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Council on Foreign Relations Women and Foreign Policy (theme based)

Reproductive Health and U.S. Foreign Policy

Making Family Planning Investment a Global Priority

CFR Senior Fellow Isobel Coleman discusses why ensuring universal access to family planning leads to social, economic, and political benefits for all. In conjunction with the third International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa, Coleman argues that expanding family planning education and services is a cost-effective development strategy with high returns on investment, allowing women to extend their educations, join the workforce, and contribute to their communities. Referencing a 2011 CFR report titled Family Planning and U.S. Foreign Policy, Coleman reviews the Women and Foreign Policy program's work in advancing family planning initiatives and underscores the importance of keeping the issue at the forefront of the U.S. foreign policy agenda. Read the blog post on the Development Channel »

Raising the Global Age of Motherhood

Following the release of a UN Population Fund report, Motherhood in Childhood: Facing the Challenge of Adolescent Pregnancy, Lynn ElHarake, research associate in Women and Foreign Policy, addresses how adolescent pregnancy and childbirth threaten the health and well-being of both mothers and newborns. Although the report focuses on the social and economic costs of adolescent pregnancies in the developing world, ElHarake notes that the issue also affects the United States and other developed countries. She highlights how development strategies that promote girls' education, expand access to family planning, lower child marriage rates, and empower women will help prevent adolescent pregnancy and allow countries to minimize the lifetime opportunity costs associated with motherhood in childhood. Read the blog post on the Development Channel »

Unconventional International Development Initiatives

Closing the Gender Gap With Clean Water

It is essential to integrate and empower women in battling the global water crisis, writes Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, CFR senior fellow in the Women and Foreign Policy program. In a blog post to mark World Toilet Day, Lemmon reviews research on how access to clean water ensures healthy and productive communities and describes programs in India and other countries that promote better sanitary habits and clean water infrastructure. She also explains how investing in water programs pays dividends in time, productivity, and reduced healthcare costs. Lemmon calls attention to the resources lost to collecting water–especially among women and girls—and commends organizations like for prioritizing women in their efforts. Read the blog post on the Development Channel »

Empowering Women Through Small Cash Grants

Isobel Coleman argues that small cash transfers to the world's poorest people can drive social and economic development. Reviewing a study conducted by GiveDirectly, Coleman discusses how distributing cash grants to the poor–and to women in particular–via mobile banking can improve the financial and psychological state of individuals and communities. In her blog post, she compares conditional and unconditional cash transfers and notes that while there is still a research gap evaluating the long-term impact of unconditional cash transfers, no-strings-attached grant programs like those of GiveDirectly are reshaping poverty alleviation strategies. Read the blog post on the Development Channel »



CFR's Women and Foreign Policy program works with leading scholars to analyze how elevating the status of women and girls advances U.S. foreign policy objectives and to bring the status of women into the mainstream foreign policy debate. Among its areas of focus are global health and education, the role of women in peacekeeping, and women’s economic participation.

Rachel Vogelstein
Director and Senior Fellow, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Catherine Powell
Fellow, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Senior Fellow, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Hannah Chartoff
Research Associate, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Valerie Wirtschafter
Research Associate, Women and
Foreign Policy Program


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