IFES Recommendations for USAID Gender Policy


A Libyan woman shows her ink-stained finger after voting. IFES' work in Libya is made possible with support from USAID through the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening.

In late August 2020, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) released its draft 2020 Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy and invited stakeholders to submit public comments on its content. USAID specifically asked about information on any major gaps in the policy, any places where information may not be current and whether clarification was needed on terminology or specific policy positions. Gender equality and women’s empowerment is a cornerstone in the International Foundation for Electoral Systems’ (IFES) work to build democracies that deliver for all. IFES submitted comments on the draft policy based on significant experience promoting gender equality worldwide in partnership with USAID and other partners.

Some key points included in IFES’ comments:

  • Definitions for “gender,” “gender identity” and “gender-based violence” should be included, as these definitions are necessary for a clear understanding of what the policy is seeking to address.
  • The term “unalienable rights” should be replaced with “human rights,” as the term “unalienable rights” is not agreed upon in national or international law, whereas “human rights” are clearly defined in international standards to which the U.S. is a party, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  • The application of an intersectional analytic lens must be applied and that the experiences of different women – especially including women who are part of other marginalized groups – should be considered, addressed and woven throughout the document.
  • The policy should specifically acknowledge the unique challenges of refugees and internally displaced people, the majority of whom are women and children.
  • The “democracy, human rights, and governance” section should focus more broadly on creating an enabling environment for women’s participation, rather than solely on empowering women to lead in politics.
  • The policy should acknowledge other forms of gender-based violence, including psychological, emotional and verbal abuse, threats, coercion and economic or educational deprivation.
  • In addition to a section on agency requirements, the policy should include a section on requirements for implementing partners to both reinforce existing requirements of implementing partners and ensure that gender equality is a part of all USAID and implementer efforts.
  • The policy should consider and address the needs and experiences of individuals from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community, in particular transgender women and individuals who do not conform to the gender binary.
  • While it is important to acknowledge all of the positive gains that will be realized in achieving gender equality – more successful development programs, economic prosperity and safer states and communities, among others – the policy should clearly articulate that the reason the U.S. promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment is because gender equality is a fundamental human right, enshrined in international treaties and in the values to which the American people aspire.

The new policy is meant to replace and update USAID’s Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy from 2012.

Media Contact: media@ifes.org

Published on August 26, 2020.

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