Category Archives: Women and Girls

Our Top 10 Most Read Posts of 2014

Over the course of this year we have shared a great deal of global health news and information, reports from the field in Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Tanzania, and the Phillipines, and have broken down some of the most pressing global health documents. That said, some of our posts received many more reads than others. Here is the countdown of our top 10 most read posts in 2014. Not surprisingly, maternal health, issues facing women and girls and health workers were some of the most read topics this year.

10. How Ethiopia is Scaling Midwifery to Save More Newborns:


In Ethiopia there are 4.9 million pregnancies each year of which 84% take place in rural areas. Here in Ethiopia, where the vast majority of women deliver at home, only 32% of maternal, newborn and child health needs are being met by midwives according to the newly released State of Midwifery Report. That is troubling for a country that is making noticeable strides to save its women and children, including reaching Millennium Development Goal 4 last year. There is still scalable work to be done to save more Ethiopian mothers and their newborns. Read more.

9. Photos: B&W Historic Photos of Public Breastfeeding in the United States

Historic Breastfeeding
Long ago in Internet years (about seven years ago) I was a staunch breastfeeding advocate and researcher (still am!). Back then I wanted to get to the bottom of why nursing in public was such a big issue in the United States. So, I started digging in the photo archives of the Library of Congress for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours and discovered through black and white, historic photos that breastfeeding in public hasn’t always been a problem in the United States. Read more.

8. 5 Maternal Health Organizations to Support Now

Peacekeeping - UNMIL
Every day 800 women die due to largely preventable causes during childbirth. That number is mentioned everywhere maternal health is mentioned and championed, but it always bears repeating. Until the drastic maternal mortality numbers decline the data must remain front and center. Mothers’ lives depend on us knowing the facts. Read more.

7. How  One Philanthropist Is Changing Lives for Indian’s Women and Girls

It’s been just over a week since philanthropist and advocate Indrani Goradia landed in India. She’s been many times before, her husband’s family is Indian and she is from Trinidad and Tobago, of Indian descent. But this is a different trip and fifty-plus years in the making.

Not long ago, gender-based violence was viewed as a private, domestic affair. Even in the United States, legal protections against violence toward women were not enacted until 20 years ago in 1994. Read more.

6. Traveling to Tanzania With PSI, IntraHealth, and Mandy Moore
Over the years I have had the distinct privilege of meeting health workers around the world from Ethiopia and Kenya to Tanzania and South Africa to India and Brazil. Health workers, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, are the unequivocal backbone of health systems that can oftentimes be severely taxed due to the overwhelming number of people who rely on them for care to the disarray of health systems’ frameworks coupled with a dismal lack of financial allocations to national health care. Read more.

5. Maternal Mortality in the United States: The Numbers May Surprise You

When we talk about sky-high maternal mortality rates we tend to look more closely at low-income countries like Afghanistan, Chad and Somalia that have the world’s highest maternal mortality rates in the world according to the World Bank. And, of course, sub-Saharan African countries need to desperately bring their numbers down. But when you look at rich, developed countries the United States has the highest maternal mortality rates among them and the rates are not declining. In fact, maternal mortality rates in the United States have doubled over the past 25 years. Read more.

4. Book Review: Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict in the World’s Deadliest Place

There has increasingly been more attention paid to conflict minerals – the minerals that are extracted from mainly developing countries – that are used to power the technology we all cannot live without. These minerals cause problems for a great many of us. We cannot go a day or even a few hours without our cell phones, tablets, and laptops even though we realize that the minerals inside of them most likely caused suffering for some African miner working to earn very little wages. Read more.

3. A Day in the Life of a Family Planning Health Worker

It took over an hour in notoriously congested Dar es Salaam traffic and gingerly moving through winding, narrow, dirt roads to visit Blandina Mpacha. Mama Blandina, as her community affectionately calls her, is a PSI health worker who teaches women, men, and whole families about the importance of family planning. This isn’t something new to her. Mama Blandina has been a family planning health worker for over twenty years and has seen the slow-going, but eventual change in attitudes toward spacing births. Read more.

2. How  One Philanthropist Is Changing Lives for Indian’s Women and Girls – Part II

Laxmi strode confidently into the hotel ballroom where we were holding the launch of Wajood – a project developed in partnership between Indrani’s Light Foundation and PSI India to stem gender based violence in Delhi.

She’s slight, dressed in skinny jeans and unmistakable in her confidence, her beauty and for the scars covering her face and arms. Read more.

And, the most read post is..

1. Why Don’t We Spend More Money at Home? Breaking Down False Notions About US Foreign Aid

foreignaid101-thumbnail_1_orig_c (1)Whenever I go to the Hill to advocate for continued and, more importantly, increased funding for foreign aid I always hear from staffers that their constituents perpetually call their congressperson’s or senator’s office telling them to stop spending money in other countries and use that money at home. What these concerned citizens and so many in the United States, do not understand is that the United States’ federal budget is so unimaginably huge, we spend less that 1 percent on foreign aid (from budget.house.gov). Read more.

Our Top 10 Recommended NGO Videos of 2014

Effective video making is a powerful form of storytelling. Videos, when done well, get to the heart of the matter quickly and leave people wanting to know more, do more, and donate more. These videos encompass all of those things and also made us want to delve more into not only their messages, but also spread the word. Here are our top 10 NGO video recommendations of the year.

World Food Programme

World Food Programme workers the world over constantly face what could be insurmountable circumstances to feed people who lack proper nutrition and enough food to sustain themselves. With a rock-n-roll backdrop in this video the WFP shows how they have overcome logistical barriers to feed the South Sudanese during the rainy season.

The Blessing Basket Project

Do you remember the first time you saw the ocean? For many of us who have visited the coast since we were kids that memory is long gone. Not so for Sarah, a Ugandan country director for The Blessing Basket Project, who recently saw the ocean for the very first time. This video in its simplicity shows how far good content can go.

Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Have you read The Last Hunger Season by Roger Thurow? If you haven’t gift it to yourself during the holidays. It’s a remarkable read. What’s even better is Thurow followed up his book this year with an eight part film series. So many of us who have read The Last Hunger Season wanted to know more about everyone Thurow mentioned in the book. How were they doing? Did they see improvements in their lives and harvests? Did they endure another hunger season? You can find out those answers in the film series. Watch all eight and follow Thurow’s blog, Outrage and Inspire.

Norad

We all know every child has the right to an education. But did you know children with disabilities, children in marginalized groups, girls, and child soldiers are often kept out of school? These children also have a right to an education. 57 million children are still without an education. This video shows how BRAC, through the assistance of Norad,  helped a physically disabled little girl, Ria, go to primary school in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Clean Team Ghana

Something as simple as using the bathroom can be very dangerous for women and girls, especially where there are public toilets.  The Clean Team Ghana keeps public toilets clean for the communities at an affordable rate where everyone can use the restroom with dignity.

Doctors Without Borders

Even in the midst of armed conflicts Doctors Without Borders along with other international NGOs believe that children still must be vaccinated. This video shows how difficult it can be to vaccinate children in some of the most remote areas of the Congo and how Doctors Without Borders team accomplished their task despite the inherent obstacles.

UNICEF

Pakistan has 170 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births each year per the World Health Organization making it one of the countries in Asia with the highest maternal mortality rates. Sub-Saharan Africa sees the greatest maternal death rates. Without midwives, more women will die without skilled ante and postnatal care. Through first-person storytelling, this UNICEF video shows the importance of midwives in Pakistan to the safe delivery of newborns and the survival of their mothers.

20/20/20

This touching video of two sisters who were born blind shows how a simple medical procedure can correct blindness and restore sight within 15 minutes. 20/20/20 gives sight to some of the world’s poorest children and adults who otherwise would never be able to afford this operation.

Human Rights Watch

Can you imagine getting up every morning to clean human waste from dry toilets (those without running water or that are not attached to a septic system) day after day without pay? And, while the work is humiliating enough, adverse health conditions arise from carrying baskets of excreta on one’s head from losing patches of hair, having constant nausea and headaches  to getting skin diseases and having breathing difficulties. Watch this chilling Human Rights Watch video about women in the undesirable caste who are forced to clean human waste in India.

Girl Effect

FGM (female genital mutilation) is one of the most inhumane practices on young girls in the world. It causes undue physical and psychological damage to girls for the course of their entire lives. More than 125 million girls and women living today have undergone FGM in mainly 30 countries. However, with an increase in immigration, girls who now live in western countries are also getting “cut” in order to sustain the rigid cultural practice. This Girl Effect video shares the candid and moving voices of women who underwent FGM and are now speaking out against it.

Correction (9/18):  Clean Team is a sanitation business not an NGO. Clean Team provides in-house toilets to the urban poor in Kumasi, Ghana at an affordable fee. They do not keep public toilets clean.

How Heifer International Creates a Movement of Change for Families

This holiday season gifting animals to families in need in low-income countries can mean the difference between them living in abject poverty or being self-sufficient. I interviewed Cindy Jones-Nyland, Chief Marketing Officer of Heifer International about how they work with families around the world and transforms their lives.

  1. When people buy animals as gifts for those in need, how long does it take for families to receive that gift? 

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We work with families to provide training regarding proper animal well-being techniques, including animal health, nutrition and breeding.  Heifer projects are customized to achieve the objectives of the communities with which we work so there is no standard timeframe in which animals are distributed. In general, animals are delivered within 12 to 18 months of the project cycle start.

  1. Which animals are most gifted during the holiday season? 

Goats, heifers and bees are pretty popular this time of year. Heifers are classic, and what’s not to love about goats? A gift of bees goes great with a jar of local honey for the recipient.

Continue reading How Heifer International Creates a Movement of Change for Families

Sex Trafficking of Girls Is an Underground American Problem

Last week I saw someone in my Twitter feed mention the new movie, The Long Night, that was recently featured on the New York Times. The Long Night is an online film by Tim Matsui and Media Storm and funded by the Alexia Foundation about girls who are sex trafficked in and around Seattle. I immediately watched the entire movie and sat there in stunned silence! I just couldn’t believe what I was watching. I came to quickly realize how easy it is for young girls (mostly who come from abusive families) to fall tragically into lives where they become prostitutes, are owned and branded by their pimps, and use drugs to simply forget the lives they live. I also learned that prostitution is a cycle nearly impossible to leave because most of these girls do not have educations and many have criminal backgrounds. It then becomes even harder for them to become employed and to leave the life of sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Primarily following the lives of two young women, Natalie (a runaway from a good home) and Lisa (who was turned out by her pimp at 13), Matsui delves into the catalysts that drove them both to enter a life of being sex trafficked and their struggle to live a “normal” life. It was all too easy for them, even though at the time neither one of them really understood the risks of living the lifestyle. They were too young and fell into the trap of being coerced into becoming prostitutes by their pimps.

Lisa, who stood out most to me, is currently in jail and throughout most of the film she is noticeably high on heroin and even gets high before going into rehab where she stayed for one hour. Lisa also used to be a “cutter” and so along with her track marks are countless healed wounds from where the slashed her arms and legs.

"I’m not going nowhere. I have an image in my head of what I would want to be, but no matter what, it’s like, how do I get there? But in reality, maybe I realize that me being in jail, me getting sober, is a step toward that image of who I want to be."
“I’m not going nowhere. I have an image in my head of what I would want to be, but no matter what, it’s like, how do I get there? But in reality, maybe I realize that me being in jail, me getting sober, is a step toward that image of who I want to be.”

The one silver lining of the film is that there is King County police officers who help girls like Nicole and Lisa get immediately shelter, support, longterm housing, and rehabilitation services.

Taylor
Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Taylor, on how his policing changed when he started listening to the sex workers he encountered on the job. “Take the time to engage them and talk to them and find out why they are out there and I think it would change a lot of officers’, young officers’, minds and not look at them as throw away people.”

This year alone 2740 sex trafficking cases have been reported. I’m sure that number is probably just the tip of the iceberg since so much of sex trafficking is underground. California, Texas, Florida, New York and New Jersey are the top sex trafficking states based on data from the National Sex Trafficking Resource Center.

When you watch The Long Night you can easily become overwhelmed and feel a little helpless about what you can do to help these girls who are in such vulnerable positions.

The good news is there are ways you can help!

• First, think about your sphere of influence
• Then, watch the film at thelongnightmovie.com
• Like the Facebook page facebook.com/moviethelongnight
• Like the Facebook page facebook.com/leavingthelife
• Invite your friends to do the same
• Comment on the film. On your page or on the film’s. Tweet about it.
• Share a story. Share your own Call to Action.
• Host a living room screening of the film
• Bring the film to your PTA or PEPS group
• Integrate it into your schools
• Call your city officials and ask they watch the film.
• Get the film to your local police chief
• Get your mayor on board
• Find local victim service providers and ask what they need; socks, meals, donations for their annual fundraiser, they’ll know. And then let your community know what you did, inspire them!
• Have Leaving the Life come to your municipality to facilitate the co-creation of solutions in day-long convenings. This will take some work, even if you’re the mayor or the county executive.
• Because it’s all connected, consider donating to your favorite non profit working on a social justice issue. This includes Leaving the Life www.leaving-the-life.com/take-action

Why This 21-Year-Old Filipino Mother Dropped Out of School in 6th Grade

I met Jasmine and her son, Kent John, 7-months-old, on a sunny day at a free health clinic in Ormoc, a busy port city on Leyte island in the Philippines. At just 21-year-old Jasmine came to the clinic because Kent John had been experiencing a cough and fever for two weeks.

Luckily located very close to the clinic, Jasmine takes her son to the clinic for his regular immunizations and goes anytime Kent John is ill. Sometimes she has to wait for two hours before being seen by Glenda B. Serato, the health clinic’s nurse.

“I am confident with my baby’s health because I can access free immunizations and medicine,” Jasmine says through translation.

The mothers I spoke to including Jasmine mention always coming to the clinic for their children’s  immunizations even though many live deep in the rural areas where rice and sugar fields are abundant and access to health services are not.

“The mothers are educated now,” Serato confirms. “It is very rare that mothers don’t get their children vaccinated.”

During Typhoon Haiyan that devastated much of Leyte island, Jasmine was five months pregnant, but was able to deliver her first child, Kent John, via C-section at a public hospital. Now, she is taking oral contraceptives to space her children with her husband, who drives a motorcycle for a living.

Continue reading Why This 21-Year-Old Filipino Mother Dropped Out of School in 6th Grade

5 Maternal Health Organizations to Support Now

Every day 800 women die due to largely preventable causes during childbirth. That number is mentioned everywhere maternal health is mentioned and championed, but it always bears repeating. Until the drastic maternal mortality numbers decline the data must remain front and center. Mothers’ lives depend on us knowing the facts.

Over the past few decades maternal health numbers have effectively decreased by 47 percent, but we still have a long way to go especially in sub-Saharan Africa where most maternal deaths occur.

Large, international NGOs and governments have put their influence and resources behind saving more mothers’ lives. But, this is a big world in which we live where there are many women who still do not have access to quality prenatal health care and who must resort to delivering their babies at home which can often be fatal for them and their newborns. Some expecting mothers, especially in the poorest sub-Saharan African countries, do not have any other choice but to deliver at home due to a lack of access to health workers and proximity to a health facility.

There are countless organizations that are working diligently to ease the burden on expecting mothers in low-resource settings and are striving to save more lives. While decreasing the number of maternal deaths may seem like a Sisyphean task in the short term, there are organizations that save mothers’ lives every day! Every life matters even if the data points don’t show significant change quickly enough.

Here are five organizations we think are doing phenomenal maternal health care work and that deserve to be supported especially during this giving season.

  1. The Safe Delivery App is a groundbreaking mobile training tool, which can save mothers and newborns in Africa during pregnancy and childbirth. The app is developed by Maternity Foundation in cooperation with leading scientists from University of Copenhagen and University of Southern Denmark.The app aims to improve the quality of maternal and neonatal care in developing countries by teaching birth attendants in hard-to-reach areas how to manage normal and complicated deliveries through animated clinical instruction films.They are raising $100,000 to scale the app. Donate to their campaign at www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-safe-delivery-app-a-life-saving-mobile-app.

  2. Jacaranda Health is a social enterprise and operates as a 501(c)3 in the US.  Their mission is to transform maternal health care in East Africa and make pregnancy and childbirth safer for women and newborns. “Jacaranda Health aims to provide respectful, patient-centered, kind and high-quality care during pregnancy and childbirth,” says Amie Newman, Jacaranda Health’s Director of Communication and Development.That’s why we love their work! Donate at jacarandahealth.org/our-approach/jacarandas-model/donate.

  3. Every Mother Counts has teamed up with CrowdRise to raise essential funds to save more mothers’ lives in the seven countries, including the United States, where they work on maternal health care and prevention of maternal deaths.
    Every Mother Counts was launched with the intention to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. Donate at www.crowdrise.com/EveryMotherCounts-Tower.

  4. Midwives for Haiti: When we hear about mothers who die during childbirth they most likely succumb to hemorrhaging (bleeding to death). This is particularly sad because hemorrhaging, in most cases, is preventable. In low-resource settings, however, hemorrhaging takes the lives of countless women and it doesn’t have to happen. Midwives for Haiti has put together a program that specifically addresses postnatal care. Many women who delivered at Hospital Ste. Therese in Haiti where they work, either received no postnatal care or were sent home four hours after delivery. That is highly unacceptable and deadly.Donate at midwivesforhaiti.org/projectpostnatal.html.

  5. Zero Mothers Die is a global partnership initiative that is equipping pregnant women in developing countries with unique mobile phones to give them access to healthy pregnancy information and healthcare that could be just a phone call away during emergencies. Their aim is to bring mobile technology solutions to pregnant women to empower them with information and enable them to seek care when they need it most.Donate at www.indiegogo.com/projects/zero-mothers-die-mobile-phones-for-pregnant-women.

We know there are countless organizations that are working with mothers to keep them alive before, during, and after childbirth, but we can’t mention them all. Please list other maternal health organizations in the comments.

Photo: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

How Mother’s Loving Support Encourages Breastfeeding in Zambia

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Mutinta Roni Maimbo

Mother’s Loving Support is a non-profit volunteer organisation borne out of the founder’s desire to encourage and support women as they breast feed their babies while continuing to work outside the home.

In Zambia, breastfeeding a child is a socially accepted and encouraged step with the coming of a child, but many women in urban areas slowly transition to formula or other substitutes as the child grows or as they end their maternity leave to go back to work. Typically this happens at three months postpartum, though some women are able to extend their maternity leave in order to spend more time with their babies and nurse them for longer. When the time comes, many difficult decisions are made, one of them being how a mother can continue nursing while she goes to work?

Employment law does not have a specific allowance for nursing mothers, but at the discretion of the employers, mothers can take an hour each day to breastfeed their children, with many women able to go home during lunch hour to nurse. However, others face challenges in taking this time to nurse and this prevents them from providing breast milk for their children, thus transitioning them to substitutes earlier than is recommended. In addition, if women have not had an easy time breastfeeding, they are likely to stop at this stage.

Continue reading How Mother’s Loving Support Encourages Breastfeeding in Zambia

One Mother’s Story Of Giving Birth in a Hospital Instead of At Home

Merida, Philippines – I met Jocelyn Pingos, 27, in Merida, Leyte on a bright, sunny tropical day in the Philippines. A mother of four, Jocelyn sat outside her local health center and waited patiently to have her youngest, Lenith, 10 months, looked at because of a nagging cough. Her second youngest, Jelenia, 3, was also with her. Jocelyn’s other children who are 9 and 6 were attending school.

When Jocelyn delivered Lenith earlier this year, she and her husband decided that she should have a tubal ligation two months after her delivery.

“I have no plans to have any more children,” Jocelyn said.

Lenith

Jocelyn delivered her two youngest, Jelenia and Lenith, at the local hospital. Her two oldest were delivered at home. “For the first two, the midwife came to my home,” Jocelyn remembered. “The midwife wasn’t available for the last two.”

Continue reading One Mother’s Story Of Giving Birth in a Hospital Instead of At Home

How Women Are Rebuilding After Typhoon Haiyan: Elsa Morales

“We are very lucky the storm surge didn’t really touch my town,”said Manuel Boy’ Sia Que, the mayor of Dulag municipality. “We only had one-half to one meter storm surge.”

In Ormoc, a city about an hour and a half from Tacloban, one of the hardest hit cities during Typhoon Haiyan is also like another nearby city, Dulag. Ormoc didn’t get the huge storm surge like Tacloban that took thousands of lives, but they did bear the brunt of the torrential winds.

Elsa Morales lost everything during the storm. A single mother, her husband left her in 2005. In 2009 World Vision gave her a pig to provide a livelihood for her and her four children.  She has been raising pigs organically ever since by feeding them natural plants instead of commercial feeds and creating her own fertilizers.

Elsa Morales' Pregnant Sow
Morales’ pregnant sow eats swamp cabbage. It is abundant and organic food for her pigs.

Continue reading How Women Are Rebuilding After Typhoon Haiyan: Elsa Morales

How PSI Reinforces Positive Reproductive Health Messaging Through Branding, Edutainment

In Tanzania, orange has increasingly become the recognized color of family planning and reproductive health services. Population Services International’s orange Familia brand is quite common in most regions of this coastal country of 49 million. PSI, a global non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health of people in the developing world, has consistently and effectively branded everything in its nationwide Familia social franchise network since it began in 2009 with unforgettable orange and its semi-cursive Familia logo that bears a heart at the beginning of its name. All aspects of the Familia social franchise network from its clinics’ signage to the clothing of its health workers to its condom brand that claims in part 80% of Tanzania’s condom market and its health education booklets, all get PSI’s extensive branding treatment. The result: PSI Tanzania was able to serve 119,000 clients in 2013 through Familia via word of mouth and effective marketing.

Familia

Familia is PSI’s social franchise network of over 260 private sector clinics across 23 regions that primarily provides family planning, cervical cancer and maternal health services as well as health services for children under the age of five in urban and peri-urban community settings in Tanzania.  Tanzania’s most remote areas are serviced by PSI outreach teams.

Continue reading How PSI Reinforces Positive Reproductive Health Messaging Through Branding, Edutainment