Cabs for Women by Women

As the recent rape and death of a young medical student in India have highlighted, the state of the safety and public health of women in the country are tenuous at best.  While there are a minority of women who can afford to have their own cars, usually with chauffeurs to drive them, most Indian women who live in the nation’s capital of New Delhi are subject to the public transportation system of the city, which is comprised of an army of rickshaws, taxis, buses, and trains, none of which can protect them from the harassment from or assaults by disrespectful men.

However, a local non-profit called Sakha Consulting Wing is trying to counter this particular hardship that Indian women face by creating a taxi service that is completely catered to and serviced by women called Cabs for Women by Women. The program has existed since before the December rape but following the event, the service’s business has greatly increased as more women fear for their safety in public.

“Women who used other cab services are also turning to us,” driver Shanti Sharma tells Rhitu Chatterjee of PRI’s The World.

Composed of eight women drivers and seven taxis, the service acts not only as protection for its customers but as empowerment for its drivers.

“Ever since I started doing this job, I feel like I’ve reached my destination. I don’t want to change jobs anymore,” says Shanti.

Well-paid, this is the first time that Shanti, a single parent, has enough regular income to support her three children, and she is proud of that.

Life for female cabbies in New Delhi is still not a walk in the park though. Ridiculously outnumbered by male counterparts and mostly male drivers on the road in general, Shanti has experienced harassment while doing her job in the form of feeling alienated by other cab drivers in the city and having strangers dangerously cut her off and honk at her.

According to Shanti, “The only way to change the attitude of the men…is to have more women driving.”

While this is not untrue, the harassment of Indian women throughout the country is a systemic issue that will take broad strokes against the patriarchy, so firmly entrenched in much of Indian society, to end. This is the situation that women face not only in India but in much of the world today.

As the 2015 deadline to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals looms closer, with less than 1000 days to go, notes United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the African Union Summit, one can only hope that the goal of achieving global gender equality will one day be met.

As they say: the sooner, the better.

– Nina Narang

Sources: The World , UN
Photo: The Huffington Post

8 Developing Countries Get HPV Vaccination ProgramsThe GAVI Alliance announced on February 4 that it will provide HPV immunization programs to 8 developing countries. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer which 275,000 women die from annually, and 85% of that number live in developing countries. That’s a life lost every 2 minutes due to cervical cancer. Without changes in the current situation, cervical cancer-related deaths are predicted to increase by 430,000 annually, starting in 2030.

The GAVI Alliance will start demonstration programs in Ghana, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. The demonstration programs are the selected countries that will educate through experimentation and subsequently make an informed decision as to whether the programs should be expanded nationwide.

Seven of the countries will start providing HPV vaccines to girls 9 to 13 starting in 2013. Cervical cancer is best prevented through the immunization of girls before exposure to HPV infection making 9 to 13 the ideal age range. Once a person is infected with HPV, the vaccination is no longer effective.

Tanzania will wait until 2014 to participate. GAVI-eligible countries with already instated systems to distribute vaccines nationwide can apply for funding without undergoing the demonstration programs.

The vaccinations will be provided through schools and community health programs so that even girls who don’t attend school will have access. Through these demonstration programs, an estimated 180, 000 or more girls will be protected from HPV.

The HPV vaccines are administered in three doses. More than half a million doses will be necessary for the first round of HPV vaccines. This could be incredibly expensive, but GAVI aims to provide the HPV vaccines at a very affordable price in order to guarantee that the programs remain sustainable. To date, the best price is $5 a dose, which is a 64% reduction on the current lowest price.

UNICEF will procure the vaccines through the competitive pharmaceutical market. Currently, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) are the only manufacturers who have prequalified for the HPV vaccines.

A series of challenges face the implementation of demonstration programs in developing countries. Many of the countries don’t offer regular health services for girls aged 9-13. Additionally, it is difficult to ensure that the girls at the highest risk will be reached, and difficult to ensure that sexually transmitted cancer-causing infections are identified and prevented.

Yet, the initial HPV programs that have been implemented through schools in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have had positive results.  Moreover, the introduction of HPV vaccines may also create the opportunity to improve other adolescent health services that focus on nutrition, HIV, as well as sexual and reproductive health.

Professor Ian Frazer, creator of the HPV vaccine said, “Today’s announcement of country approvals for HPV pilot projects is another big step forward to ensuring that girls living in developing countries enjoy the same access to HPV vaccines as girls elsewhere in the world.”

By 2015, GAVI intends to help more than 20 countries establish HPV vaccination programs that should protect an estimated one million girls. GAVI also expects to have more than 30 million girls vaccinated in over 40 countries by 2020.

– Kasey Beduhn

Source: allAfrica, NZweek
Photo: GAVI Alliance

Food Security in the Democratic Republic of CongoSometimes a little goes a long way. This principle guides the idea of investments when one hopes that an initial effort or resource will somehow profitably pay off at some point in the future. Institutionally and globally, this is how education has come to be understood. The power of education has recently begun to change the lives of farmers around the village of Buganda in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There are programs that improve food security in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In a project facilitated through World View, 2,000 farmers had been brought into classes of 30 for a farmer field school meant to teach new and innovative agricultural techniques to farmers, including simple but extremely valuable practices such as drip irrigation and proper seed spacing. These techniques help to stretch valuable and limited resources and increase harvests to unprecedented yields.

The program also involves empowering women in their local communities, trying to make sure that equal and efficient work is understood by everyone and that no one is disadvantaged in the future.

The farmers in this project plan to form collectives and resource pools for the betterment of their community; after all, there is strength in numbers.

“Learning about improved techniques has enabled them to increase yields: where once they harvested two bags of cassava, now they get 15,” writes The Guardian.

The optimistic outlook for this project is that it will significantly help alleviate poverty for more subsistence farmers. As far as food security in the DRC goes, ongoing military conflict undermines the gains from improved methods because harvests and resources are taken by militias from both the DRC and Rwanda.

Thus, the prospects for food security in the DRC are uncertain. Societal innovation and destruction are continuously at odds but hopefully, when the violence ends, the farmers will be ready to produce sustainable quantities.

Nina Narang

Source: The Guardian
Photo: Catholic Relief Services

UN Central Emergency Response FundIn December of 2012, the United Nations had called for financial support for the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) which has financed humanitarian programs that saved millions of lives. Donors pledged $384 million for 2013. On January 21, the United Nations announced that $100 million was to be allocated to 12 poorly-funded crises around the world.

Since 2006, the UN CERF has helped speed up relief efforts by collecting donations to ensure that programs providing life-saving assistance receive adequate funding. Since then, the Fund has managed to secure a total of $900 million to address crises. In 2012, CERF allocated a total of $465 million to programs delivering humanitarian aid in 49 countries including Syria, South Sudan, Haiti and Pakistan, the highest amount allocated in a year.

On December 11, 2012, in a statement at the high-level CERF conference, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, praised the Fund’s work in aiding those affected by crises. “CERF’s support has been critical to saving the lives and livelihoods of millions of people throughout the world,” Amos said. “It has bolstered the transformative agenda, which aims to strengthen humanitarian response, and our efforts to have a robust and well-coordinated UN-led humanitarian response in support of national efforts.”

Amos reviewed CERF’s work in supporting Syrians in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, refugees in South Sudan, and disaster response in Haiti and Cuba post-Hurricane Sandy. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had also praised the fund’s range of services: “From flood zones to war zones, CERF stops crises from turning into catastrophes.”  Ban Ki-Moon emphasized the Fund’s ability to mobilize funds “in stubbornly under-funded situations” through its “quick, targeted support” mechanism.

CERF supports the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Burundi, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Liberia, Sudan, Uganda and Yemen. CERF selection criteria include humanitarian needs and analysis of funding levels. These situations include the Sahrawi refugee operation in Algeria, life-saving programs in Eritrea and agencies working in Afghanistan.

The objective is to target ‘forgotten’ or ‘neglected’ emergencies. A second round of allocating funding will follow in July 2013. Amos reiterated that the CERF continues to help millions of people “after the media spotlight fades.” She hopes more governments will cooperate with CERF in providing funds to those trapped in “hidden emergencies.”

“CERF is more than a message from the international community – it is a real help for the most vulnerable members of our human family,” concluded Ki-Moon.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: UN NewsUN NewsOCHA

Donald Girskis Visits Borgen Project HeadquartersDonald Girskis, a business guru who has created grand success with Boost Mobile and ShoreTel, brought enthusiasm and encouragement to The Borgen Project today as he visited headquarters for the first time here in Seattle.

Girskis’ business talent saw him at the start and formation of Boost Mobile, which under his leadership grew from an innovative idea to $1.8 billion in sales in just 5 years. Additionally, Girskis’ expertise in business then led him into the position of Senior Vice President, World Wide Sales, at ShoreTel, in which he resided from February 2008 to March 2012. This exemplary background in business has granted him the extraordinary opportunity to travel across the globe.

Through his travels across the globe, Girskis has seen the realities of both developed areas and less developed areas. Traveling to less developed countries and seeing the harsh realities of poverty has impressed upon him a calling to aid those who are less fortunate. He realizes the extremely difficult situation that millions are born into out of no fault of their own.

Girskis finds that The Borgen Project is important to the global humanitarian cause and he is passionate about becoming a part of this team. He was brought to this Project because he likes the fact that we can and do make a difference through advocacy for the world’s poor through our economic, humanitarian, and security perspective.

Girskis’ particular travel to Kenya has impacted the way he sees global development. He describes his trip to Kenya as an unusual juxtaposition between the traditional red masai robes and spears of the villagers and their possession of cellphones.  It was a prime example of how markets open for US companies when poverty is alleviated and poor people’s lives are elevated.  This reinforces that not only does foreign aid help the humanitarian cause, but it is good for job creation right here in the US. Girskis’ prime experience and passion is a great fit with The Borgen Project. The potential is exciting and unending, welcome aboard Donald Girskis!

– Evan Walker

Meningitis Vaccines Created For AfricaProviding vaccines for children in Africa may be easier if vaccines created for Europe or the U.S. were redesigned for Africa. In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) took the first step with the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP). The aim of MVP was to eradicate the meningitis epidemic internationally, with a particular focus on the African countries that had received financial aid from the Gates Foundation.

MVP developed the MenAfricVac vaccine. The Serum Institute of Indian Limited then produced and tested MenAfriVac on people between the ages of 1-29 in the meningitis belt, which includes countries like Mali, Gambia, Senegal and Ghana.

MenAfriVac was determined to protect people from ages 1-29 from meningitis caused by meningococcal A. It also was found to be the first vaccine that could be kept for up to 4 days at 40 degrees, and is currently priced at $0.50 a dose.

“This is the first time that a vaccine intended for use in Africa has been tested and submitted to regulatory review and approved for this type of use. And we expect this announcement to build momentum for applying the concept to other vaccines and initiatives, allowing us to save more lives in low-income countries,” said Michel Zaffran, director of Project Optimize, the PATH-WHO collaboration.

PATH and WHO believe vaccines against yellow fever, hepatitis B, HPV, rotavirus and pneumococcal disease could all be kept at higher temperatures than the typical 2-8 degrees prescribed by the manufacturers.

“We’re now working with one manufacturer to re-label hepatitis B,” said Simona Zipursky from the WHO. “It’s something people have become more and more aware of as possible, but as an immunization community we have been a little bit afraid.”

Evenly Adda, the Acting Municipal Health Director of the Kessena Nankana East, said the outbreak of meningitis has reduced significantly since MenAfriVac was introduced. Last year only one out of the six people diagnosed with meningitis died.

But, MenAfriVac remained unable to protect children under 1 year old.

This has been fixed with the Navrongo Health Research Centre’s (NHRC) discovery of a new conjugate vaccine which protects children under 1 year old from meningitis.

The new conjugate vaccine was created through the efforts of NHRC’s research team, health centre staff, district health management team, regional health directorate and with the help of collaborators that include WHO, UNICEF, MVP, and the University of Sienna.

The Principal Investigator of the Research, Dr. Abraham Hodgson, said the new conjugate vaccine will be available at EPI in 2015. He also said that the Centre is working on the development of a vaccine that can fight various types of meningitis.

– Kasey Beduhn

Source: The Guardian
Photo: Meningitis Vaccine Project

US AID Helping Eliminate HIV and AIDS in Nigeria

“The United States Agency for International Development, USAID, has expressed commitments towards ensuring that pregnant women and [sic]People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria are provided with adequate medical services,” report Vera Sam-Anyagafu and Prisca Sam-Duru of allAfrica.

The effort of providing proper medical equipment and training is part of the USAID mission to save one million lives, notes Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, during his official visit to Island Maternity in Lagos, Nigeria.

This arm of US foreign policy emphasizes the fight against AIDS and the United States’ investment in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of providing adequate maternal healthcare worldwide. Having proper prenatal care and enforcing proper hospital procedures and training has helped eliminate disease transmission of HIV and AIDS in Island Maternity and Dr. Shah believes that this result bodes well for the elimination of HIV and AIDS in Nigeria as a whole.

In his words, “…if Nigeria can replicate what has happened in this hospital throughout this country, it will be well out of its way to achieving its goal of saving one million lives and the United States is proud to be the primary partner to help achieve that outcome.”

– Nina Narang

Source: allAfrica
Photo: The Guardian

Women's Property Rights Success in Rural KenyaLandesa’s Kenya Justice Project has successfully negotiated women’s property rights in rural Kenya. Landesa, actively fights to attain and provide land property for those in global poverty and has successfully worked with USAID to target the progress of women’s rights in Kenya.

Recently, the Kenyan constitution was amended to grant more freedoms and political access to women. Property rights (in the form of access to land), is often taken for granted in most developed countries. But many developing countries, like Kenya, have not guaranteed rights for women. Additionally, the majority of those denied secure access to land rights are rural women farmers. Therefore, the heavy advocacy for the inclusion of women in state practices and formal constitutions is necessary for successful development and in this case, development of Kenya.

Landesa’s program in Kenya has seen success in marriage disputes as women’s written consent is necessary before property transactions are approved. Women are also increasingly able to acquire their own land to live on and farm independently of men. Another vital aspect to the progress is that women are now eligible to become elected as an elder and make larger impacting decisions, a role that was previously male dominated. More girls also attend school, which has now balanced the gender ratio of students.

Women’s access to property rights allows greater individual and political security and is a forward step in progress. Gender equality is vital to development as it “has the potential to end the cycle of poverty by enabling women to contribute to community decisions and govern family resources and money wisely.”

Evan Walker

Source: ONE

Panel Discusses the Millennium Development GoalsLast Friday, a high-level United Nations panel met in Liberia to discuss the UN Millennium Development Goals, one of the few successful international efforts aimed at addressing poverty, beyond 2015. Co-chaired by President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron, the panel made up of 27 world leaders is part of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s post-2015 initiative to discuss international development targets and advise on how to focus the international community’s efforts to end extreme poverty.

Started in 2002, the eight Millennium Development Goals of the UN Millennium Campaign are: End Poverty and Hunger, Universal Education, Gender Equality, Child Health, Maternal Health, Combat HIV/AIDS, Environmental Sustainability, and Global Partnership.

The objective of last Friday’s discussion was to renew, replace and replenish these goals and their sub-targets.  Present at the conference was Save the Children advocate Brendan Cox who commented that the members of the panel mostly differ on the foci of the new framework. “In our view, the framework can do lots of things: advance debates, encourage a normative shift, start to redefine development – but at its core must be abolishing absolute poverty in all its forms. That’s both because we think ending absolute poverty and focusing on the world’s poorest people is the most important thing, but also because we’re worried that without clear prioritization the panel and the ultimate framework will flounder, be unable to prioritize and unable to get specific. Such a framework would remain at 30,000 feet and struggle to gain political purchase if it could even be agreed.”

Prior to attending the panel, Prime Minister Cameron along with President Sirleaf visited a local school in need of books and computers. Cameron asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew up, to which many answered doctors and lawyers. “That is very impressive. In my country, they all want to be footballers or pop stars,” joked Cameron. Cameron made mention that he hopes to include higher quality education to be included in the world poverty goals.

Cameron has also emphasized the need to focus on extreme rather than relative poverty. “Liberia is a country that was absolutely devastated by conflict and civil war,” he said. “It is now recovering but there is still desperate poverty. I think it is very important we keep a focus on eradicating extreme poverty.

“Here in Liberia, one in 10 children do not make it to the age of five. But I also think it is important we look at those things that keep countries poor. Conflict, corruption, lack of justice, lack of the rule of law. These things matter, as well as money,” he said.

Key documents, reports and ongoing research on the post-2015 agenda are available on post-2015.org.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: Post2015UNUN Millennium GoalsThe GuardianThe Guardian
Photo:DFID

 

Accountability Promised on Aid PledgesAt the African Union Summit, British Prime Minister and Chairman of the G8, David Cameron re-asserted his conviction today to end extreme poverty. Patrick Wintour of The Guardian notes Cameron’s emphasis on “responsible capitalism” and accountability, the latter to which Cameron cited there will be “an accountability report when the G8 meets in Northern Ireland in June”.

Accountability seems to be a buzzword in recent politics as the pressure mounts for the United Nations to succeed in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, set to expire in 2015. The time is coming for individual nations to own up to the promises they had made to succeed in these goals in 2010.

The Guardian reports that Cameron promises to pressure western countries that have been less proactive on their aid pledges. The news source contends, “Britain has maintained its pledge to ringfence 0.7% of its gross domestic product for aid, something which has been fiercely opposed by some in Cameron’s party.”

This percentage yields a large impact and is a higher percentage of the gross domestic product than what the United States has contributed, which was reported to only contribute 0.19% of its gross domestic product in 2010. Although the size of the American economy is much bigger than that of most nations, the country may be held accountable for its false promises. In the past few years, the allocation of funding for foreign aid in the U.S. Budget has decreased because politicians seek to assuage the repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis.

– Nina Narang

Sources: The Guardian, The Huffington Post
Photo: The Muslim Weekly