Tag Archives: Women and Girls

Somalia: A Country in Flux

A rough approximation of a Greater Somalia inc...

Photo: Ramadan in Somalia: Men pray at a mosque in Mogadishu, Somalia, during the holy month of Ramadan. UN Photo/Ilyas A Abukar

Even though there was much fanfare and optimism coming out of Somalia a year ago as a new government was put in place and a new constitution was ushered in , the Horn of Africa country is now mired in an internal fight between the government and the Islamist group, Al Shabab, and is making worldwide headlines again. This time the news isn’t favorable.

Last week Doctors Without Borders announced it had pulled out of Somalia after 22 years working in the country. Vital medical services across Somalia have been halted and Somalian workers who have partnered with Doctors Without Borders throughout the years have lost their jobs. Attacks on its staff was cited as the primary reason for the pullout.

Additionally, another Somalian journalist was killed on Saturday in Mogadishi. Eighteen journalists were killed last year alone in Somalia according to the New York Times based on information from Reporters Without Borders.

Last week the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also declared an increase in sexual and gender-based violence in Somalia during the first six months of the year. Over 800 cases of sexual and gender-based violence were reported. Many of these cases involved children.

“Rapes continue to be perpetrated by unknown armed men and men wearing military uniform,” OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke stated in a UN News Center press release. “Sexual and gender-based violence also includes domestic violence, harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation, and early and forced marriage, he said, adding that the majority of the survivors were women aged 18 and above.”

Due to the increased violence UNICEF has stepped in to provide help to women and girls such as distributing fuel-efficient stoves because most attacks occur while gathering fire wood for cooking and bathing. UNICEF has also provided socio-economic support as well as psychological services for victims of violence.

And finally and somewhat even more troubling is the recent outbreak in Somalia and neighboring Kenya in a mostly Somali refugee camp, Daddab. 105 polio cases were confirmed on Friday, more than all of the polio cases reported elsewhere in the world.

English: Greater Somalia drawn on old politica...

World Population Day Highlights Adolescent Pregnancy

Today is World Population Day and this year’s theme is adolescent pregnancy. We are going to concentrate our efforts on addressing the needs of adolescent girls in developing countries as they make up over 500 million of the 600 million girls in the world according to the UNFPA. Nearly 16 million of them give birth between the ages of 15 -19 every year accounting for 11% of births worldwide.

Giving birth at such a young age is severely traumatic for girls because although their bodies can reproduce their bodies are too small to deliver a baby in most cases. This is one of the primary factors that leads to maternal and newborn mortality, increased obstetric fistulas and other childbirth complications.

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Girls who marry young and who have little education are most at risk for adolescent pregnancies. They often do not have access to family planning education or it is forbidden by her husband. There are grave consequences when adolescent girls are not given the option to plan their pregnancies which leads to increased probability of death or injury during childbirth or the same from unsafe abortions. In 2008 there were an estimated 3.2 million unsafe abortions for girls between 15-19 according to UNFPA data.

Additionally young girls in developing countries who marry early are at higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDS from their much older husbands. Young women between the ages of 15 – 24 make up 64 percent of new HIV cases worldwide.

What can be done about adolescent pregnancy in low and middle income countries? Governments and NGOs need to come together to push for greater access to education for girls. Studies show the more education a girl has, the longer she prolongs marriage. Additionally, there needs to be a greater emphasis on child marriages and the detrimental effects it has on adolescent girls. And finally, girls need greater reproductive education and access to family planning services in order to adequately plan their pregnancies.

In many cultures a woman’s worth is wrapped in motherhood. The only problem comes when young girls become mothers too early.

Learn more about World Population Day at UNFPA.org. Follow the conversation at #WorldPopDay on Twitter.

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Photo: United Nations

We’re Joining UNICEF USA for an Important Discussion About Women and Girls

conversationsNext Monday, May 6 from 2 – 3 PM EST we will join UNICEF USA’s CEO Caryl M. Stern and their Deputy Director of Programmes, Survival, Growth and Development, Maniza Zaman, for a robust Google+ conversation about maternal and child health as well as issues surrounding women and girls.

Members of the Global Team of 200 will also join the conversation including Nicole Melancon, Jennifer Barbour and Tawanna Browne. I will moderate the hour-long conversation.

We hope you’ll join us. Find out more on the G+ link.

From the Discussion Description:

Join +UNICEF USA and +Mom Bloggers for Social Good on May 6 from 2 – 3 p.m. EDT for an in-depth discussion around issues affecting women and girls in developing countries. As experts on the topic and as mothers themselves, participants will examine issues like gender equality in the context of today’s media headlines. We’ll also look at how +UNICEF is addressing these issues around the world and why it’s important for the American public to stay informed.

Please share your questions and thoughts in the comments section below. Selected questions will be answered in real time.

World Food Program: Feeding Women, Girls, Families

Yesterday I tuned into the World Food Program USA’s webcast, Mothers Rule the World, where those of us online learned about WFP’s efforts to feed women and girls in the developing world and thereby their entire families. Hosting the web cast was Isatou Jallow, chief of women, children and gender policy at the U.N. World Food Program and Rick Leach, president and CEO of WFP USA.

Great emphasis was placed on school feeding programs where girls are given food to take home to her family. This WFP program allows more girls to go to school because her family knows that by their daughter going to school they will also be provided food to eat through what they call a “take home ration”. This program throughout the developing world has significantly increased girls’ enrollment in schools.

Additionally, Jallow talked significantly about the first 1000 days of a child’d life – pregnancy through two years of age. For the World Food Programme it is essential for pregnant women to get proper nutrition so that their children will not be born underweight.

“If a mother enters pregnancy malnourished the baby can be born with low birth weight and has a disadvnatge right from the start,” said Jallow.

There are a whole host of additional outcomes that arise if a child is born with low birth weight. Cognitive and mental development are delayed. Some children never catch up to their proper weight and become less productive in adulthood.

Learn more about educating girls through take-home rations.

Additionally I want to share with you the blog of the new Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Etherine Cousin. Cousin was recently in Niger seeing first hand the terrible famine that is growing worse by the day in the Sahel.

Read Cousin’s two posts:

Visit the World Food Programme at wfp.org and donate to hungry children through our We Feedback page.

Photo Copyright: Jennifer James