Welcome to “Women Around the World: This Week,” a series that highlights noteworthy news related to women and U.S. foreign policy. This week’s post, covering from January 15 to January 28, was compiled with support from Becky Allen, Anne Connell, and Alyssa Dougherty.
U.S. administration restricts foreign aid
Last Monday, the Trump Administration issued an executive order reinstating the Mexico City policy on family planning, dramatically expanding Reagan-era restrictions on U.S. aid related to reproductive health care. The requirements will for the first time extend beyond family planning programs to implicate “global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies,” including assistance to address HIV/AIDS, malaria, and maternal and child health. In total, the rule may affect $9 billion in global health aid, in comparison to around $600 million affected under President George W. Bush. The expansion also may end funding for any UN-affiliated agency that falls under its restrictions, including UNFPA, which supports a range of women’s and children’s health programs in more than 150 countries. In addition to these restrictions, two draft orders obtained by The New York Times suggest that the Trump administration will propose a 40 percent reduction in total support for the United Nations and other global bodies as well as a moratorium on new treaties, and begin a review of U.S. support for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Women at risk in Africa’s migration crises
According to new UN reports, escalating refugee and migrant crises in several African regions place women and children at increased risk of sexual abuse, trafficking, lack of access to health and education, and loss of rights. At least 12,000 people journey from Ethiopia and Somalia into Yemen each month, arriving in a country that itself has seen over 2.1 million people displaced due to conflict between Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government. While some women have taken up arms on both sides of the conflict, airstrikes have killed thousands of women and children and left hundreds of thousands without access to critical health services. Displacement is also intensifying elsewhere on the continent: last week at least 26,000 Gambians, mainly women and children, crossed into Senegal amid fears of violence following Yahya Jammeh’s refusal to step down from the presidency. West Africa’s regional bloc, ECOWAS, stands poised to intervene militarily, and Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow, requested that forces remain in the country to oversee the tenuous transfer of power. The International Organization for Migration reports the African continent now holds one-third of the world’s total displaced population—about 12.4 million people.
Nigeria negotiates with Boko Haram
Nigeria’s government confirmed last week that it is negotiating with the militant group Boko Haram to free captive girls and running search sorties in the dense Sambisa forest. Twenty-one Chibok schoolgirls captured by fighters in April 2014 were released in 2016 in a deal brokered with assistance from the International Red Cross and Swiss government; many reportedly suffered systematic rape and enslavement by Boko Haram militants and now face stigma upon return to their communities. The government’s inability to secure the release of those schoolgirls who remain in captivity underscores broader criticism of what some consider to be an inadequate response to the threats posed by Boko Haram. This month has brought renewed outrage as Nigerian fighter jets mistakenly bombed a camp for displaced persons, killing nearly 100 in what the United Nations high commissioner for refugees called a “truly catastrophic event.”