Month: March 2015

What Indiana’s New Religious Freedom Restoration Act Means for Women 

Today, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) allowing for individuals and companies with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to refuse service to individuals who do not align with their beliefs. Although the Governor and his Republican colleagues refute the claim that this bill legalizes religious discrimination, it clearly does. For example, the law protects Christian bakers, florists, and photographers from punishment if they refuse to participate in a homosexual marriage. (Same-sex marriage was legalized in Indiana in October of 2014.) Now, that might sound seemingly harmless. After all, if same-sex partners are looking for wedding day caterers or other services, they could always choose another, more LGBT-friendly company. Unfortunately, that may be easier said than done when 80 percent of Indiana’s population follows the Christian faith. But that’s beside the point. The point is that they shouldn’t have to look elsewhere. (Before students staged the 1960 Nashville sit-ins at Woolworth’s lunch counter, the same argument was used to justify segregation in restaurants.) I got married in 2013 and I know from experience that planning a wedding can be a time-consuming …

Help Lesotho celebrates 10 years in the Mountain Kingdom

By Stephanie Vizi, Help Lesotho Intern International Women’s Day 2015 was celebrated in full force at Help Lesotho’s Hlotse Centre on March 13. Help Lesotho invited the King and Queen of Lesotho dignitaries and many of the organization’s beneficiaries to celebrate 10 years of empowering girls and women and engaging boys in Lesotho. In 2004, Canadian professor, Dr. Peg Herbert, was encouraged visit Lesotho by one of her students, a Mosotho woman named, Sr. Alice Mputsoe, now a local principal. Sr. Alice took Herbert to the Highlands of the mountainous country where she saw entire villages decimated by HIV and to the lowlands where child-headed households had become the norm. Herbert saw the need to build an organization to help the vulnerable orphans, youth and grandmothers left behind in the scourge of the AIDS epidemic in Lesotho, and Help Lesotho was born. Help Lesotho is founded on the tenants of education, leadership development and psychosocial support. It strives to create a sustainable future free of AIDS and poverty for the Basotho and in addition each …

Jacaranda Health: Making Pregnancy and Childbirth Safer for Women in Kenya

I t’s a big month for women’s health and rights as advocates and world leaders gathered earlier in March at the UN in New York City to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women; and the Beijing Platform for Action which gave rise to actions to improve the lives of women and girls around the world. The platform highlighted 12 key areas to address. Why are these issues important to Jacaranda Health? One of those areas is “Women and Health” because, as UN Women notes, “Women need to be healthy in order to realize their full potential.” It’s been repeated many times but 289,000 women die every year from complications related to pregnacy and childbirth; most of those complications (including postpartum hemorrhage, and high-blood pressure during pregnancy) are preventable with access to skilled health providers and an improvement in the quality of care currently accessible to most women in developing countries.  Jacaranda Health builds maternity hospitals for these women and newborns and offers patient-centered, respectful, high quality health care from pregnancy through to postpartum (including …

Breaking free from honor

In a rural community in Palestine, I watched a teacher tell a group of women that their husbands do not have the right to beat them, no matter what. “Even if he sees you kissing another man, he does not have that right,” she passionately pressed. One woman immediately interrupted. “If he cannot beat his wife,” she pondered aloud, “how can he take back his honor?” After class, the teacher and I talked about honor in this community. “It’s synonymous with control,” she explained. “Men use honor to convince and condition women to accept their own subordination.” In honor-based cultures, a man’s reputation is vested in the behavior and bodies of the women in his life. While the specifics vary according to culture, honor impacts every aspect of life for girls and women. They do not have freedom to make their own choices because they are reflections of an abstract concept attached to their fathers, brothers and husbands. Their lives are not their own. When an honor code is broken, women are often subjected to …

Celebrate Women and Water this March

At 19 years old, my French professor asked me if I believed in female solidarity, strengthening the core of women’s empowerment by supporting other females. At the time, the concept didn’t mean much to me. As I grew more aware of the issues women face around the world and of the exemplary women that spark positive change, it has developed into one of my fundamental values. March is a time to not only celebrate the commencement of spring, but it is also the season to raise our voices for both women and water. As global citizens around the world stood together on March 8th for International Women’s Day, we must also stand behind our nearly 750 million other counterparts who face each day without access to safe drinking water. Let International Women’s Day serve as a reminder to us of the importance of safe drinking water and sanitation. Let it remind us of the girls who are struggling to stay in school because they don’t have a bathroom in which to manage their menstruation in …

World Water Day: Clean Water is Only the Beginning

Written by Suzy Vickers, Public Relations Manager, WaterAid ​This morning 13-year-old Ze got up and went to school. This might not sound very remarkable, 13-year-olds girls go to school all the time, don’t they? For Ze, this was a truly momentous day. I met Ze a year ago in her remote village of Antohobe in Madagascar. Perched a mile up in the highlands, our Landover lurched from side to side as we climbed the steep dirt tracks to her home. I could see why the village name means ‘a place with a view’. When I arrived I was immediately struck by two young girls – Solo and Ze. Bright, chatty and confident, these best friends were eager to show me where they lived. They had few belongings, just one toy between them, a cherished doll they delighted in playing with. Their home was a simple two story building, with livestock kept on the first floor. Conversation took a more somber tone when they explained their daily chores to me. These young teenage girls had to worry …

Let’s Talk About Adolescent Health

​There is a growing conversation among adolescents, communities, organizations, the private sector and other stakeholders concerning the future and health of adolescents around the world. There are close to 1.8 billion adolescents living in the world today. Many are healthy while others lack access to the vital health services and education they need to grow and thrive.  The leading growing issues include but are not limited to complications leading to pregnancy and childbirth, access to sexual and reproductive health services, gender-based violence and the over 2 million adolescents who are living with HIV. In order to ensure young people can transition well from youth to adulthood, these issues must be adequately addressed. The renewed Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health, set to be launched in September 2015, is a roadmap for ending all preventable deaths of women, children, and adolescents by 2030 and improving their overall health and well-being, and builds upon the 2010-2015 Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health launched by the UN Secretary-General. The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) has been …

Teenage Pregnancy: What To Do About It

This is a guest post by Joseph Ssennyange, Peer Educator at Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU). Reach a Hand Uganda is a Segal Family Foundation partner. Brianna was a young, brilliant 16-year-old Ugandan woman who was always competing for the top academic position. She was admired by many students and teachers. She recently joined the drama club where she met Arnold, a charming young man whom many girls had an eye on. Arnold and Brianna quickly became friends and, soon after, fell in love. ​A few months later, after missing her period, Brianna discovered that she was pregnant. On finding out, she told Arnold, but he denied being responsible for the pregnancy, claiming he was not yet willing to be a father. She was advised by a friend to abort in fear of being disgraced by her family and community. All her life, she had strived to be the best daughter her parents could ever have, following all the guidelines her parents set for her. She had always feared one main thing in life – pregnancy! …

When Time Stood Still: A Story of Courage, Survival, and Healing

Once in a while a book comes around that will have a profound impact on the lives of others. In a rare combination of personal reflection and professional insight, When Time Stood Still is a book that will not only assist in the healing of survivors, but also in public acknowledgement and understanding of childhood sexual abuse. ​The prevalence of child sexual abuse is difficult to determine in the world, as many victims are too young or vulnerable to disclose the experience. According to the Children Assessment Centre (CAC), an estimated 500,000 children were born in the US in 2014 will be sexually abused before they turn 18. Statistics available state that child rape occurs every two minutes and that 90 percent of molesters abuse children they know. Adult retrospective studies show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18. This translates to more than 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse living in the US. When Time Stood Still is a rare experience, …

Women and Children at the Center of Development

On Tuesday, as part of the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the UN Secretary-General hosted a high level event titled “Saving Lives, Protecting Futures” at the United Nations and launched the Progress Report on his Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, which has been carried out since 2010 as part of the Every Woman Every Child movement to accelerate progress towards Millennium Development Goals 4, 5 and 6. Let us therefore resolve to build on the progress we have made so we can end the preventable deaths of women and children within a generation. Together, let us make history and leave no one behind. – Ban Ki-moon Every Woman Every Child was launched by the Secretary-General in 2010, during the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit. It is a global movement that has pooled together support and resources from governments and partners form all around the world to address some of the greatest health challenges faced by women and children globally. On Tuesday, the Secretary-General along with a panel of distinguished …