By Devon O’Reilly, April 13, 2017 —

In less than three months, the Trump administration has sent a clear message to the global community: The United States will no longer fund the fight to achieve gender equality worldwide.

It was predicted that the Trump administration would follow suit with previous Republican administrations and reinstate the “Global Gag” rule. Not only was the rule was reinstated within the first week of President Trump’s term, but the rule’s expansion to include all health assistance – a half-a-billion-dollars withholding from U.S. funding around the world – went beyond what most experts predicted. Similarly, it was anticipated that the current administration would defund the United Nations Population Fund, cutting seven percent from UNFPA’s entire budget and putting at risk the lives of thousands of women and girls around the world.

Though these actions mirror previous conservative administrations’ positions on women’s rights and health, the proposed drastic cuts to U.S. foreign assistance in the 2018 budget are a new and deeply troubling step away from U.S. leadership on gender equality.

Why is the proposed budget so troubling? 

In March, the “skinny budget” for Fiscal Year 2018 was released. This is a pared-down version of a federal budget that recommends a dramatic 28 percent budget reduction ($10.1 billion) from the previous year for the Department of State. This Department includes the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and together they direct U.S. funding and support towards addressing the world’s most pressing development challenges, like poverty, displacement, and inequality.

Next month, Congress will review a full federal budget for 2018 incorporating the recommendations set forth by the Trump administration’s “skinny budget.” During this time, Congress will review Function 150, the U.S.’ International Affairs Budget that “includes money allocated for aid for developing nations, and consequently where a significant amount of global poverty and hunger funding falls.”

Why are we concerned about Function 150?

Based on the Trump administration’s actions toward gender equality funding thus far, dramatic cuts to the Function 150 budget are not only anticipated but potentially worse than the 28 percent proposed cut the State Department as a whole. We at Women Thrive, along with our 264 members, are gravely concerned: any cuts to U.S. development financing are dangerous to the well-being of people around the world and the security of our nations.

Women Thrive, alongside 100 other development organizations, signed onto Inter Action’s “Community Endorsement Of FY2018 Recommendations,” an open letter to Congress urging a $60 billion budget for Function 150, of which $1.9 billion is recommended toward gender equality. This recommended $1.9 billion toward gender equality would only represent a 0.18 percent of the entire $1.065 trillion proposed federal budget.

While a unified voice of a hundred development organizations pushing for maintained and increased support of Function 150 is indispensable, we also firmly believe that voices from hundreds of organizations that will be directly affected by these cuts need to be heard, too.

This is why Women Thrive and our members will be pushing for the support of Congress on the Function 150 budget. We’re sharing our members’ priorities and voices directly with Congress to show the impact that U.S. development assistance and leadership has around the world, and why we can’t back down from the fight for gender equality.