Author: Reena Gupta

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Born 9 years after my parents migrated from India to the United States, I was welcomed into the world of stability, an established and settled home, and a pleasant life. T his year I moved to Kitwe, Zambia on a fellowship with Global Health Corps. One evening in September I FaceTimed my mom in between power outage schedules, complaining about still not having hot water after a month. She jokingly chastised me and shared a recipe she used as a child, 3 hot water kettles mixed with 2 kettles of cold water to make the perfectly heated bucket bath. In this moment I realized, that for just a short year, I was living the routine my mother had endured all her life growing up in India – mosquito nets, unscheduled power outages, cold water. My brother and I used to joke that when our mom visits India she becomes a completely different person – vibrant, loud (especially with her sisters), and adventurous. But it is true. She was a completely different person before us due …

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The Most Amazing Week

Although Zambia developed the Anti-Gender Based Violence Act in 2011, Gender Based Violence (GBV) still persists at high rates today in Zambia, deeply entrenched in Zambian culture and norms. Out of the Southern African countries, Zambia ranks unfortunately high for GBV prevalence with 72% of women experiencing GBV in a lifetime and high associations between GBV and HIV positive status. As a result, young girls living in Zambia face a myriad of challenges. Pressures from emerging womanhood, boys, and social media can force girls to experiment with their bodies and sexuality, though they may lack education and resources on safe and safer sex. Additionally, girls that come from poorer areas or families might not be able to negotiate or decline early childhood marriage. All of the unique pressures that girls face in their adolescence puts them at additional risk for HIV. To address this, the Zambia Centre for Communication Programmes (ZCCP), in partnership with Peace Corps, is running Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) camps across Zambia to educate and empower female youth by teaching them …

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CDC’s Infographic and the Double Standard of Behavior

  A man has a beer and is featured in TV commercials. He’s cool, he’s “one of the guys.” But time and time again, women are called out, shamed, and even blamed for the behavior of others for doing the same thing. In 2013, Hong Kong Security Secretary Lai Tung-kwok appealed to young ladies to stop drinking too much because of the increase in rape cases. The Missoula Montana Police Department has a history of blaming rape victims for alcohol use, and Crimewatch creator Nick Ross suggested that “not all rape is rape” when the victim is drunk. Now, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released this infographic in their monthly Vital Signs report. The CDC infographic intends to prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). As the CDC states, “alcohol use during pregnancy, even within the first few weeks and before a woman knows she is pregnant, can cause lasting physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that can last for a child’s lifetime.” Understanding the harmful effects of alcohol during pregnancy and even the …

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The Global Mental Health Burden

It is estimated that 1 in 4 people globally will be affected by mental or neurological disorders in their lifetime. Yet, the magnitude of mental illness is not matched by the amount of resources and awareness that the burden demands. Mental illnesses affect women and men differently. The prevalence of mental health issues in women is directly related to the frequency and severity of gender discrimination, violence against women, socioeconomic disadvantage, and subordinate social status. Depression, predicted to be the second leading cause of global disability burden by 2020, is twice as common in women as it is in men, affecting women at a rate of 41.9% and men at 29.3%. Additionally, 80% of people affected by violent conflicts, natural disasters, and displacement are women and children, which also contributes to greater trauma and stress. In a lifetime, violence against women ranges from 16% to 50%, and at least 1 in 5 women will suffer from rape or attempted rape. Gender stereotypes of greater emotional issues and sensitivity in women prevent some women from seeking …

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Multi-Sector Approach to Ending Child Marriage

From November 26-27, the African Union held the first ever Girls’ Summit on Ending Child Marriage in Africa at the Government Complex in Lusaka, Zambia. The summit was sponsored by the African Union, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Women, International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF), and more. Delegates from around the world – Ministers, First Ladies, Traditional Leaders, Survivors, Activists – gathered to present research, share compelling stories, ask thought-provoking questions, and discuss how to be the generation that ends child marriage. An estimated 1 in 3 girls is married before the age of 18. If this trend persists, approximately 150 million girls will be married before the age of 18 over the next decade, averaging 15 million girls each year. Disempowered and vulnerable, child brides are at greater risk of experiencing complicated pregnancies, gender based violence, AIDS, and poverty. While there is much to be done, I feel there are 4 action areas in particular that are crucial in combatting early child marriage. 1. Education is key Studies show that …