suffering in the world. 

The power of this single penny on the dollar is something that has long been embraced by leaders on both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol, and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.  Based on the response we've seen to the news reports on the budget proposal, that bipartisan support is still strong. But it's also clear that as advocates, we have a lot of convincing to do. We have to talk to our families, friends and neighbors about what this 1% is all about. Together, we have to make our voices heard in Washington. We have to tell the stories of why a young Bangladeshi girl in school, or a women’s-led savings group, or a nutrition program for mothers,are creating a brighter future for all of us.

Sign our petition. Then call your Representative, just to make sure they got the message. And then, tell a friend. Congress needs to hear from all of us that preserving this 1% of the budget is not just the right thing to do. It's the smart thing to do. 

 

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