Month: September 2015

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Fatima inspiring people all over the world

A couple of weeks ago social media found a new star. The famous Facebook page Humans of New York (HONY) posted interviews about a wonderful Pakistani woman called Syeda Ghulam Fatima. I have been following this page for almost a year, and though HONY has stunned me many times, this is probably the biggest impact it ever had on me. Not only is Fatima’s story amazing, but the response it got was breathtaking – bringing people together from all over the world. Fatima has dedicated her life to helping families escape from bonded labor in brick kilns. Though it may seem unbelievable today, modern day slavery does exist, and is an enormous problem in Pakistan. The laborers work in extreme conditions, they barely get paid, and if they die their debts are directly passed on to their relatives. It’s impossible to escape and if the families try to run the owners will retaliate with physical and sometimes sexual violence. The whole operation at these places is illegal, but corruption and bribery limits the police from interfering. That’s why …


Little Actions, Big Difference: Natalia Vodianova unveils

On Saturday I had the opportunity to get a sneak introduction of Elbi – Natalia Vodianova’s new platform and app for micro-philanthropy. Elbi enables you to “volunteer small moments of your time and give without breaking the bank”. The new app was launched at the Clinton Global Initiative today – with the aim of making it easy and accessible to do good in your everyday life, and to increase global connectivity with organizations that make a difference. In this interview with Natalia Vodianova, she explains what Elbi is and her hopes for change by 2030. The Elbi app is available on iOS and can be downloaded from the App Store in the U.S. and the UK.


Want to Break the Cycle of Poverty? Put a Brake on Unsafe Abortions!

The risk of maternal mortality is highest for adolescent girls under 15 years old and complications in pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death among adolescent girls in developing countries. Today, September 28 is the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion. At the very same time, Heads of States have just passed what is said to be the most ambitious development agenda. Well, I would like appeal to governments to raise the bar for women and girls when it comes to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). I am sure you will to, once you hear Wanjiku’s story: Wanjiku became pregnant at age 14 after a man from her village coerced her into sex. With no access to safe abortion, she turned to a “quack” to end her pregnancy—and now her health is in danger. She now relies on dialysis to stay alive. This is beyond what her family can afford.  Wanjiku had to drop out of school after being diagnosed with a kidney disease and is …


What is SRHR? Why Should You Care?

At a UNGA meeting on sexual reproductive health and rights, one of the panelists looked around the room and noted that all the attendees knew each other. And as someone interested in the field, but something of a newcomer, I was occasionally lost in the technical level of the questions on chain of distribution issues, references to previous reports and intimidated by the scale of the efforts, and barriers to me, as an individual citizen, entering the discussion. This is probably how most people feel the minute they hear ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.’ At the end of the conference, encouraging as it was, one panelist recognized the nature of the evening’s event. “We’re talking to ourselves,” she said, urging the room to to pull others into the conversation. “We need to be talking to the people not in this room.” She was right. It’s difficult to get people truly invested in the idea of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Many people in the developed world take it for granted – it’s hammered …

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#YouthVoices: The Present and Future of Global Health

Young people are the future. This phrase is used time and time again when talking about how and why to engage youth around global issues. Today, at what was one of the most inspiring youth events I have attended to date, Robin Gorna, the Executive Director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child health opened an engaging “round robin” discussion by stating the simple fact that in fifteen years the youth leading change now will be taking their seats as young adults in the field of global health and development. The #YouthVoices event hosted by Johnson & Johnson and Women Deliver, set the stage for young people to talk about the work they are doing as well as network with leaders in the field of global health. I had the amazing opportunity to sit in on three of the discussions where young people presented the work they are doing to improve the health of women, children, adolescents and communities. This type of discussion not only empowered them to share about their work but it also gave them …

Women in Malawi lining up to register for free family planning services. Image: Lindsay Mgbor/DFID

Our Bodies, Our Lives

Too often, women having access to contraceptives is considered some sort of luxury item – something that is optional, a matter of a choice, not something that should be made easily and readily available at an affordable, or even subsidized price. But the thing about contraceptives is that they aren’t just a tool for preventing unwanted pregnancies (and in the case of condoms, STDs) – they are a tool for women and girls to take control over their own bodies, and therefore their lives. As someone who has lived in the United States for the past 6 years, I have followed the sexual and reproductive health debate in the U.S. with interest and also horror. I’ve watched women’s bodies – my body – becoming a political war zone, ripped open and apart by pundits and politicians on both sides, for one main reason: because for as long as there has been history, there have been people (mostly men) who believe they have the right to make decisions about women’s bodies and women’s reproductive and sexual choices …


“Young people are saying, don’t talk at us, don’t talk about us. Talk to us.”

As Girls’ Globe has trekked from event to event, seminar to seminar and reception to reception this week, we’ve heard two themes repeatedly crop up. The first is the pressing need for accountability; forcing governments to hold themselves responsible for the achievement—or failure—of set goals. The second theme, and more prominent one, is an emphasis on youth as integral to moving forward. The idea that youth are the real changemakers in the world sounds like a platitude, but is a growing reality. Youth are a big deal, both figuratively and literally. There are 1.8 billion people between ages 18 – 24 in the world today, and that population is growing fastest in the world’s poorest countries. As their numbers skyrocket, addressing the needs of young people is vital in the present. Just as importantly, young people are the world’s future, and involving them as early as possible is imperative for future success. Young people are about to inherit an enormous responsibility for resolving many long-standing complex problems, ranging from poverty to climate change, yet they …


Quick Questions with the Women Deliver Young Leaders

Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to enter a room full of young leaders at the Women Deliver office in New York City. They are passionate activists and changemakers from Benin, Egypt, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and the USA. Entering the room, I listened in on their strong conversation about feminism, gender equality, intersectionality, the United Nations and invisible barriers to global leadership. These young leaders work in various ways to change and empower their own communities through strengthening sexual and reproductive health and rights, fighting for gender justice, supporting economic empowerment and more. I took the chance to ask these inspirational individuals two quick questions. What is your top priority for change by 2030? Note: The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are due in 2030! What action are you taking to help make that change possible? Learn more about Women Deliver’s Young Leaders program and follow for further coverage of youth at the UN General Assembly this year with #GlobalGoalsLive.

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Planet 50-50 by 2030: Making Gender Equality a Reality

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The world just began a new 15-year journey yesterday, Friday 25 September 2015, when leaders from across the globe adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.  The SDGs have emerged from three years of negotiations to address the three interconnected elements of economic growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. It is envisaged that the SDGs will be implemented at global, regional and national levels which is different from the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) which posited a donor-recipient model of rich countries “helping” poor countries. This week, the Girls Globe team attended various side events organized on the margins of this historical moment in view of seeking answers to a question on very many young women and girls lips, “What next?” Feminist Visions One of the side events I attended was organized by the Women’s Major Group for Sustainable Development. The Women’s Major Group was created at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, where …

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Have You Seen My Rights?

This week, world leaders have come together to set targets on some of the world’s biggest issues. Have You Seen My Rights? is a global coalition of organisations that working together to make sure this happens. Launched this week during the UN General Assembly, Have You Seen My Rights? is urging world leaders to make #5pledges to young people’s sexual and and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). These 5 pledges include: 1. Be a Global Leader in Youth Adolescent Health and Rights 2. Commit to Comprehensive Sexuality Education 3. Provide Equal Access to Youth and Adolescent friendly health services 4. Support life-saving drug related harm reduction services 5. Effectively fast track the aids response to end the epidemic Is it ok that millions of young people die from preventable diseases like aids? We don't think so, do you? Have You Seen My Rights? is a global coalition of organizations that have come together to overcome this crisis. We're urging world leaders to make #5pledges to young people's sexual and reproductive health and rights. A post shared by Girls' Globe …