Millions of women and girls in poorer nations could be put at risk of unsafe abortion, domestic violence or teen pregnancy, experts say. UNFPA said the 150 million pounds (US$190.8 million) that Britain cut from the agency’s programmes in 2021 and 2022 could have prevented 47 million unintended pregnancies, 813,000 maternal and child deaths and 14.4 million unsafe abortions.
Aid cuts could put more women and girls at risk of domestic violence, unsafe abortions and dropping out of school as rich nations’ spending to fight gender inequality stagnates for the first time in a decade, charities and policy experts say.
Countries such as Britain, the Netherlands and Japan pledged less money to tackle gender violence in 2020/21, and committed a smaller share of total aid to gender equality programmes for the first time since 2010, a new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows.
As major donors such as Sweden and Germany reassess their aid spending, campaigners are warning of the potential consequences. “When gender equality funding is reduced, there are real-life implications on the provision of health services, particularly, sexual and reproductive health,which will very likely affect women and girls in some of the poorest countries around the world,” said Foteini Papagioti, senior policy advisor at the US-based International Center for Research on Women.
According to the OECD report, the share of total overseas development aid dedicated to gender equality-related programmes slipped to 44% in 2020/21 from 44.5% in 2018/19 after 10 consecutive years of growth. And in 2020/21, rich nations including Canada, Norway and Germany committed less money to tackle gender violence, pledging US$458 million compared with US$531 million in 2018/19, the data showed.
Papagioti warned that the downward trend was likely to continue for the next two or three years given that several countries, including Britain, have decreased their foreign aid budgets due (they claim) to fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war, said Lyric Thompson, founder of the Feminist Foreign Policy Collaborative.
Sweden, which spent 57.4 billion Swedish crowns (US$5.25 billion) on overseas aid in 2022, said in February it would allocate an annual aid budget of 56 billion crowns until 2025. Germany, which is the world’s second-biggest donor after the United States, is also considering reductions to its overseas humanitarian budget.
The potential cutbacks from major donors came after Britain reduced its overseas aid in 2020 to 0.5 per cent gross national income (GNI) – down from the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNI – in order they claimed to free up cash for domestic spending during the pandemic. [But in fact domestic spending was also cut!] An official assessment published by UK lawmakers earlier this month found that thousands of women and girls – from Afghanistan, Yemen and across Africa – would not receive critical healthcare, education and access to safe abortions as a result of the cuts.
Monica Ferro, head of the UK office of UNFPA acknowledged the budget challenges facing donor governments but said funding for gender equality programmes was “life-saving”. “This is why we have to keep on highlighting the needs of women and girls – their needs are intensified by these crises,” Ferro said.
UNFPA said the 150 million pounds (US$190.8 million) that Britain cut from the agency’s programmes in 2021/22 could have prevented 47 million unintended pregnancies, 813,000 maternal and child deaths and 14.4 million unsafe abortions. Britain is the agency’s fourth-largest donor and the leading funder of the UNFPA Supplies Partnership, the world’s largest provider of donated contraceptives, the group said. The International Planned Parenthood Federation said in an email that Britain had cut its funding by 50% this year, an amount equivalent to more than £10 million UK pounds.
SOURCE: Eco-Business, by Thomson Reuters Foundation, 22 August 2023 + PHOTO: World Bank Photo Collection, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Flickr.