Whether you live in New York City or in a rural village in Africa, women play a critical role in providing greater opportunities and brighter futures for their children.

As mothers, we know this from our own families.

As CEOs, this is even clearer to us as our organizations save and improve the lives of children and families facing crippling poverty and heartbreaking circumstances around the globe.

As the world presents new challenges for our country at every turn, International Women’s Day not only marks the achievements of women, but the recognition that investments in global development programs yield a return that improves our security, prosperity, and advances the values of our nation.

Women everywhere want their children to have an opportunity to succeed.

They hope for a better future for their children, but some in the developing world lack the resources to tap the potential inherent within each child.

We often work in partnership with the U.S. government to ensure mothers and children in deprived communities have opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty.

Programs funded by the U.S. International Affairs Budget that meet the needs of vulnerable mothers and children are an investment that pays dividends by keeping our country safe and our economy strong.

Raising families out of destitution replaces desperation with the ability to thrive.

Children are less likely to be exploited for violence and political means when they are provided for and are able to go to school.

International development programs help vulnerable families achieve sustainable livelihoods to build social, economic, and political stability that opens new markets for U.S. goods and services and helps to prevent conflicts before they occur.

Let’s look at some of the ways we are working throughout the world, and as mothers always do, we’ll start with good eating habits.

In a child’s first 1,000 days of life, nutrition has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn, and eventually rise out of poverty. Our maternal and early child nutrition and development interventions cost very little and can be easily monitored, while their results shape a society’s long-term health, stability and prosperity.

During the current drought and food crisis in the Horn of Africa, Somali women and children are forced to walk for days and sometimes weeks to escape hunger and conflict in their homeland. But instead of only helping kids after they become malnourished, our investments in sustainable agriculture have made food available during these critical times.

We may not be able to control natural disasters, but we can assuage their effects through effective, preventive programs.

The U.S .government-supported Famine Early Warning System reduced the number of people at risk of starvation in Ethiopia by eight million during this current drought as compared to the last East African famine.

The past few decades have seen great strides in global health as mortality for children under age five has decreased by 37% and maternal mortality has been reduced by 34% since 1990.

We should be proud of our country’s contribution to these results. Still, 1,000 girls and women die each day in pregnancy and childbirth because they do not receive the lifesaving care they need to make childbirth joyous instead of fearful.

Mothers, aunts and grandmothers are most often a child’s first teacher. The cycle of illiteracy that traps millions of girls throughout the developing world can be changed by these early teachers.

Each girl who goes to school and learns to read is more likely to send her own girls, as well as boys, to school putting them on the path to reach their full potential in life, thus improving literacy, school graduation rates and economic opportunity with each generation.

When women succeed, society succeeds, resulting in greater stability and healthier economies around the world.

Just last week, USAID launched a new policy on empowering women and girls that will focus on achieving better health, education, and economic outcomes. And our organizations often match private resources to accomplish these goals.

At just one percent of the federal budget, the International Affairs Budget is a cost-effective tool with proven results in empowering women and girls to become catalysts for positive change.

Global development is a smart investment that proves the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” While budgets are tight and times are tumultuous, it is important for our leaders in Congress to know our development and diplomacy programs not only demonstrate the values of our nation, but ultimately increase our own prosperity and security.

On International Women’s Day, we honor the important role women play every day in building a better, safer world.

Anne Lynam Goddard is the President and CEO of ChildFund International and Carolyn Miles is the President and CEO of Save the Children. They are both board members of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.