State Dept. Revises Grant Guidelines to Focus on ‘Vulnerable Populations’ – Including Women and LGBTs

By Susan Jones | March 15, 2012 | 11:02am EDT

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( - Groups seeking grants from the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor must now explain how the money will empower women, racial and ethnic minorities, religious minorities, disabled people, or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

In a notice released on Wednesday, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor noted that it has long supported global programs that “advance the rights and uphold the dignity” of the most vulnerable populations.

“In order to formalize this focus, effective March 2012, the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) will require that, to the extent possible, program submissions advancing human rights and democracy address the human rights concerns of these groups.”

As it evaluates proposals, the Bureau said it will now assign weighted criteria to determine how a program’s objectives “support and empower” the groups mentioned above -- women, racial and ethnic minorities, religious minorities, disabled people and LGBTs.

DRL leads U.S. efforts to promote democracy, protect human rights and religious freedom, and advance labor rights around the world.

As an example of the type of grants DRL awards, the bureau is currently seeking proposals to support the “informal labor sector” in Tunisia, which precipitated the recent revolution in that country.

According to the grant description, “Programming will assist informal sector workers, including street vendors, domestic workers, and workers in low-productivity microenterprises, tailoring interventions to address the needs and employability of women and the youth.”

The goal is to improve “respect” for those groups – and raise awareness of their rights and working conditions.

DRL has as much as $860,000 in U.S. taxpayer funds to spend on this particular endeavor.

As previously reported, Secretary Hillary Clinton says she’s made women “a cornerstone of American foreign policy,” and she expects U.S. embassies to develop local strategies "to empower women politically, economically, and socially."

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