Our Message to Congress: Protect the International Affairs Budget
by Ellen Carmichael, CARE
With the U.S. elections behind us we are asking ourselves what the elections mean for our collective fight against global poverty and the roughly 1% of the federal budget that is devoted to foreign assistance, including support for global education. As the budget debates commence in Washington it is important for us to highlight the value of investing in global education.
CARE's work has shown that educating women and girls is not only a critical human rights issue, but is also one of the most effective ways to spur development. An educated girl is less likely to live in extreme poverty and die during pregnancy or childbirth. An educated mother is more likely to have children who survive past their fifth birthday, attend school and are less malnourished.
A decent education provides children with the foundation they need to reach their full potential. It's a basic right that no child should be denied. Unfortunately, an estimated 61 million primary aged children around the world are out of school, and the majority of these children are girls. There is a global imperative to ensure that all children, particularly the most marginalized, have access to quality, equitable education
Take for example, CARE's Power to Lead Alliance, a three-year public-private partnership between CARE, the U.S. government and the private sector to promote girls leadership and education in vulnerable communities in six countries. Evaluations conducted of the initiative found robust evidence of and potential to impact girls' leadership development and shift community attitudes in favor of girls' education.
One of these countries was Tanzania, where CARE works with communities in remote areas to promote educational access. Through the Power to Lead Alliance, community perceptions of girls have changed significantly as girls have learned to confidently use public space to voice their concerns, including through participation in youth-led mock parliaments. Girls have begun using leadership skills at home to influence decisions - encouraging younger siblings to attend school, and talking to their parents about joining the village savings and loan program in order to get money for school fees.
Tanzania is not the only place CARE works to support girls' education. In 2011, CARE worked in 54 countries to provide more than 5 million people with improved access to education. CARE recognizes that girls need a foundation of knowledge, skills and experiences that will prepare them to take control of their lives. By combining education and leadership development CARE helps girls better articulate their needs, identify and address problems, make decisions and shape their futures. As a humanitarian organization working in over 80 countries around the world, CARE knows firsthand how critical United States foreign assistance programs are to addressing the underlying causes of poverty and meeting basic human needs in developing countries.
U.S. investments in programs, like CARE's Power to Lead Alliance, are a down-payment for peace and global stability. As Congress begins to tackle the looming ‘fiscal cliff,' including addressing the sequestration and likely finalizing the FY13 appropriations bill, CARE and our partners will demonstrate that the federal budget cannot be balanced through cuts to U.S. foreign assistance.
Show your support for the international affairs budget: contact your members of Congress and urge them to support a strong international affairs budget and oppose additional, disproportionate cuts to U.S. foreign assistance. With your help, we will protect the roughly 1% of the federal budget spent on foreign assistance, including support for global education projects, in the FY13 budget and prepare for similar debates in the 113th Congress.
Ellen Carmichael is a Field Coordinator with CARE's Policy and Advocacy Unit.