U.S. provides assistance to Palestinian women
The U.S. government is channeling a substantial portion of its aid to the Palestinians towards women through micro-credit loans, educational programs, healthcare, and vocational training.
According to a fact sheet released August 25 by the State Department's Office of International Women's Issues, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has granted more than 34,000 micro-credit loans worth over $13 million to Palestinian women entrepreneurs. Through the loans, thousands of Palestinian women have been able to "transform subsistence-based existences into sustainable, income-generating enterprises" that have facilitated their ability to receive further loans from Palestinian banks.
Also, the fact sheet said the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) has awarded nearly one half of its Palestinian Fulbright educational scholarships to women since 1999, and two Palestinian women since 2001 have received Hubert Humphrey Fellowships worth $50,000 each. Those fellowships go to mid-career professionals in developing countries to study in the United States for one academic year. Also, 33 of the 90 Palestinian scholars selected for the Presidential Scholarship Program for graduate study in the United States were women.
USAID also sponsors the $27.6 million MARAM Project designed to improve healthcare for Palestinian mothers and children, and has provided $3 million for vaccine procurement and $465,000 for a food security assessment in the West Bank and Gaza in order to better coordinate relief and development aid, according to the fact sheet.
The fact sheet said USAID has also helped to provide 118 vocational training courses to Palestinian women, youth and the disabled to improve business and professional skills.
U.S. aid given to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA), although not specifically targeted towards women, is designed to benefit all Palestinians. The fact sheet mentioned $20 million given to the PA for the municipal infrastructure, and $305.3 million to UNRWA since 2001 to provide assistance to Palestinian refugees.
Following is the text of the State Department fact sheet on U.S. assistance to Palestinian women:
U.S. Department of State
Office of International Women's Issues
August 25, 2003
Fact Sheet: U.S. Support and Assistance for Palestinian Women
Global Respect For Women: A U.S. Foreign Policy Imperative
Respect for women is a U.S. foreign policy priority and part of the Bush Administration s National Security Strategy. The U.S. is particularly focused on broadening women's political participation and increasing their economic opportunities throughout the Middle East, as part of the Middle East Partnership Initiative [MEPI]. The United States supports and funds numerous leadership, education and exchange programs specifically designed to equip women from all regions around the world with the knowledge and skills they need to participate in the political and economic spheres in their societies. Palestinian women are frequent participants in these programs.
Roadmap for Peace in the Middle East
The Roadmap for Peace -- developed by the United States in cooperation with Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations (the Quartet) -- was presented to Israel and the Palestinian Authority on April 30, 2003. The plan is a performance-based, goal driven plan, with clear phases, timelines, and benchmarks. It involves reciprocal steps by the two parties in the political security, economic, and humanitarian fields. The destination is a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
U.S. Assistance Efforts and Programs for Palestinian Women
-- Bilateral Donor: The United States is the highest disbursing bilateral donor in the West Bank and Gaza with an annual USAID budget of approximately $75 million.
-- Micro-Credit: Since 1996 USAID supported programs have granted more than 34,000 loans worth over $13 million to Palestinian women entrepreneurs. These USAID supported programs have provided thousands of Palestinian women with the opportunity to transform subsistence-based existences into sustainable, income-generating enterprises. USAID supported micro-credit programs for women have proven to be wise investments with average return rates of over 90 percent, and, as a result, Palestinian banks are more accepting of female loan applicants.
-- Healthcare: The USAID-sponsored MARAM Project is a $27.6 million effort to improve healthcare for mothers and children in the Occupied Territories. In addition, USAID has provided $3 million for vaccine procurement and $465,000 for a food security assessment to evaluate access to food, vulnerability levels, food distribution, and trends in food availability and security in the West Bank and Gaza for the purpose of better coordinating relief and development aid.
-- Women's Centers: USAID sponsored an emergency employment generation program that included the construction of 18 community and women's centers in the West Bank and Gaza. Courses to increase business, computer, literacy, management and other skills have been conducted in these centers, with many of them specifically directed towards women and youth.
-- Vocational Development: Through USAID-supported community and village services programs, 118 training courses have been provided to improve business and professional skills for youth, women and the disabled.
-- Educational Opportunities: The State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs provides important U.S. support to Palestinian women through the prestigious Fulbright Program. Since 1999, nearly one-half, 125 out of 280, of all Palestinian participants are women who pursue academic study and scholarly research in a variety of fields such as international relations and conflict resolution, education and psychology, information technology and business administration. The Fulbright Program with the West Bank and Gaza is one of the largest in the Middle East among non-commission countries.
The Hubert H. Humphrey Program, part of the Fulbright Program, brings mid-career professionals from developing countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, and Eurasia to the United States for an academic year. Two Palestinian women in the last two years have received a Humphrey Fellowship valued at $50,000 each. Fellows combine graduate-level academic work with a professional affiliation in the public, private, or non-profit sector. Fellows are placed in non-degree programs at universities around the United States in clusters according to professional and academic interests.
-- Presidential Scholarship Program: Started in May 2000, the Presidential Scholarship Program was designed to provide competitive scholarships to Palestinians for graduate-level education in the United States for potential private and public sector leaders and managers. The purpose of the program is to address the current shortage of qualified managers in sectors that are critical to the economy, such as business administration, information technology, economics, banking and finance, and health administration. To date, the number of scholarships and breakdown per field stands at: 32 Business (MBA or related), 11 Public Administration, 15 Information Technology, 9 Urban Planning, 7 Water Resources, 9 Public Health, 2 Law, and 5 Other (Economics, Educational Administration, Commercial Diplomacy, Political Economy, International Economics). Fifty-eight scholars from the West Bank and 32 from Gaza (a total 57 men and 33 women) have been selected.
-- Direct U.S. Assistance to Palestinian Authority: The United States is providing $20 million in direct financial assistance through the Palestinian Authority for the Palestinian people to reinforce the positive progress made under the leadership of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Minister of Finance Salam Fayyad. This is the first direct transfer of assistance funds to the Palestinian Authority. The assistance will be used to improve the humanitarian condition of the Palestinian people, specifically to support municipal services and rehabilitation of the municipal infrastructure. All other assistance has been disbursed solely through the United Nations and Non-Governmental Organizations.
-- UNRWA: The United States is the largest national donor to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees in the Near East and also contributes significant amounts to many other UN programs providing assistance to Palestinian women and the entire Palestinian population. The Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration has contributed $305.3 million to UNRWA since 2001, and expects to make a further contribution in FY03. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has given UNWRA $37 million in grants since 2001, including $5 million this year.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)