DAI’s Anne Simmons-Benton to Speak on Female Empowerment on International Women’s Day Event at USAID

March 06, 2012

Anne Simmons-Benton, who heads up DAI’s Gender Working Group, will speak Thursday to approximately 150 attendees about techniques to economically empower the women of Afghanistan.

The event at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) headquarters in Washington, D.C., commemorates International Women’s Day, celebrated in countries around the world as a way to recognize the achievements of women.

USAID’s event focuses on the successes—and struggles—of Afghan women. DAI’s work in Afghanistan dates to 1976, and today we have seven projects operating across the country.

In Afghanistan as elsewhere, DAI’s approach is to treat gender not as a stand-alone project component but as core strategy thoughtfully integrated into programs. Last month, for example, our USAID-funded Agricultural Credit Enhancement Program, which facilitates the extension of credit to Afghan farmers, disbursed a loan to the Ghoryan Women Saffron Association, an organization representing 480 female farmers and beekeepers. This year, 95 members of the association will have access to finance that will enable them to purchase inputs such as seeds and fertilizwithout having to commit to sell their produce at low prices. Previously, women farmers had little to no bargaining power regarding prices, typically selling their produce at prices 20 to 30 percent lower as compared to those that did not receive or require cash advances. Timely access enables them to increase productivity and product quality.

This loan was the first under the Afghanistan Agricultural Development Fund’s Zahra Sharia-compliant financial product, which caters to the financial needs of rural women operating agribusinesses.

Before joining DAI, Simmons-Benton worked with the Women in Development Office at USAID in 2009 and created GenderCLIR—a methodology to analyze impediments for women in income generation and economic empowerment.

“I am passionate about empowering women in developing countries,” Simmons-Benton said. “Working with development partners to understand the business case of why you need to invest in women, how international trade is gender-blind, and how to eliminate legal policies and other impediments to women’s economic empowerment is always rewarding. The nexus of economic growth and gender is complex and requires you to analyze the situation through a change management lens.”



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