Month: July 2014

SEED Community: GirlZTalk

Our journey into the rural heartland of Limpopo, South Africa continues to resonate in our organization. During the past few months we have continued to make new connections with girls across South Africa, sharing our stories, the issues faced and ways to overcome them. Together with EV1 we have launched a GirlZtalk feature on the social media network Mxit.  Through their beSmart platform, GirlZTalk is an information and exchange platform for teenage girls around the world. Each week we are able to connect with girls across South Africa via mobile phone, discussing issues that matter and enabling them to take part in the conversation. Our aim is simple. We want every girl and young woman in South Africa to have a safe space where they can break the silence. Girls in South Africa should be free to be themselves without fear of judgement. Our work reveals that the statistics yield a very honest and stark reality. The untold story, the silence and scorn passed on from one generation to the next has produced fertile ground for violation and ignorance to continue to flourish. It …

Ending the AIDS Epidemic in Adolescents

The International AIDS conference kicked off this week in Melbourne, Australia bringing together policymakers, those working in the field of HIV, persons living with the disease, and others committed to ending the endemic. Recognizing that we are at a critical time to ensure that HIV remains on top of the global agenda, this year’s theme – Stepping Up the Pace – is pushing adolescents to forefront. According to UNICEF, by the end of 2012 approximately 2.1 million adolescents were living with HIV globally. About two thirds of new infections were among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. Today’s adolescents have never experienced and AIDS-free world and face complicated risks and challenges that were unknown to previous generations. Compounded by the vulnerabilities that arise during adolescence, young men and women – and particularly girls – are facing high infection rates, poor access to treatments, and inadequate education. Despite these challenges, the global community is committing to addressing the specific needs of adolescents in order to cute infections in half by 2020. Recognizing …

End Child Marriage, Accelerate Progress Towards the Millennium Development Goals

Child marriage devastates communities all over the world, with an estimated one-third of the world’s female population aged 18 and younger married off as brides. A horrific reality for millions of girls, child marriage involves painful lifetimes of gender-based violence, dangerous pregnancies, complicated childbirths, risks of obstetric fistula, illiteracy, and poverty. Like organizations including Girls Not Brides, I believe that ending child marriage is key to accelerating progress toward achieving development on local and international scales. The perpetuation of child marriage interferes with the fulfillment of six out of eight Millennium Development Goals: Goal 1: Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger In common procedures for child marriage, prospective grooms offer a “bride price” to the bride’s parents to consent to him marrying their daughter. Typically, the bride’s parents accept the money hoping to escape difficult economic circumstances. Yet, the financial “gains” that families may reap are short-term, and cannot compensate for the long-term damage that child marriage incurs. A child bride does not receive opportunities for education and economic participation crucial to poverty alleviation. She and her family are locked in perpetual cycles of poverty, with hunger …

Fighting HIV in Kenya: Stories from the Field

Three years ago, I spent the summer working in Eldoret, Kenya with the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) program at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.  The program, founded by the visionary Dr. Joseph Mamlin, specializes in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention and boasts a catchment area of over 160,000 HIV-positive adults and children. The program not only works at the hospital itself, but also utilizes its network of rural clinics to reach individuals in the surrounding area who otherwise may not have had access to treatment. Every Wednesday, I worked with AMPATH’s rural clinics to gather data on patients who missed their HIV checkups. I joined Kenyan community health workers (CHWs), driving for hours on bumpy and sometimes treacherous dirt roads in order to reach the most inaccessible. Our destination was almost always a small mud-built hut in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. Upon arriving, my colleagues introduced themselves and explained the purpose of our visit. As the majority of the patients spoke their ethnic dialect rather than Swahili or English, I was …

A Father’s Love

Across India, over 3 million girls are out of school. The state of Rajasthan has 9 of India’s 26 worst gender gap districts for girls’ education. Studies show, in this state, 40% of girls drop out of school before class 5, only 15% primary school children can read a simple story in Hindi, and 68% girls are married before the legal age of 18. Cultural norms and longstanding traditions often serve as barriers to girls’ education, but many other factors also lead to high drop out and low enrollment rates for girls. Educate Girls is working to tackle these issues. A Father’s Love: Diya’s Story Shravan Ram* (32), from the district of Pali in Rajasthan works as a laborer in a factory. He and his wife never had a formal education, were married young and have three children – two boys (aged 10 & 8) and a girl (13). Three years ago Shravan removed his daughter Diya* from school while she was in the 3rd grade.  An Educate Girls Team Balika member, Saroj,* who belonged to …

It is time to End Child Marriage!

What were you doing as an 8 year old girl? Maybe you had just started second grade, getting an education, having Tea-Tuesday picnics and playing with imaginary friends in the garden under the watching eye of your parents, who were making sure you are safe and sound. Or were you forced into an early marriage at the tender age of 8, being physically, emotionally and mentally harassed, viciously and brutally sexually assaulted by your male companion [now husband] who is 40 years older. A pain so complex no child is meant to experience – and yet this is a reality for many young girls from as young as 6 years old in countries where child marriage continues to be legal and practiced. An 8-year old child bride from Northwestern Yemen, Hardt in the Middle East, died on her wedding night after suffering internal injuries and sexual trauma from her betrothed husband. This particular incident sparked international outrage and called for global outcry to end child marriage in Yemen. It is believed the young girl died …

Malala Day 2014: What are you #StrongerThan?

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela Today marks the second annual Malala Day. Malala Yousafzai and two of her classmates were shot by Taliban gunman on their way to school in Pakistan in October 2012 (for being girls and for wanting to get an education). After surviving the traumatic encounter, Malala did not fear school, but instead has become a global icon for promoting pacifism and everyone’s right to education. Malala says that the extremists fear the power of education, and courageously asks, “Let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism. Let us pick up our books and our pens, and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.” According to UNESCO, global literacy rates are on the rise, however, currently two-thirds of illiterate adults (493 million) are women. Among the 123 million illiterate youth, 76 million are female. Even though the size of the global illiterate population is shrinking, the female proportion has remained virtually steady at 63% to 64%. …

World Population Day 2014: investing in young people

Every year since 1989, communities around the world mark 11 July as World Population Day, which brings to attention global population issues in the context of development plans and programmes. We now live in a world of a whopping 7 million people (and growing), with a staggering 1.2 billion people who live in extreme poverty, increasing demands on access to basic rights including education and healthcare. This year’s theme for World Population Day is “Investing in Young People” and communities and organizations around the world will be committing today to empowering young people in order to improve their sexual and reproductive rights. “On this World Population Day, I call on all with influence to prioritize youth in development plans, strengthen partnerships with youth-led organizations, and involve young people in all decisions that affect them. By empowering today’s youth, we will lay the groundwork for a more sustainable future for generations to come” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Message for World Population Day Young people aged 10 to 24 make up 30% of the population with even higher …

It Takes A Village: Let’s Commit to End Child Marriage

By: Felogene Anumo, Advocacy Programme Associate. The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), @Felogene on Twitter Last week, I joined thousands of maternal and child health advocates at the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) Partners’ Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa. The gathering and robust discussions breathed life into the African Proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” The various stakeholders present called for ambitious and transformative commitments to realize the potential to be the ‘village’ that ends early, forced and child marriages in one generation, as this contributes to preventable newborn deaths and maternal mortality. Until Death Do Us Apart: Facts and Figures One in three girls in the developing world will be married by their eighteenth birthday. This can end their chance of completing an education and puts them at greater risk of isolation and violence. One in seven girls in the developing world will be married before they are 15, some as young as five years old. Every year, 70,000 girls die in labour because their young …

Girl Power: Why We Need to Invest in Girls For a Better Future

Those of us who have had the privilege of working with and for girls in the developing world know how much they have to contribute to their families and communities. And we believe it’s time the world began to pay more attention to what girls have to say and to give them a chance. Girls stand at the doorstep to adulthood. If given a chance, they can be teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs and so much more. What does it mean to give girls a chance? It means providing girls the opportunity to lead healthy, productive lives so they can achieve their goals without fear of violence. It means tackling social and institutional norms that limit girls’ futures by devaluing their roles in society. And it means guaranteeing girls’ rights to education, health care, personal safety, economic security, and citizenship. Child marriage is one of the starkest examples of how we fail to give girls a chance. Girls who are married as children, have fewer educational and economic opportunities, they are more vulnerable to HIV, high-risk pregnancies, …