Month: August 2014

The Adolescent Girl Moment: Passion is Our Fuel But Not Our Plan

Guest blog post by Judith Bruce, Senior Associate and Policy Analyst, The Population Council In a recent interview, I was asked, “Can you tell a story of a girl who has touched you?” This question is not surprising; the stories of the poorest girls in the poorest communities are compelling. However, although these stories fuel our passion, they do not reliably move us to effective action. Without clear, targeted, evidence-based plans and resources on the ground, the impressive adolescent girl campaign will have few lasting results. Images of girls, individual success stories, and the recent UK/UNICEF Girl Summit provoke the powerfully emotive right side of the brain, but may not fully engage the logical and analytical left side. It is that left side we require to move this agenda forward and to Earth. Further, the very success of this beautifully crafted campaign may unintentionally suggest that girls’ telegenic presence in development communications reflects substantial programmatic investment on the ground. It does not. Though investments in poor adolescent girls are central to the achievement of Millennium Development Goals, …

Girls’ Education: A Byproduct of Microfinance

Daw Ni, a widow and mother of three girls living in a small village outside Bago, Myanmar, used to support her family by working odd jobs on local farms.  A $30 loan from Educational Empowerment’s micro-finance program allowed Daw Ni to open a small business serving mont-hin-gar, a traditional fish-noodle soup, to customers that she welcomes into her home. Microfinance creates opportunities for women living in poverty to start small business enterprises.  In addition to obtaining a higher household income, these women develop increased decision-making power, self-confidence, and community influence. While the savory scents of ginger, onion, lemongrass, banana stem and fried garlic wafting out to the dirt paths of the village might not lead passersby to think about education, in fact, proceeds from the business have allowed Daw Ni to send her youngest daughter to secondary school, an opportunity usually unavailable to girls in Myanmar.  Only 18% of Burmese girls complete secondary school, the lowest rate in all of Southeast Asia.  Daw Ni’s youngest daughter is one of the lucky ones.  Her two older sisters weren’t as fortunate. There are …

Ignorance is Not Innocence: Importance of Sexuality Education

Let us face it: Sex is everywhere. Music videos, television adverts, movies, online pornography, characters in games. Did you know that nine out of ten children aged between eight and sixteen have viewed pornography on the Internet? As a result, young people are receiving conflicting messages on their sexuality, view on relationships, identity and gender. With the evolution of the information age, young people can now transfer information freely and have instant access to knowledge that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to find. The repercussions are vast and varying, not limited to early sexual debut, teenage pregnancies, spread of HIV/AIDS, increased vulnerabilities to sexual abuse and risky sexual behavior. Education is a central determinant for behavior change. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) identifies the primary goal of sexuality education as that “children and young people become equipped with the knowledge, skills and values to make responsible choices about their sexual and social relationships in a world affected by HIV.” Several global and regional frameworks have acknowledged the importance of sexuality education. The Common African Position …

Can we really end FGM in a generation?

Can we really end FGM in a generation? On 22 July, the UK government held the first Girl Summit, a day that focused on how to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) in a generation. FGM is the deliberate mutilation of women’s genitalia and has life-long mental and physical affects on their health. The Girl Summit was a fantastic day, full of commitments from leaders and ministers. Before we can achieve the goal of ending FGM in a generation in the UK, there are many issues we need to address: We need to understand why FGM happens Every girl around the world is born free and fearless. In countries where FGM is practiced, many young girls are left broken and fearful. FGM is a gross violation of women’s rights and is a reflection of deep rooted patriarchal structures. The practice of FGM oppresses women and girls. As a result, they are often afraid to assert their rights and thus are continually dominated by men. Men control the society we live in, and practices like …

Why Should We Invest in Girls’ Education?

Originally published on The Huffington Post In developing communities, there are three structural issues that prevent a girl from fulfilling her right to education: Her gender, her zip code, and her economic condition. Deep-rooted stigmas against women’s education, conjoined with region-specific interventions and the heavy burden of tuition costs, form what is commonly perceived as an unbreakable barrier to girls’ education. As a result, child marriage, sex trafficking and forced prostitution become horrific alternatives to education, so-called substitutes to schooling that leave a country ensnared in a labyrinthine web of gender-based violence, economic paralysis, and ill health. For so many girls in the world, going to school remains a distant dream, an unattainable ecstasy that hovers beyond reach. But as champions for social change, we must understand just what women’s education holds for the lives of the female students we read about – and what it offers for our world as we know it. Exactly what is girls’ education, and where does its significance and relevance lie? Without further ado, girls’ education is a worthy …

When Disaster Strikes, Mothers and Newborns Are the Most Vulnerable

Originally published on The Huffington Post. What would you do if disaster struck? What would be the first thing you would think about if you found out that your family had to flee from your home? What would be on your mind as you struggle to stay hidden amongst air raids and bombed streets? If disaster struck today — if a natural disaster swept away my entire community or if internal unrest escalated to a civil war — I know that I would think about how to stay safe, how to ensure that my family and friends could stay safe and how to keep my unborn baby alive and healthy. For expecting mothers around the globe, this happens daily. Disaster does hit and they remain pregnant, with a growing baby in their womb that needs care, rest and nutrition. Yet, when we speak of disasters and conflict, we speak about who is to blame, we talk about peace-keeping and humanitarian operations, or we debate asylum for refugees — as a burden for the receiving countries. …

Women Deliver Announces 2016 Conference on 500 Day MDG Milestone

August 18, 2014 marks the 500 day milestone until the deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the eight goals established by the United Nations and governments around the world tackling some of the world’s biggest problems. As the world gears up for a final push to raise awareness of the progress made through the MDGs and rally to continue the momentum, one advocacy organization working to advance the health of women and girls has made an exciting announcement. Women Deliver – a global advocacy organization and leader in the call to advance the health and rights of women and girls – announced today that the next Women Deliver global conference  will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in May 2016. The announcement was made at the Invest in Girls and Women – Everybody Wins event held at the Danish Parliament, where Denmark’s new Strategic Framework for Gender Equality, Rights and Diversity was also launched. “We are beyond thrilled that the Women Deliver 2016 Conference will be in Copenhagen,” said Women Deliver President Jill …

Speaking with Girls’ Globe Bloggers!

Girls’ Globe is an amazing global network of young women who in various ways are dedicating their time and energy to strengthening the rights and health of women and girls. It is through individuals like these that change is made and we are thrilled to be growing into such a strong force for change by joining hands in the struggle to make the world a better place for women and girls. We want to continue to let their voices inspire you, not only through the great blog posts they write here, but through a new video interview series of short one-on-one Google+ Hangouts that you can watch and share. Here are the first three: Megan Foo, Hong Kong Diane Fender, USA Nelly Lukale, Kenya Stay tuned to upcoming interviews each week with Girls’ Globe bloggers from around the world. You can see all of them here.

Empowering Communities to Improve Maternal and Newborn Health

If you are reading this, there is a good chance that you already know thousands of women and babies die every year, due to complications in pregnancy, labour or birth. You probably also know that most of these women and babies are living in poor countries. Are there any lasting sustainable approaches that can address these situations? Empowering women through community mobilization. For over a decade, Women and Children First has been working to improve maternal and newborn health by empowering women and their communities to find their own solutions to their maternal and newborn health problems. Empower [ɪmˈpaʊə]: To make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights. Using a participatory approach model over a 2-year period, groups of poor, often illiterate women living in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, identify and prioritise maternal and newborn health problems in their community. The women also identify local strategies to address these problems, take action on the local strategies and evaluate their impact. Throughout the life cycle of the …

End Child Marriage: Girls Hold the Key to the Future

With their boundless potential, adolescent girls can be many things—but being a bride against their will should not be one of them. Adolescence is a time of learning, self-discovery, socialization, maturation, and fun. For the world’s almost 70 million child brides, adolescence is marked by gender-based violence, dangerous pregnancies, social isolation and crushing poverty. Child marriage is an unjust practice that limits girls’ potential. In a recent Huffington Post article, Human Rights Watch Senior Women’s Rights Researcher, Agnes Odhiambo showed the imperative need for the global community, including leaders in countries around the world, to do more to prevent and end child marriage. Ending child marriage is a very necessary step in addressing human rights violations against women and a key element of helping nations flourish. Currently, the number of young brides around the world is staggering. One third of the world’s girls are married before 18 and one in nine are married before they are 15. Odhiambo offers first-hand accounts of the troubling reality for many child brides she had met, saying, “Child brides were financially …