Month: November 2014

How Ebola Impedes Women’s Empowerment in West Africa

Originally published on Huffington Post. On November 17, 2014, at a women’s health event called “Better by Half”, Barbara Bush and Melinda Gates voiced concerns about women’s health in Ebola-affected countries. Arguing that “women’s health is becoming a casualty of the Ebola outbreak,” Bush and Gates reignited calls to take concerted action to address the Ebola crisis. As I read Lucy Westcott’s Newsweek piece “Barbara Bush on the Impact of Ebola on Women’s Health”, I couldn’t agree more with Bush’s remark on the conversation about Ebola. Speaking to Newsweek, Bush remarked: “One thing that has been missed out of the dialogue around Ebola is, we talk about it as a health issue and it is a health issue, but there’s so many other repercussions from it.” Hoping to learn more about the the effects of Ebola on women’s and girls’ empowerment in West Africa, I found out that the outbreak does indeed extend beyond the purview of women’s health. Worryingly, the Ebola outbreak has directly and indirectly spilled over into other areas concerning women’s empowerment; …

The Untold Story of Violence Against Female Migrants

In a time of global upheaval, from economic catastrophes to devastating civil wars, the issue of immigration is gaining importance the world over. The UN reports that last year, there were an estimated 232 million migrants worldwide, a sharp increase from previous years. Additionally, the face of migration has morphed. While the typical image of a migrant was once a male worker, in some regions, women now make up more than half the number of immigrants coming into countries. In addition to the harrowing journeys they must make, these women face increased risk of sexual assault, trafficking, exploitation and abuse. The United States has absorbed the highest number of immigrants in recent years, and thus has a high rate of trafficking and human rights violations in immigrant populations to contend with, especially along the US-Mexican border. A rarely told story is that of female migrants who endure sexual assault from employers in foreign countries, smugglers across borders and even male migrants travelling with them. Jude Joffe-Block, a reporter working with border and immigration issues, shared …

Arranged Marriages: Interview with Author, Mala Kumar

The Paths of Marriage is a must-read for anyone who has ever felt misunderstood. A detailed, quick-moving and relatable read, the novel takes the reader through the experiences of three generations of strong Indian and Indian-American women in India and the United States. Repeatedly, Mala Kumar will challenge you to question tradition, love and independence as you experience three unique upbringings in this modern tale. I had the opportunity to speak with Kumar. Below is an edited version of the interview: What was the inspiration for The Paths of Marriage? The Paths of Marriage is an amalgamation of fictitious events, real emotions and sentiments of my real-life family, and observations I have made through my career in international development.  The Paths of Marriage tells the story of three generations of women all growing up with very different struggles. Why did you look at the institution of marriage with such a broad perspective? Marriage is an institution that is practiced according to cultural norms and expectations. With The Paths of Marriage, I wanted to explore how …

10 Reasons To Be Thankful This Holiday Season

When reporting news of gender equality (or lack thereof), global media outlets typically focus on the negatives. This holiday season, let’s take a moment, celebrate the positives, and be thankful for forward progress. 1. Outspoken feminist celebrities like Beyoncé, Emma Watson, Amy Poehler, and Taylor Swift have helped mainstream the public conversation around gender inequities. 2. Since 1990, annual maternal deaths have declined by almost one half and the deaths of young children have declined from 12 million to 7.6 million in 2010. 3. Lammily (a.k.a. Normal Barbie) is challenging beauty norms and empowering young girls to embrace their individuality. 4. Street harassment is no longer an ignored injustice. 5. Malala won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, proving once again that she is a BOSS. 6. Millennials are closing the wage gap between men and women.  7. Women know how to give incredible TED talks. 8. Women around the world joined together to protest and raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses. 9. Elsa and Anna shattered the typical damsel-in-distress female stereotypes (not to mention box office records) in Disney’s …

Better By Half

What can a room full of New York City journalists, communications managers and public relations professionals do to improve maternal health in Malawi? This. Last Monday, I had the opportunity to attend Better By Half, a discussion among Melinda Gates, Barbara Bush and Katie Couric. This was an intimate gathering of women’s media, non-profit, entertainment and fashion representatives with the goal to form a united front in empowering women worldwide. The discussion touched on a variety of topics including education, maternal health and child marriage, all as they relate to the rights and health of women and girls around the world. I gained insight into programs working to empower women, but more importantly, I left with a feeling. A feeling that I am doing my part to support women and girls around the world. Awareness is key to increased justice for women and girls. I now feel even more confident   I am part of a greater movement  to educate and empower girls everywhere. Melinda Gates, co–founder of the Gates Foundation and new site Better By Half, framed …

Maternal healthcare in Tanzania: Giving thanks for little victories

For those of us passionate about improving access to quality maternal healthcare, thinking about progress towards the MDGs can be disheartening. But this holiday season, as we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, we are reminding ourselves to be grateful for the little victories. A long way to go It’s a sobering fact that, despite encouraging steps in the right direction, we are very far from reaching our goals (1). The global maternal mortality ratio has dropped by 45% between 1990 and 2013: far short of the 75% target. The maternal mortality ratio in developing regions is 14 times higher than in developed regions. 300,000 women worldwide died in 2013 due to pregnancy or childbirth related causes. Tanzania: The national context Kupona Foundation is a non-profit committed to improving access to quality maternal healthcare in Tanzania. If I focus on the Tanzanian context, the picture is still bleak. Every year, 8,000 women die as a result of childbirth or pregnancy related causes (2). For every woman that dies, 20 more will develop an infection, injury or …

Food Security From the Ground Up

This is a guest post by Debby Rooney, cofounder of BEADS for Education. Teenagers in Kenya, like 16-year-old Charity, know devastating drought and famine firsthand. Charity can still recall the memories of a devastating drought and famine in 2009: A great famine befell the land of Kenya, more so Kajiado County (south of Nairobi). By that time I was in class four. I can remember all that had happened to the people, not only the people but also the animals. For the pastoralist’s like the Maasai (my tribe) they had suffered a lot. Their only source of food was dying. We are dependent on our livestock. Sometimes getting a jug of milk from ten cows was a miracle. At times milking cows, sheep or goats was like squeezing water from a rock. Anywhere you went there were carcasses that occupied most parts of the land. The only lucky animals by that time were the carnivores. Hyenas became a disaster at night. People could not sleep because they feared for their livestock. Water was another problem …

Giving Midwives the Respect they Deserve

Midwifery is one of the world’s oldest professions and midwives have been ‘with woman’ (the literal translation for the word ‘midwife’) for thousands of generations. The work of skilled midwives is invaluable in ensuring the wellbeing of expectant mothers, new mothers and their newborns. Throughout the years, midwifery as a profession has been subject to a plethora of misunderstandings, some as extreme as equating midwives with witchcraft. Even in the present day, at best, the role of the midwife is often misconceived as being simply about assisting births. Midwives around the world are undervalued. In the United States, laws prevent midwives from providing the full scope of care for which they are qualified. In the United Kingdom, midwives have recently been striking to get the pay increase they deserve. In parts of Asia, anecdotal evidence suggests that midwives are either wannabe doctors that failed to make the grade for medical school or poorly educated women who are unable to find any better work. In this year’s State of the World’s Midwifery (SoWMy) report, it was highlighted that …