Millions of Women and Girls Are Threatened by Cuts to U.S. Foreign Aid

By Betsy Dunklin, Chair of Dining for Women’s Advocacy Committee

Experts on the well-received advocacy panel at our National Conference (see photo) emphasized that NOW is the perfect time to add your voice to your dollars to help impoverished women and girls in developing countries.

Action on the just-passed FY2018 and proposed FY2019 budgets is taking place in both the House and Senate over the next month or so. The Administration has proposed a more than 30% cut to the International Affairs (IA) budget for FY2019. The IA budget is historically just 1% of the total US budget.

In addition, the Administration has recently proposed additional cuts to the FY2018 budget which was already passed by Congress.  This “rescission” proposal includes $334 million in cuts to the International Affairs budget. This is the first time in nearly 20 years that the rescission process has been used.

Dining for Women opposes cuts to the US foreign aid budget because they disproportionately affect women and girls, who already suffer the most from global poverty, inequality, and humanitarian crises. Many of the proposed cuts fall most heavily on gender equality programs. Our position is fully explained in our new advocacy guide, Raise Your Voices for Women and Girls.

For more details on the impact of the Administration’s proposed cuts, see excerpts from a recent article, Real World Impacts of Cutting Poverty-Focused, Global Health, and Humanitarian Foreign Assistance, at the end of this blog.

We have the power as US citizens living in a democracy
to stand up for women and girls around the world.

Your Members of Congress want to know what you — their constituents — think about foreign aid funding. Please urge them to vote against cuts to foreign aid and gender equality programs. Please act now!

  1. Email your Members of Congress.
    • Click here to find your representatives’ contact info.
    • Click here for a sample email.
  1. Call your Members of Congress
    • Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Member of Congress.
    • Click here for a sample telephone script.

There are other tools available on the Advocacy page of our website (under JOIN US). Please check them out.

In less than five minutes, you can use your voice to speak up for women and girls denied a voice. 

Here is what will happen in Congress over the next month or so:

  • Although Congress already passed the FY2018 budget with minimal cuts to foreign aid, the administration is demanding reconsideration and additional cuts including $334 million to the International Affairs budget. The full House will vote on these proposed cuts soon.
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hear testimony from the new Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, on his FY2019 budget request for the State Department, which is part of the foreign affairs budget.
  • Most critically, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Relations, and Related Programs begins work on its proposal for the FY2019 foreign aid budget. If your Representative is on this Committee, it is especially critical that he or she hear from you.
  • In June, the relevant Senate Appropriations committee will develop its proposed foreign aid FY2019 budget.

Can more than 8,000 DFW members make a difference? Yes! First, we are not alone. For one example, DFW is a member of the US Global Leadership Coalition, dedicated to effective investment in diplomacy and development, along with 500 other nonprofits and businesses all committed to a robust International Affairs budget. Second, our grassroots network is a valuable contribution to coalition efforts because Members of Congress want to hear from their constituents and voters — YOU — not just paid lobbyists from larger organizations.





The article Real World Impacts of Cutting Poverty-Focused, Global Health, and Humanitarian Foreign Assistance describes the estimated impact of the Administration’s proposed cuts to the FY2019 International Affairs Budget, “in terms of human lives, on vulnerable men, women, and children around the world.” Leading NGOs, including Bread for the World, Catholic Relief Services, CARE USA, the International Rescue Committee, InterAction, Mercy Corps, ONE Campaign, Oxfam, PATH, Save the Children, and World Vision have analyzed the budget request and estimated the impact of the proposed cuts. Here are a few highlights related to the impact on women and girls:


Maternal and Child Health

A $169.9 million cut to the bilateral maternal and child health account could mean more than 135,000 additional maternal, newborn, and child deaths ​each year.


Gender Programs

If the budget request was enacted, funding in Fiscal Year 2019 for programs with a gender component would be cut by 57% as compared to 2015. While these funds at times overlap with other sector funds, making it more challenging to assess the impact, it is possible these proposed cuts could mean less support for enacting the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, that 1.83 million fewer girls would receive an education, or that 1.28 million fewer women would receive anti-corruption training, or 730,000 fewer women would receive social assistance support​.



Funding for the McGovern-Dole School Feeding Program is eliminated in the Fiscal Year 2019 request, which, if enacted, would ​result in approximately 2.9 million children being cut off from nutrition, education, and hygiene programs ​and stymie efforts to build self-sufficient school feeding programs in countries with high rates of malnutrition like Nepal and Liberia.



Developing countries look to the United States for support and guidance to achieve economic prosperity, social stability and political freedom through education. Since the implementation of USAID’s Education Strategy (2011-2015), Congress has allocated an average of $822 million a year, enabling USAID to reach approximately 41.6 million learners in over 45 countries, train 450,000 teachers annually, distribute 146 million textbooks, and repair 11,000 classrooms. The Administration’s request calling for an estimated 36% cut to basic education programming from FY 2017 levels would jeopardize decades of progress, development, and monies invested by the United States.


Photo Caption:

Shown in back row is DFW’s Advocacy Committee, from left:  Cathy Caldwell, Chris King, Betsy Dunklin (Chair), Nancy Jacobsen, and Susan Whaley.  Front row is our conference panelists, from left: Betsy Teutsch, DFW Chapter Leader; Carey Campbell, United States Global Leadership Coalition; Grace Choi, Save the Children; Jonathan Pearson, National Peace Corps Association; and Diane Smock (Moderator), DFW member.