1 billion dollar question

Last month, Across Women's Lives and The World asked audiences: "If you had $1 billion to spend on women in your country, what would you do?"

It was part of our Balance of Power series on the intersection of gender and foreign policy. For two weeks, AWL reporters and editors dug into the effects of US foreign policy on women, analyzing the numbers and meeting women around the world with important stories to tell.

We reported on the more than $1 billion that the US spends each year on women around the world, as well as the $1.34 billion in foreign aid to support gender equality that's been proposed in 2017, and analyzed that budget by country and issue: gender-based violence, peace and security and more. 

In Colombia, we dove deep into the impact of war on women, meeting people like Xiomara, who reintegrated into society after life as a guerrilla fighter by attending government-run programs partially funded by the US Agency for International Development.

On the other side of the world, we met a young girl who was affected by a different kind of US foreign policy. Twelve-year-old Nabila ur Rehman witnessed her grandmother being killed by a US drone in 2012 in North Waziristan. 

“My message to the new president of America is to look at the picture of my grandmother. She did nothing wrong, and she was killed,” Nabila said. “The next president should stop this war, and spend money on education instead. Try to win the heart of the world, rather than bombing us. And then people won’t be hurting you.”

The US does invest in the educaton of women around the world, more so since Michelle Obama announced her Let Girls Learn initiative in Pakistan last year. The $70 million education initiative is already changing the lives of hundreds of girls in Pakistan and around the world. 

Back in the US, we posed the Billion Dollar Question to Massachusetts high schoolers, with our open source Model UN curriculum on gender and foreign policy. The ninth graders at Lawrence High School voted for the funding of girls' literacy education worldwide as the best foreign policy tactic for gender equality, though through discussion they came to agree as a class on an interdisciplinary approach. 

"I think the best solution is to end violence against women," explained one student. "Because once they feel safe to talk, once they feel like they can go to other people and tell them what's happening, I feel like that will increase literacy and leadership."

So, how would you spend $1 billion for women in your country? Here are some of your answers: 


"I would invest in single mothers, because they're subject to lots of discrimination. Because we still have machismo in this country ... And also in demobilized women. They're subject to a lot of criticism."

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