A few weeks ago I received an email from a concerned USA-based advocacy group called Women Thrive, with the subject line reading: Immediate Action Needed: U.S. Budget Cuts. Their concern was thatPresident Trump had released his proposed fiscal year2018 budget, which meant a 28% cut from the 2017 budget.Theyweredeeplyconcerned that the proposed budget will have direct negative consequences to U.S. foreign assistance, and wanted the member organizationsto endorse their letter to the U.S Congress. Instead, I replied to Women Thrive with my deep concerns over the devastating impact of theUSA and other governments lack of wisdom in executing their benevolentintentions. See below:
President Trump aside, maybe I need to understand more about how USAID and other international development programs have done anything for the people of Congo, especially women. We at SAFECO have never received direct or indirect funding to assist us in our work to encourage, enable and empower women. In my experience, the billions and billions of dollars spent on USAID, the UN and the like, have only funded their own overhead and satellite offices, infrastructure and equipment, and provided a few jobs to the dominant tribe connected to the local government. Meanwhile, the presence of the agencies themselves and the employees thereof exacerbate the system of corruption by further exploiting the exploitable system, dramatically and dastardly influencing a false economy that causes housing, food, and other commodities to increase by 300% and more for the impoverished citizens. Of course, those aren’t the most ill effects – it’s the scores of fatherless and unsupported children left to destitute (not just poor) young women, who now also carry a stigma of prostitute on their forehead besides the child on their back.
To my knowledge, the well-intended monies from all those benevolent sources spend their entire life-cycle circling in an atmosphere somewhere far above the ground where we live and work. How we would love to get an infusion of financial support for our grassroots work, where effecting real change is possible. But since that isn’t going to happen – except for maybe a token project to pass out some t-shirts and facilitate some picture-taking and reporting to keep the money rolling into some organization that was contracted by the USAID or equivalent organization – I would rather see all those PSUEDO SOURCES of funding disappear from off the face of the planet so that at least the tremendous challenges they create to our daily survival would disappear along with them.
I tried my own hand at getting U.S. support in late 2012, when Rwandan-backed M23 invaded Goma in North Kivu and threatened to march through my home in South Kivu on their way to Kinshasa, the capital of DRC. I filed a petition online requesting President Obama to appoint a U.S. Special Envoy to DRC, to work with the UN and African Union Envoys to create a lasting peace plan, that would ensure women would be at the table negotiating for that future. Our petition got over 100,000 signatures, and an invitation to meet President Obama’s National Security Council. Six months later, former Senator Russ Feingold was appointed as U.S. Special Envoy to DRC. But in his more than a dozen trips to DRC, he never once met with the women that petitioned for his appointment. Instead he met continually with those of the government that would only placate him, telling him whatever he wanted hear, and they are professionals at that sort of dialog. Feingold even ignored me when I tried to meet him on a visit to Bukavu. His chief advisor rushed out to stop me from entering the room to tell me that the Special Envoy was too busy. I looked in the room and he was meeting with a group of men, who all saw him dismiss me. He didn’t do one thing to change the paradigm for women in DRC. I finally flew to Washington DC to meet him, after getting all my contacts to pressure him to see me. I asked him what kind of legacy he wanted to leave behind? His answer was as empty as was his year in the seat of that office.
Until the international governments and agencies get a clue to go along with the heart behind their work, they will only continue spinning their wheels, creating wealth for unprincipled leaders of the nations of victimized populations, and hardship for the impoverished and even destitute peoples of the countries they are organized to help.
My organization, SAFECO, works with dozens of women-led organizations, grassroots women leaders with a passion and drive to change the paradigm for their communities and our country, women leaders that will never see a real grant in support of their work. My organization should be a grant-making organization for these women who work in extreme sacrifice, but instead we will continue struggling to do what we can through the generous support of a few individual donors who refuse to feed the system, but are intent in making a difference with what they are able to contribute, while the U.S. Government and all rest continue to support the system that only exacerbates the problem – like sticking their big fat finger in an eye to pull out a tiny speck of dust.
Please, tell me what I am missing living out here in the land of so-called beneficiaries of USAID and the other international development programs. I’d love to know.
In all sincerity,
Executive Director, SAFECO