Female genital mutilation in TanzaniaThe WHO estimates that more than 200 million women and girls across the world have experienced female genital mutilation (FGM). The culturally entrenched practice holds no benefits for girls and women. In fact, FGM puts girls and women at risk of severe health complications. Despite constituting an international human rights violation, in countries such as Tanzania, cases of FGM persist. The government of Tanzania, individuals and organizations aim to address incidents of female genital mutilation in Tanzania.

Female Genital Mutilation in Tanzania

In the year 1998, female genital mutilation became illegal in Tanzania through the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act. However, the legislation only criminalized the act for women younger than 18. Law enforcement officials intervened in rituals where young girls received their rite of passage through mutilation. The country hopes to end all harmful actions against women and children by 2030. This includes FGM practices.

A few issues surrounding the prosecution of FGM cases include victims refusing to testify against the perpetrators, especially if they are family members. Additionally, bribery by perpetrators is common to avoid prosecution. Inadequate evidence and “witnesses failing to appear in court” also contribute to low prosecution rates.

At times, “community leaders pretend to abandon the practice then organize alternative rite of passage festivals for girls only to continue with female genital mutilation in disguise.” Despite these barriers, Tanzania has seen a decrease in mutilations from 18% in 1996 to around 10% in 2021.

Recommendations From WHO

According to the World Health Organization, nine out of 10 Tanzanian women are against FGM practices. Because the practice is culturally entrenched, it is more difficult to completely abolish. The WHO recommends raising awareness about FGM in order to communicate the dangers the practice holds for girls and women. Furthermore, health professionals should be trained to “manage and prevent” cases on FGM. Furthermore, law enforcement needs to be better supported in order to ensure cases are investigated and prosecuted.

Solutions to FGM in Tanzania

Tanzania has developed a national strategy to address FGM in the country. The strategy launched on March 15, 2021, and will run for four years. The strategy involves “running campaigns on the health consequences of FGM for girls and women, recruitment of change agents from within the communities and the enforcement of legal mechanisms.” Though FGM rates in Tanzania have reduced to 10%, the fight to abolish the practice continues.

Men in the community have also joined the fight to end FGM. Chief Girihuida Gegasa Shulumbu is a traditional leader in the Mara village of Tanzania. As a father of three daughters, Shulumbu works with other male leaders to end the practice and find “alternative rites of passage.” Shulumbu recognizes that FGM impacts the most impoverished people and impacts education by keeping girls out of school due to recovery time and health complications that may ensue.

A lack of education keeps women in poverty, economically impacting Tanzania as a whole. Due to individual efforts and efforts from organizations, in the past three years, 96 ritual leaders have stopped FGM practices in Mara. Furthermore, more than 1,500 girls between 9 and 19 were protected from FGM practices through campaigns and programs.

Efforts to decrease female genital mutilation in Tanzania have proven successful. Although the fight continues, there is much promise that the practice may be eliminated by 2030.

– Selena Soto
Photo: Flickr

Problems and Solutions with Human Trafficking in India
With its current population of 1.3 billion people, India is the second-largest country in the world. However, with its size comes a myriad of human rights issues. With so many people in one country, many of them can easily fall under the radar. Human trafficking in India is one of the most prominent human rights issues within the country.

In India, kidnappings for labor and sexual needs have been constant. In 2020, a U.S. Department of State report identified India as a Tier 2 country. In spite of many genuine efforts, the country remains hindered by its inadequate solutions to alleviate the problem and the department feels that India did not sufficiently ensure the mitigation of the issue. Enslavement has also been a common issue. In 2016, the Global Slavery Index found that 18 million people out of 46 million people are enslaved in India.

Trafficking of Women

Within the system of human trafficking in India, most of those victimized are either women or minors. In 2016, The National Crime Records Bureau estimated that 33,855 people in India have been victims of kidnapping for the purpose of marriage. Half of this percentage consisted of individuals under 18 years of age. Kidnappers most commonly force women into commercial sex and indentured servitude.

Bride trafficking has also been a consistent commodity due to skewed sex ratios in certain areas. There has been a lack of women for the larger male population to marry, so many buy their partners. A UNODC report in 2013 found that of the 92 villages of the Indian state of Haryana, nine out of 10 households bought wives from poor villages in other parts of the country. The report also mentioned that most of the women experienced abuse and rape as well as working like slaves.

Child Kidnappings

Alongside the trade of women, many child kidnappings occur. Kidnappers force many of the victims into servitude within industries of agriculture and manufacturing. In 2016, the Central Bureau of Investigation estimated that 135,000 children become victims of human trafficking in India annually. Many of the Indian train stations, such as Sealdah in the city of Kolkata, have had reports of youth kidnapping. Due to the frantic environment of the station, most of these disappearances go unnoticed. A lot of these children either live near the station due to poverty and abuse at home or travel out to work despite the danger and illegality of child labor. Children have also experienced kidnapping during natural disasters. During an earthquake in Nepal, traffickers targeted children whose parents had lost their lives. Wherever traffickers send these children, they work in brutal conditions and receive little pay or nothing at all.

Action in Legislation

Despite the magnitude of the issue and the bleakness it presents, there are glimmers of hope. The government and the public have pushed to mitigate these problems. Prosecution and the tracking of victims are becoming a focus of legislation creation. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has worked to develop a new law to combat the issue. The draft law will include measures to make placement agencies compulsory and rules to monitor where workers are from and where they are going. The 2020 Department of Justice report recommended that increased prosecutions and legislation are necessary to combat the issues.

There are also Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that can give outside assistance in helping trapped women escape. One such group is Chetanalaya, which is the social action group of the Archdiocese of Delhi. Started in 1970, the organization focuses on mobilizing volunteer groups and state and union governments to assist in its efforts. The group has managed to liberate more than 800 enslaved domestic workers in the past two decades.

Helping Faceless

With the rise of technology in India, many have looked to use new innovations to assist in their cause. An example of this is the app Helping Faceless. Created in 2013, it helps fight child kidnapping and trafficking through the use of search engines that use facial recognition to help find wandering youth. To assist in helping women, the website is available for anonymous documentation of sexual assaults and other horrific experiences. By 2015, 5,000 downloads had occurred and the app continues to grow with attempts to improve the technology. Moreover, some are proposing to bring it to other countries that have similar human rights issues.

Going Forward

While the current issues regarding human trafficking in India are immense, the information and technology available can help alleviate the problem. Looking into a problem is one of the best steps in creating a good future and, while it may take a while, there is reason to hope. With the large population in the country, there are many individuals who have survived these experiences and are ready to fight to ensure that others will not endure them.

– John Dunkerley
Photo: Flickr

human trafficking during COVID-19The United Nations has warned of a recent increase in human trafficking taking place through social media. According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) perpetrators are approaching victims on social media and messaging platforms. Experts correlate this surge of online human trafficking with the lockdowns governments have implemented to combat COVID-19 that has left millions of people jobless and struggling to survive.

The Human Trafficking Crisis

Human trafficking has long posed a threat to the safety and well-being of the world’s most vulnerable populations. The U.N. has stated that between 2017 and 2018, approximately 75,000 trafficking victims were identified in 110 countries. During this period, 70% of victims were female, 77% of whom were then trafficked for sexual exploitation and 14% for forced labor.

There are several factors that make a person more vulnerable to human trafficking. The most pressing factor, however, is financial struggles or poverty.

Online Human Trafficking and COVID-19

Human trafficking is on the rise as millions are made desperate by the economic consequences of COVID-19. People employed in informal sectors have been particularly impacted by layoffs, while earlier this year migrant workers were left stranded far from home when borders closed and travel bans were implemented. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic will result in global extreme poverty increasing for the first time in two decades, pushing as many as 150 million people into poverty by 2021.

The impact, however, will be felt the hardest by females. As a result of the pandemic, 47 million more women and girls will be pushed into extreme poverty. Estimates even predict that globally, for every 100 men living in poverty in 2030, there could be as many as 121 women.

Besides  COVID-19’s economic consequences, traffickers have also benefited from the fact that people are spending more time online during lockdowns. While traffickers have usually operated with a great deal of impunity, the internet allows for easier access to vulnerable populations as well as the benefits of anonymity and false identities.

Addressing Human Trafficking During COVID-19

Human trafficking is a global problem but despite the scale of the threat and the advantages that perpetrators have during COVID-19, governments can take action to protect vulnerable groups, especially women and girls.

In an appeal to social media and messaging companies, CEDAW recommended that safety controls be set up to reduce the risk of exposing women and girls to trafficking and sexual exploitation. CEDAW has called upon online platforms to use data, artificial intelligence and analytics to identify possible patterns that could lead to trafficking. It also urges platforms to “put in place the appropriate governance structure and procedures which will allow them to be reactive in their response and provide the relevant level of information to the concerned authorities.”

CEDAW also urged governments to resolve the underlying issues that allow human trafficking to flourish. These issues include sex-based discrimination, economic insecurity, conflict and unsafe conditions for migrants and displaced people.

In addition, the United Nations has urged national governments to ensure that services for trafficking victims and survivors stay open during lockdowns and that the rights of migrant and informal workers are protected by labor laws. Finally, investments in programs for women’s economic empowerment are encouraged as a means of mitigating the disproportionate economic impacts on females. With the appropriate measures in place, human trafficking during COVID-19 can be prevented.

– Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

uyghur women
The Uyghur community in China is a suppressed Muslim Turkish minority centered in Xinjiang, a region in Central Asia. Since 2018, the Chinese government has placed up to two million Muslims and Uyghurs in concentration camps due to their cultural identity and religion. Uyghur women in particular face gendered abuses in addition to this mass incarceration.

Uyghur Women Speak Out on Harmful Practices in Xinjiang

Many courageous Uyghur women have come forward to expose the abuses they faced in the so-called re-education camps China has used since 2018. For example, a 38-year-old woman from Urumqi had to have her fallopian tubes tied because she had three children. Under Chinese rule, only two children are allowed per family.

Unfortunately, this is only one of the numerous cases in which Uyghur women have experienced sexual abuse or harassment in China. Experts believe that China has enforced its one-child policy by preventing 400 million births via forced abortions and mandated contraception. Because Uyghur families in Xinjiang are used to having up to 10 children, this rule is especially oppressive toward Uyghur women.

Since 2017, Uyghur families who violated this rule have experienced harsh punishments and violent attacks. In addition, there were 60,000 sterilizations in Xinjiang in 2018. This is about 57,000 more sterilizations than in 2014, when there were only about 3,000 in the region. As a result, Xinjiang’s population has dropped by more than 10% since 2014.

New Evidence

As a result of the stories women came forward with, new documentation has been released about the cruelties of China’s treatment of Uyghurs in concentration camps. Asiye Abdulaheb, an Uyghur woman residing in the Netherlands, joined forces with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to expose 24 pages of documents about the camps. This documentation followed 403 pages detailing the brutalities of Beijing’s concentration camps that were leaked in November 2019. Despite the resistance to China’s camps that followed the release of these documents, the government still denies these accusations. China continues to claim that the concentration camps are just job training centers and nothing more.

Actions to Combat the Oppression of Uyghur Communities

Despite the brutal violence that numerous Uyghur women have endured, many organizations have made strides toward aiding them. The Uyghur Human Rights Project is one such organization. Founded in 2004, the project is a research-based advocacy group dedicated to reporting the abuses faced by many Uyghur families in China.

The One Nation Project, a similar organization, aims to assist Uyghur victims currently living in concentration camps. With over 5 million beneficiaries, the One Nation Project uses donations to deliver food packages to Uyghur families. Other fundraising campaigns also exist to provide aid for Uyghur families. LaunchGood, a crowdfunding platform for Muslims, hosted a fundraiser that raised over $107,000 for Uyghur women and children. So far, the campaign has been able to help cover rent for 67 Uyghur families and has given over 343 monthly allocations to orphans.

Aside from projects and fundraising campaigns, however, there is much more the United States can do to stop the abuse in Xinjiang. One simple step would be ceasing to support forced labor from Uyghur communities. Popular brands such as H&M, Adidas, and Calvin Klein have been found to sell products made by forced Uyghur labor. More than 180 organizations are advocating for banning products made from forced Uyghur labor. Rep. Ro Khana, D-CA, goes further to ask the U.S. government to prohibit the importation of products made in Chinese camps.

Having stronger foreign policies can also allow the United States to obtain more support for Uyghur victims. As of now, the United States has lessened its involvement in the U.N. and has failed to hold China accountable for its abuses against Uyghur women and families. Because China is one of the five primary members of the U.N. Human Rights Council, it has the power to veto any proposal. With greater involvement in the U.N., the U.S. could work against the harmful practices that China conducts in Xinjiang. Foreign involvement in this issue is crucial. If the U.S. leveraged its power, alongside multiple projects and campaigns helping Uyghur victims, the abuses against Uyghur families could stop in the future.

Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr

Aid for Women and Girls
A recent hearing at the United Nations Human Rights Council illuminated the impact of COVID-19 and general global health emergencies on women and girls in impoverished communities, calling for increased aid for women and girls by the U.N.

How COVID-19 Impacts Women and Girls

The U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al-Nashif, made a statement to the U.N. Council for Human Rights on the consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic for women and girls stating, “experience demonstrates that insecurity and displacement fuel increases in sexual and gender-based violence, as well as other crimes and human rights violations.”

Testimonies like those shared by the U.N. News Podcast The Lid is On elaborate on the implications of COVID-19. One episode features a Ugandan activist named Zahara who reports that, in addition to increased rates of violence, rural women are currently suffering limited access to education, medical care and community support due to the pandemic.

The Deputy High Commissioner stresses that the situation for many women in poor communities is already critical. She notes that high rates of teen pregnancy, inadequate access to education and high rates of sexual violence in countries like Myanmar and South Sudan have only been exacerbated by the global COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, Al-Nashif called for greater legislation to provide judicial protection and increased aid for women and girls in vulnerable circumstances now and in the future.

Supporting Women through US Legislation

Like Al-Nashif, many members of Congress are pushing for increased aid for women and girls abroad. In addition to legislation providing international COVID-19 relief, bills are aiming to create long-term solutions to the challenges faced by women and girls. For instance, the Keeping Girls in School Act recently passed in the House of Representatives and introduced in the Senate would permit USAID to allocate funds specifically to confront “societal, cultural, health, and other barriers” that prevent girls from receiving a quality secondary education in foreign countries.

Similarly, the Girls’ Leadership, Engagement, Agency, and Development Act (Girls’ LEAD Act) introduced in the Senate in October 2019 seeks to create opportunities to gain experience in leadership and government through USAID. By expanding programs and aid for girls abroad, supporters of the bill hope to cultivate communities where women in leadership lift women and girls from positions of vulnerability to voices for societal change.

Looking Ahead

The U.N. has made it clear that women and girls in impoverished communities around the world suffer disproportionately during emergencies like the current COVID-19 outbreak. As such, international organizations firmly believe that increased foreign aid is critical. Legislation like the Keeping Girls in School Act and the Girls’ LEAD Act would support long-term assistance to prevent women and girls abroad from these vulnerabilities not just in times of crisis, but in everyday life.

– Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Flickr

Water Transport in Low-Income Countries
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 50 percent of the world’s population will live in water insecure areas by 2025. Around the world, about 2.2 billion people do not have safely managed water sources. This forces them to travel 30 or more minutes to get water and creates missed opportunities for those who have to take time out of their day to travel for water. Companies have created innovative solutions for water transport in low-income countries. Here are four facts about water transport in low-income countries.

4 Facts About Water Transport in Low-income Countries

  1. The WHO and UNICEF estimate that women and children fetch water for around 71 percent of households without a water source at home. This creates a disadvantage to women and girls who hope to go to school and work in the future. Studies have also shown negative physical effects on the body from constant water carrying. Individuals often have to carry much more than they can handle for 30 minutes or more on the journey home. People in these situations experience missed opportunities because of physical or mental fatigue, as well as time lost due to water collecting. A study that Jo-Ann Geere and Moa Cortobuis conducted found that the time to retrieve water ranged from 10 minutes to 65 minutes. They also may repeat this journey time multiple times per day depending on how much water they need. New ways of water transport in low-income countries are integral to the welfare of women and children in these communities.
  2. The Hippo Roller is an invention helping with water transport in low-income countries. The rolling water devices can carry up to 90 liters of water at a time and remove the need for heavy lifting. The device can last up to 7 years on rural terrain and provides a non-strenuous method of moving water from source to home. This innovative invention has made carrying water easier for around 500,000 people and the company hopes to continue to grow its outreach to more vulnerable communities.
  3. Communities continually attempt to shorten the travel distance from house to water source by building water services closer to living areas. The organization Water.org created a system called WaterCredit for people to take out microloans to install wells or sanitation facilities. The ability of homeowners to create their own source of water eliminates the need to transport water at all. The organization helped 27 million people so far in 16 countries and continues to expand on innovative ideas to bring clean water and sanitation to low-income communities.
  4. Another organization working to eliminate the need for water sources outside the home is Charity: Water. With a focus on local development, the organization takes an individualized approach to each community. It believes that by providing training and technology to local communities, individuals will have the knowledge to continue long-term maintenance on projects while expanding to new ones. The organization has empowered more than 11 million people through the funding of around 51,000 projects.

While these four facts about water transport in low-income countries show that water collection can be a challenge for many in the developing world, there are efforts to make water transportation easier. Through continued innovations like the Hippo Roller and efforts by organizations like Charity: Water and Water.org, water access for developing countries should become easier going forward.

Ashleigh Litcofsky
Photo: Flickr

Programs Aiding Women in Vietnam

Too many Vietnamese women find themselves locked into a life of abuse and poverty, with no skills or access to education to become gainfully employed. One example lies in the story of Sung Thi Sy. Sy resides in the Sa Phin village in the Dong Van District of Vietnam. According to the Asia News Network, her family lived in severe poverty for much of her life and she constantly lived in fear of her husband who would regularly abuse her. She considered running away, but she was worried about providing for her two young children. However, thanks to the support of a locally-funded program, Sy and her children are now thriving. There are many other programs aiding women in Vietnam including the following.

3 Programs Aiding Women in Vietnam

  1. Education and Training: One of the most well-known organizations that work to solve this problem is the Vietnamese Women’s Union (VWU). Founded in 1930, the VWU originally found roles for women during the liberation of Vietnam from French colonialism. After the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the VWU focused on helping women rebuild their lives by pulling them out of poverty and introducing them to the workforce. Today, the VWU has more than 19 million members that constantly work towards gender equality for Vietnamese women. The VWU offers loans to help poor Vietnamese women afford a higher education and training programs to provide the skills needed to find higher-paying careers.
  2. Agriculture: Women in the Dong Van district of Vietnam face a high risk of human trafficking and domestic violence and an unpredictable climate with barren land which makes farming a challenge. One of the programs aiding women in Vietnam with these struggles is the Lanh Trang (White Flax) Agricultural and Forestry Services Cooperative. Launched in 2017, the program works to provide vocational skills for disadvantaged women and invests in the necessary equipment to grow and harvest flax for the women in the Dong Van area. Since its inception, the Lanh Trang Cooperative has created stable jobs for 95 women, including Sung Thi Sy, all of whom live on a budget of around $170 to $260 per month.
  3. Entrepreneurship: The United Nations Development Programme launched an initiative dubbed the Economic Empowerment of Ethnic Minority Women via Application of 14.0 to aid women in Vietnam through entrepreneurship. This initiative creates an online platform in which Vietnamese women can learn modern financial solutions, take online courses on creating a business, obtain new technology for production and many more services.

Today, Sung Thi Sy has a job in the production of flaxseed products and brings home a consistent paycheck to feed her children and preserve the roof above their heads. Women like Sy are living proof that with enough funding, programs like these can promote tangible improvements in the fight against poverty and inequality in Vietnam.

– Charles Nettles
Photo: Flickr

Rape Epidemic in India
The rape epidemic in India garnered international attention in 2012, when several men brutally raped and beat a woman, Nirbhaya, on a bus. The event immediately spread across the globe and sparked massive international outrage. This pushed the government to promise new laws. However, it did not make any tangible changes. A minor positive change was a social shift resulting in more women finding the strength to report cases of sexual assault. Perhaps the most gruesome fact from this brutal event is the regularity of gang-rape in India. Nirbhaya’s case, while one of the most horrifying stories of rape, is only one among thousands.

Solutions in Bangladesh

There is a precedent for solutions to these types of problems. One solution is for the law to change in a way that punishes those who physically or sexually abuse women. Bangladesh has effectively lowered its acids attacks on women to just 75 in 2014 whereas it was previously 492 cases in 2002. It accomplished this by mandating the death penalty as the crime for acid attacks. Since Bangladeshi men now fear the severe ramifications for an acid attack, they refrain from hurting women with this method. However, if Bangladesh and India enacted rigorous laws for all types of abuse on women, then at the very least, those particular men would not be able to abuse women at as drastic of a level as they are currently.

Snehalaya Provides Aid to Abused Women and Children

Women who suffer abuse can still have hope since many NGOs are actively working to support the victims and help them get back their dignity and return to a normal life. One example is Snehalaya, which provides a safe space for women and children who are suffering abuse, and helps over 15,000 people per year. Snehalaya strives to use “grassroots outreach and education” to lower the amount of domestic abuse and violence that occurs in India. Women who are victims of sexual abuse can count on Snehalaya to provide the proper support group to push them towards a normal life, which is even more important because sometimes a woman’s parents may not accept her after she has become a victim due to social stigma.

Another solution for the rape epidemic in India is women’s empowerment through properly educating women, which is what Sayfty strives to do. It strives to provide women the tools to be safe from acts of sexual violence and to teach women how to defend themselves. While the first solution provides a legal means for female empowerment and the second provides a way to help them after they become victims, Sayfty is essential because it empowers women to stand up for themselves while suffering abuse or at least provides them with knowledge of how to get away from predators and get help.

The efforts of millions of women who are finding the bravery to call out abusers are defeating the rape epidemic in India. The laws in India are slowly changing to match modern social attitudes. NGOs are empowering women to lead their own fight. Though change is slow, it is inevitable, and more women are getting the justice they deserve every day.

Anish Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

 

DREAMS Fights Against AIDS
Today, approximately 36.9 million people are living with HIV globally and 25 percent of that number do not even know their status. Of those millions, HIV infects about 1,000 young girls and women each day and accounts for 74 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS continues to be at the forefront of global public health issues in the world today and appears to be most prevalent in low and middle-income countries. However, the organization DREAMS fights against AIDS and initiatives like the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is helping it accomplish its goals.

What is PEPFAR?

PEPFAR emerged in 2003 and has received strong support ever since, resulting in the United States becoming a global leader in the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and PEPFAR being a model for development programs around the world. PEPFAR has helped transform the response to HIV/AIDS by working with over 50 countries, as well as causing a significant decline in new HIV diagnoses among young girls and women through the DREAMS partnership.

The DREAMS Partnership

DREAMS is a public-private partnership between PEPFAR, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences and ViiV Healthcare to implement an ambitious HIV/AIDS reduction program. This initiative launched in 2014 on World AIDS Day and targets 10 African countries in which 65 percent have extremely high HIV rates, especially among young girls and women. This movement aims to support affected women, as well as prevent any further spreading of HIV/AIDS. It has resulted in the integration of DREAMS activities into the plans of the involved countries.

The DREAMS Impact

The DREAMS organization fights against AIDS in 10 countries including Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These countries’ populations account for more than half of all new HIV infections that occurred in young girls and women globally in 2015.

DREAMS’ plan consists of multiple solutions surrounding the main problem of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the world. It delivers a package that combines evidence-based approaches addressing structural drivers that directly and indirectly increase the risk of HIV in girls, such as poverty, gender inequality, sexual violence and a lack of education. More specifically, this comprehensive package of interventions has four focus groups including educating girls and young women through a range of activities to prevent their risk of HIV and violence, targeting men and boys within the community for treatments, strengthening families through social protection programs and the implementation of parenting programs related to adolescent HIV risk and shifting norms to mobilize communities and change to prevent violence and the further spread of HIV/AIDS.

Currently, 80 percent of young girls and women ranging from 15 to 24 years old and living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa. By the end of 2016, new HIV incident recordings in young girls and women decreased by 25 percent in the hardest-hit countries and further reduced by 40 percent by the end of 2017.

The DREAMS Innovation Challenge

While DREAMS has made significant progress since its formation, HIV/AIDS is still infecting an alarming number of young girls and women every day. Fifty-five organizations won the DREAMS Innovation Challenge and are now implementing solutions in six main focus areas such as strengthening leadership and capacity of community-based organizations (such as nonprofit or grassroots organizations) to support the expansion of intervention, ensuring girls’ access and smooth transition into secondary school, creating new methods to engage men in HIV testing and counseling and treatments, supporting pre-exposure interventions, providing employment opportunities to young women to decrease their risk of exposure to HIV and increasing the availability and use of data to inform, increasing impact and further producing innovative solutions.

Selected solutions resulting from this challenge were those that introduced new innovations in the 10 countries where DREAMS fights against AIDS. It also offers sustainable, long-lasting solutions and countries can implement them rapidly within two years. More than 60 percent of the challenge winners are small, community-based organizations that not only received funding but also became new PEPFAR partners.

Continuing on its innovative path to preventing and reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, PEPFAR recently announced its investment of nearly $2 billion to empower and support women and girls, with it channeling nearly $200 million through the DREAMS partnership. This will allow more girls to avoid contracting HIV at birth, keep more adolescents HIV free and support vulnerable women and children while treating HIV positive women. Additionally, the partnership has recently grown to provide more than $800 million to 15 African and Caribbean countries since its founding in 2015. PEPFAR has helped 2.4 million babies to be born HIV free from HIV-positive mothers and has saved about 17 million lives through its efforts as DREAMS fights against AIDS. Thankfully, this organization shows no sign of slowing down in the fight against HIV/AIDS for young girls and women around the world.

– Adya Khosla
Photo: Flickr

reach every other and child act

Every day, 830 mothers die during childbirth or during their pregnancy while 15,000 children die of preventable diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria. Yearly, 2.7 million newborns die and 1 million babies die the minute they are born. With these frightening statistics in mind, families need the Reach Every Mother and Child Act because it is a solution to these issues that gives mothers and children a chance to live safe and healthy lives.

Background

The Reach Every Mother and Child Act (S.1766) is a bipartisan bill led by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). At the time of writing, the bill has 49 other co-sponsors in addition to the aforementioned original sponsors.

A previous version of the bill (H.R.4022 / S.1730) gained strong bipartisan support in the 115th Congress, with 212 co-sponsors of the House of Representatives version and 49 co-sponsors of the Senate version.

The bill was reintroduced in the 116th Congress and outlines a five-year plan to eliminate preventable maternal and child deaths in countries across the world. S.1766 would also work to establish a plan that would allow children to live healthy and happy lifestyles by 2030. This Act is especially necessary for places in Central Africa where maternal and child death rates remain at an all-time high.

Benefits

One of these countries is Sierra Leone which has the highest maternal and child mortality rate in the world with 1,360 deaths per every 100,000 births. Sierra Leone remains one of the world’s poorest nations, which means that many expectant mothers do not get the care they need to deliver a child safely. Limited access to basic health care needs also leaves young children at risk during the first 1,000 days of their lives.

The country with the second-highest death rate in the world is the Central African Republic where out of every 100,000 births, 882 result in death. Access to proper health care for women as well as for their children is severely lacking, considering that it is the third poorest nation in Africa. Of note, 45 percent of children are born at home due to a lack of women’s clinics or difficulty access same. There are also only eight OBGYNs in the entire country. Other countries that have incredibly high maternal and child death rates are Chad, Burundi, Liberia, Somalia and South Sudan.

On the brighter side, the majority of these statistics have decreased significantly; child mortality rates have been cut in half since 1990. Families need the Reach Every Mother and Child Act because it would allow for mothers and children in these impoverished nations to receive the care they so desperately need while also providing a foundation for them grow and continue to live healthy lifestyles. Because the U.S. already has the expertise in ending preventable maternal and child deaths, we must play a larger role in this global fight to help mothers and their children.

 

Send an email to your Senators today asking them to support the Reach Every Mother and Child Act.

 

– Sydney Toy
Photo: Flickr