Category Archives: Women and Girls

How Four Organizations Use Storytelling and Data to Highlight Women’s Health and Global Progress

Over the past few days several organizations have focused on International Women’s Day by releasing reports on the progress of women and girls in a variety of sectors through interactive web sites, data, as well as maps. The following have stood out during the week.

Doctors Without Borders

Women’s health care is critical in many low- and middle-income countries largely because women as well as girls continue to die in numbers that are not only too high, but oftentimes unnecessary. For example, 800 women still die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. The vast majority of these deaths are preventable. And, 13 percent of the 22 million unsafe abortions result in maternal deaths. To convey this and other health data, Doctors Without Borders created a robust, multimedia online project, Because Tomorrow Needs Herwhere health workers and patients alike share their life experiences either administering care in low-resource settings, or seeking quality care with the burden of heavy obstacles like transportation, costs, and proximity to a health facility.

Through eight interactive chapters with compelling first-person accounts Doctors Without Borders highlights important women’s health issues including maternal health, fistulas, unsafe abortions, and sexual violence among others.

“It is unconscionable that in many parts of the world today, women have no access to quality obstetric care, when providing it is not complicated,” said Séverine Caluwaerts, an MSF obstetrician/gynecologist. “High impact, yet low-cost interventions by trained health staff can have a dramatic impact on maternal mortality.”

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ONE Campaign Reports that Global Poverty is Deeply Rooted in Sexism

Featured Photo: Paolo Patruno – www.birthisadream.org

Today is International Women’s Day which calls upon the world to look at not only the seminal achievements women have made throughout history, but also assess the ways in which women and girls are being perpetually marginalized across the globe through sexist policies and cultural traditions. This sexism is further exacerbated in developing countries according to a new report just released by the ONE campaign, Poverty is Sexist: Why girls and women must be at the heart of the fight to end extreme poverty.

“It’s about time we refocused the development agenda on gender equity as a smart means of unleashing the potential for human, social, political and economic development everywhere,” says Dr Sipho S. Moyo, ONE Africa’s Executive Director. “This being the African Union Year of Women Empowerment, it is our opportunity to seize and promote the advancement of humankind by insisting on policy interventions by our African governments that promote and ensure equal opportunities for women and girls, especially in the poorest countries.

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International Women’s Day Puts Spotlight on Global Poverty, Gender Inequalities

International Women’s Day Twitter Chat

We will join Global Impact to discuss these aforementioned women’s and girls’ issues on Friday, March 13 at 1 PM EST. Join us using #HerDay2015.

In Ormoc, Philippines women tend to take on village leadership roles to ensure children under five get their scheduled vaccinations and routine check-ups. These women also provide medical information to mothers and families who live deep in the rural parts of Ormoc and have a harder time attaining health services.

1 billion victims of violence

These village leaders are, for all intents and purposes, the lifelines for these rural families to health care. In addition to village leaders, rural health units staffed by volunteer health workers and nutrition scholars are charged with providing essential health care and information to families who otherwise would go without medical care.

“Being a leader makes me happy, but it is difficult,” said Ludivinia Perez, a village leader in Ormoc, Philippines on Leyte island. “I feel good about it. What makes it difficult is if I don’t have enough funds and resources.”

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Human Rights Watch Exposes Mass Rape in Darfur

Special Prosecutor for Crimes in Darfur Yasir Ahmed Mohamed (R) and his team talk to women during an investigation into allegations of mass rape in the village of Tabit, in North Darfur, November 20. © 2014 Reuters
Special Prosecutor for Crimes in Darfur Yasir Ahmed Mohamed (R) and his team talk to women during an investigation into allegations of mass rape in the village of Tabit, in North Darfur, November 20. © 2014 Reuters

Human Rights WatchLast week, Human Rights Watch released a scathing report exposing mass rape by the Sudanese military. We first heard about these mass rapes late last year, but the news could not be easily corroborated. Since then, however, through telephone interviews, Human Rights Watch has been able to verify that nearly 200 rapes occurred during a three-day period – between October 30 to November 1, 2014 —  in the small town of Tabit in North Darfur.

Through 130 interviews Human Rights Watch learned that women and girls were routinely raped in their homes by government soldiers sometimes in front of their husbands and children. They were not shown any mercy often having several men rape them.  Soldiers who left the military told HRW that women and girls were targeted because those in high command beliebed them to be rebel supporters.

“The deliberate attack on Tabit and the mass rape of the town’s women and girls is a new low in the catalog of atrocities in Darfur,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement. “The Sudanese government should stop the denials and immediately give peacekeepers and international investigators access to Tabit.”

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IN PHOTOS: Engaging Health Workers to End Female Genital Mutilation

Friday, February 6 was International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation. Individuals, corporations, NGOs, the media, and foundations rallied together to raise awareness about FGM. Over 140 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM and it is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.

Press Conference on Engaging Health Workers to End Female Genital Mutilation at the United Nations

Edna Adan Ismail (centre), Nurse-Midwife, Director and Founder of the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland, addresses a press conference on the subject of engaging health workers to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The press conference took place on the International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation (6 February).
Edna Adan Ismail (centre), Nurse-Midwife, Director and Founder of the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland, addresses a press conference on the subject of engaging health workers to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The press conference took place on the International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation (6 February).

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IN PHOTOS: Family Planning from Addis Ababa to Johannesburg

People the world over come here every day looking for family planning information. Knowing that, I have decided to create a compendium post of sorts about everything I have learned and seen about family planning in my travels to and reporting from sub-Saharan Africa over the past few years.

I first learned about the critical importance of family planning when I covered the London Family Planning Summit a few years ago. Melinda Gates, along with key partners, called on governments and civil society to lay out a strategic plan to provide family planning services and contraceptives to 120 million underserved women in low-and middle-income countries.  Currently there are 222 million women around the world who would like to space or delay their pregnancies.

Read the current Family Planning 2020 Progress Report with full commitments since the 2012 Summit. Undoubtedly there is a long way to go to reach the unmet need for modern contraceptives, but the initial commitments have been promising. $1.3 billion USD in funding for family planning was delivered in 2013 enabling 8.4 more women and girls to have access to modern contraceptives.

At the London Summit, I will remember the commitments read by country representatives. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyeseus, former Minister of Health of Ethiopia, stood out. He said, “Inaction is no longer an option. It’s not what we promise today, but what we do when we get back home.”

Ethiopia Commitments

Below are photos of family planning services and programs as well as modern contraceptives from Addis Ababa, Lusaka, Johannesburg and Dar es Salaam.

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Merck and WHO Partner to Curb Postpartum Hemorrhage Deaths

Earlier this month I wrote about Uganda’s move to use misoprostol for women who experience postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) during childbirth or immediately after delivery. PPH is the leading cause of maternal mortality for women around the world. 800 women die every day from complications during pregnancy and delivery; that is two mothers a minute.

Misoprostol, it has been found, is effective because it will stop a woman’s bleeding, can be taken in pill form and can be stored at hotter temperatures. Oxytocin, which is the gold standard for stopping PPH must be stored in cold temperatures to be effective. However, in low-resource settings electricity can be touch and go or altogether nonexistent.

Last year Merck announced that they have partnered with the World Health Organization as well as Ferring Pharmaceuticals to test the efficacy in clinical trials of using carbetocin, another medication that can stop PPH, but can be stored in hot and tropical environments.

The clinical trials began this year in 12 countries that included 29,000 women. Through its Merck for Mothers initiative, Merck has partnered with organizations in the United States and abroad to reduce maternal mortality around the world.

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The Next #HeForShe Initiative Launches in Davos

HeForShe Impact 10x10x10

Last September Emma Watson, UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, helped launch the UN Women’s #HeForShe global campaign that calls upon men and boys to stand up against gender discrimination and to help women gain parity economically, politically, and socially through everyday actions and a commitment to change.

Now Watson is in Davos, Switzerland at the annual World Economic Forum where earlier today she delivered another speech at a press conference attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka,  launching the HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 initiative, a year-long pilot program that will elicit gender equality commitments from governments, corporations and universities. Through these commitments, the HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 program will evaluate these commitments to measure their scalability and effectiveness for gender equality.

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Zambians Head to the Polls: Candidates’ Stance on Health Care

This morning as most Americans were asleep Zambians headed to the polls to elect either the candidate of the ruling party, Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front founded in 1991 by the late President Michael Sata, or the leading opposition candidate representing the United Party for National Development, Hakainde Hichilema. Political observers say the race is close and there is no definitive leader at this point. Polls close at 6 PM Central African Time Zone.

Zambia one of the leaders on the continent of copper production along with the DRC and both candidates disagree about taxing mining companies that employ many Zambians in the Copper Belt according to Al Jazeera.  A contentious subject, Lungu believes the copper companies should be heavily taxed while Hichilema believes taxes on the companies should not increase which could cause mine closures that could in turn hemorrhage workers. As expected, both candidates have promised increased job creation and more aid to poor, rural Zambians across the country, a move that researchers at the London School of Economics say is key to helping elect African politicians. Most African politicians favored overwhelming urban campaigning to curb urban violence during election time, but have quickly learned that re-election proves difficult without the rural vote.

Hichilema is running to increase the number of frontline health workers and to improve training and respecting health workers. The United Party for National Development’s health provisions range from decreasing taxes on health care and medicines and providing free care to poor Zambians to increasing the number of frontline health workers. Of note, the UPND has placed an emphasis on fighting malaria and HIV/AIDS.

The Patriotic Front has created a Health Services Provision that lays out in six parts how the party will improve Zambia’s health care system starting with every Zambian’s right to quality health care. The Patriotic Front is also committed to better education and working conditions for health workers based on the contents of the Provision.  It  also calls for a realignment of the Mother and Child function.

Health care is an important issue for a country that has a maternal mortality rate of 591 out of 100,000 live births (one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world ) and mortality for children under the age of five is 119 per 1,000 according to UNICEF.

Thus far copper mining, which accounts for more than 86 percent of Zambia’s foreign direct investment and has made Zambia the eighth largest producer of copper, seems to be primary on the political agenda. After the election, only time will tell if health care, particularly maternal and child health, can compete with the copper industry and job creation.

Photo: www.facebook.com/hakainde.hichilema

 

 

USAID Tackles Respectful Maternity Care, Better Working Conditions for Midwives

This week USAID released its follow-up to Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality: USAID Maternal Health
Vision for Action (June 2014) with its new report of the same name with the addition of evidence for strategic approaches. These approaches seek to lower the world’s maternal mortality rate. Right now 289,000 women die per year from complications during child birth.

While it is widely known that MDG 5 will fall short of its overall global goal, USAID has partnered with other leading organizations including the World Health Organization, Maternal Health Task Force, United Nations Population Fund, and the Maternal Child Health Integrated Fund along with representatives from 30 countries  to work on a new set of maternal health goals. Set in April 2014, these organizations are now working towards a global maternal mortality rate (MMR) of 70/100,000 with no country having above a 140 MMR by 2030.

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