USAID and Its Working Women

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It’s certainly been a weather-impacted autumn here in the Nation’s Capital, and the Bush Administration definitely has "egg on its face" which won’t readily wash off!! Certain developments have occurred in the political arena surrounding allegations of sexism and outright management deviousness going on inside the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), at it downtown Wash. DC location and its various affiliate offices worldwide. USAID, a federal agency which is supposed to be spearheading and rectifying abysmal quality-of-life circumstances relevant to Third World women and children–and the countries in which they live, is quite literally not "abiding by its own regulatory mission scope" with its own stateside female workforce members. In other words, USAID is "shafting" its working women.  

In 1995, Wendy Ghannam, a former employee at USAID, was physically escorted out of the agency because of her whistleblowing claims against the Administrator’s failure to protect the ergonomic needs of working women. Even the agency’s Inspector General at the time conveniently threatened her due to her citation of work-related injuries which USAID women were complaining about on their jobs, and USAID’s unwillingness to ensure OWCP (Workmen’s Comp.) workplace-protection guidelines for its impacted employees. To date, USAID has achieved quite a bit of noterity regarding its negligence to meet accommodation needs of the working disabled–meant to offer them full inclusion under U.S. laws. Even before Ghannam, other female employees came forward on various platforms to complain of agency ongoing sexual abuse as well, but little was done to "make them whole" through the U.S. Gov’t’s workplace discrimination watchdog avenue, called the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Employees who are affiliated with the U.S. Foreign Service are covered in the workplace under separate guidelines contained in the American Foreign Service Association’s Grievance Board.) Remember, all of these cases and their systematic wins wind up being paid out by U.S. taxpayers anyhow, because USAID usually refuses to pay when discrimination cases prevail. Still, many rank and file working women inside USAID’s employment ranks are petrified to cite workplace abuses since Ghannam’s story first hit the Internet in Year 2000. (See http://www.Betrayals.net)  

The problem is centered around the agency’s well-known and longstanding "ol’ boy network" of management officials, who are diplomatically protected and "career-covered," thereby remaining in official capacities wherein they never experience retribution professionally for expouinding upon their relegated sexist/"toxic management" behaviors inside the working corridors of the agency. This alone has been a contentious problem for many years. USAID was once known in the federal establishment as the premiere agency in which a woman could enter in at an entry-level assignment, and with mentoring, as well as the issuance of agency-sponsored education/training, she could viably travel the career ladder admirably well. Times have certainly changed at USAID.  

Today, the agency is faltering on all of its civil-rights issues in its employment spectrum, as well as its affirmative action protocols. Also, the fact that its own in-house Director of Equal Employment Opportunity is a careerist person who is prone to empathize with USAID management, and against the rank and file worker, is a definitive systemic add-on to the undeniable hemhorrage of further abuse and callousness spearheaded by the agency, which has been continuously advocated by higher-ups, remaining an issue that is in need of investigation and repair by "her" supervisors at the EEOC!!  

Yet, Ghannam is not the only woman who has suffered at the hands of the agency either. Preceding and following her plight, have come further discrimination claims from other hard-working , dedicated female agency employees who have amassed quite literal novelettes of discrimination claims against the Administrator and USAID as an entity as well. From claims surfacing around sex for promotion; treachery in career rotation assignments; workplace Workmen’s Compensation denials and threats; perjury committed regarding employee performance evaluations; whistleblowing issues callously disregarded by the agency’s own Inspector General and his officials–only to suffer retaliation later with USAID management officials; and finally even sexual assault charges. Clearly, the agency is in desparate need of repair before it spends another dime on foreign aid, even in Iraq and Afghanistan!!  

The fact that Ghannam has won her employment claims against USID in Year 2000, and is still awaiting complete retribution monies through an EEOC Petition for Enforcement, does not negate the fact that others have been afforded the same respect and dignity. To the contrary, the EEOC has equally refused to allow other women to prevail, as Ghannam has. Their stance is based on the presumed fact that the agency has not repeatedly performed egregiously as documented over the years–in essence, men protecting men.  

If the truth ever became a public forum, many women would reactivate their employment discrimination claims, forcing the agency to suffer tremendous blows to its ability to distribute foreign aid monies worldwide, as sanctioned under guidelines of the U.S. State Department–not to mention that women working in the U.S. State Dept. would also "ride the bandwagon" and seek retribution for themselves as well, causing a snowball effect in the discrimination arena. However, it is a well-known fact that any federal employee who complains is carefully scrutinized when he/she is on the job today, esp. in the federal spectrum. Clearly, the status quo inside USAID has always been to "divide and conquer"–thinking that if women complain, they will need solace and money for attorneys. They will also need other jobs to keep them afloat financially–and this is where the final assault takes center stage.  

When a woman complains of the sexual poweress and outright job discrimination/abuse tendencies existent in any U.S. Gov’t agency today, she is clearly "blackballed" from ever achieving her career aspirations ever again!! This fact is spelled out in Whistleblower guidelines offered to any woman when she confronts representatives at the Inspector General level, in any agency or U.S. gov’t department, as well. She is told emphatically that the agency’s IG staff work "outside the scope" of the agency they are entrusted oversight with, and therefore, she can most assuredly plan on being cast aside by agency management officials after she makes abuses known. Clearly, Washington, DC has not come to grips with adequate whistleblowing guidelines for its own federal workforce members!!  

Ghannam has a story to tell America! So do other working women who toil(ed) daily inside USAID, and who are/were hideously retaliated against. Discrimination is certainly alive and well inside the working corridors of the U.S. Federal government today. The fact that Ghannam and many others are speaking out is a credit to their patriotism and their integrity, as women and as former U.S. federal civil servants–because most have lost their jobs, as mentioned before, or they have been thrown into the U.S. Gov’t’s retirement database prematurely so as to hopefully shut their mouths and forget what they have/had witnessed and professionally experienced at the hands of despicable, treacherous managers–many who are still collecting their own federal salaries to date. However, until other working women in USAID (and other U.S. Gov’t agencies as well) consistently step up to the plate and demand their inclusion and full-scale working rights, it will be business as usual–and as a result, agenices much like USAID will continue to thrive, never being totally admonished for what is being unleashed against working women in today’s federally sanctioned environments!!

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