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How Trump’s latest budget impacts women and girls, from classrooms to cops

When news surfaced earlier this week indicating that the Trump administration plans to completely eliminate the small $8 million budget for the Office for Global Women’s Issues — while doubling the military’s budget — reaction was immediate.

“An insult to women and girls everywhere,” said Bustle. “What does Ivanka have to say about this?” asked Teen Vogue. Neither the Republican Congress nor the military think it’s smart policy, Foreign Policy magazine reported.

“We have strong allies on the hill with the military and religious groups who get this issue,” Carla Koppell told us. She was USAID’s first senior coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.

The office at the State Department is an advocacy and research office that advances an idea: that the widespread oppression of women and girls economically, politically and socially undermines national stability and security — and leads to problems the US spends a lot to combat. That includes things like terrorism, migration, conflict and poverty. The office is staffed by about 20.

Erasing that voice inside the Beltway would be devastating. But there’s an even bigger concern looming — the real money spent by the government to empower women and girls is the more than $1 billion in spending dedicated to programming for women and girls in USAID’s budget each year. That money could hit the chopping block this summer during budget negotiations.  Trump has threatened to slash State and USAID budgets by 40 percent. The budget should to be finalized in September.

During the election last October, Across Women’s Lives analyzed the $1 billion the US spent in 2015 for women and girls. Here’s a few of the highlights of what we found:

One single country typically receives almost 20 percent of all global aid for women and girls. That’s Afghanistan. In 2017, it received $253 million to empower women and girls — an amount higher than the aid allocated for all countries in Europe, Central and South America combined.

What’s important to note is that the funds have a dual goal of also shoring up US military efforts, the costs of which are tens of billions of dollars each year.

“It’s a tool in the toolbox of strategies ensuring that we advance security and prosperity globally,” says Susan Markham, former head of gender programs at USAID. “If it’s disassembled, it misunderstands the point of the investment.”

This argument that women’s empowerment has strategic value has won Pentagon converts. In 2016, the Military Journal PRISM dedicated an entire issue to the research and data connecting women’s status with security. This month, Military Review did the same.

“Compare those societies that respect women and those which don’t,” suggests Donald Steinberg, formerly of International Crisis Group and now heading World Learning. “Who’s trafficking in weapons, drugs? Who’s harboring terrorists and starting pandemics? Whose problems require US troops on the ground? There’s a one-to-one correspondence. Don’t tell me there’s no relationship between national security and the empowerment of women.”

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[Photo Credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters]
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