By: Vanessa Valenti on March 10, 2008 I’d like to reiterate that making sure the women and girls of the world are empowered and that their voices are heard is one of the most important things the new administration needs to make a priority. We need to ensure that within our initiatives to assist various nations, we’re working with and funding local women’s organizations, talking to women and girls on the ground, and allowing them to maintain agency so that they’re not just being helped, but being heard. In her report (pdf), Germain writes: “By emphasizing a bottom-up, locally informed approach for in-country program planning that includes consultation with women leaders and organizations and with demonstrated success in work with women, PEPFAR can be made vastly more effective. Programmers can determine the mix of prevention that best addresses local realities, rather than following what has often been irrelevant or inappropriate guidance from Washington.” (Emphasis mine) I can’t support this enough. I think many efforts in the past haven’t worked because of our failure to really understand the realities of the cultures and lives that exist in other countries; this is our opportunity to remedy that.