Uganda High School Contraception Women Reproductive Rights
In an effort to reduce the number of women who die from maternal complications, Uganda’s government is considering a plan to provide contraception to every Ugandan women between the ages of 14 and 18.

In Uganda, an estimated 16 women die every day from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. For every woman who dies, an additional 15 women develop complications, such as fistulas. These statistics make it unlikely that Uganda will achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal mortality by 75 percent by the 2015 deadline.

During a meeting organized by the Ugandan health ministry earlier this month, Sarah Opendi, the state minister for primary health care, said it was “unethical” to allow Uganda’s female citizens to continue to die from easily preventable complications

Among the most fatal of these complications are hemorrhaging, high blood pressure, and contraction of infectious diseases due to weakened immune systems. However, many young women also die from self-induced abortions.

“You don’t know what some of these girls go through,” Opendi said. “When they can’t confide in anyone and are desperate to get the fetus out they will do anything.”

Afraid to confide in their parents and usually impregnated by classmates who are also unable to support a child,  many girls try to terminate their own pregnancies, and often die in the process.

To address this problem, the Ugandan government plans to set up youth centers in schools and hospitals, where young girls can receive proper counseling. The government is likely to also provide condoms and contraceptive pills.

John Cooper, the executive director of Uganda Family Planning Consortium, believes that every woman should have a child by choice, not chance. Currently, of the Ugandan women who get pregnant, half of the pregnancies are unwanted.

“Now, we can’t want to reduce the numbers of women who dies while giving birth and not want to provide women with contraception that can reduce their fertility,” said Cooper.

The Ugandan minister must first convince several critics before the government’s plan to provide contraception to every woman between 14 and 18 is implemented. But this may be the country’s only option. Uganda’s population currently stands at over 34 million, and the country’s fertility rate is 6.7 percent. Moreover, women in rural areas lacking medical resources may produce twice as many children.

If the movement to provide contraception passes, the government must turn to its next issue in the fight to lower maternal mortality and limit population: the need to allocate more funding and resources to Uganda’s impoverished rural regions.

– Scarlet Shelton

Sources: New Vision, Index Mundi, all Africa
Photo: Books For Africa

While providing equal education to girls is necessary from a moral standpoint, it is also essential for a more peaceful and poverty-free world.

Education affects the age at which women marry and have children. Therefore, until girls have equal access to quality education, maternal mortality, overpopulation, and other factors contributing to poverty will continue to terrorize our world.

In sub-Saharan Africa, and South and West Asia, child marriage affects 1 in 8 girls. By the age of 17, 1 in 7 females will have their first child. Since girls in these areas are not given access to education or job opportunities, they are often locked into these marriages, and forced to become mothers far before they are ready.

In the long run, these women can’t afford to take care of their children or even attain proper health services during labor. The line of poverty continues as children are born into impoverished families that are unable to help their offspring escape this cycle.

Providing women with a secondary education brings enormous benefits to both women and to the world. Educated women are empowered women. They can make their own choices and follow their own dreams. If girls receive a secondary education, 64 percent of them won’t get married while still attending school. By giving girls a chance to pursue their own future and making them aware of the risks associated with consecutive childbearing, the vicious cycle will finally reach its end.

The advantages in investing in female education are endless – for individuals, for the fight against poverty, and for lowering child mortality rates. The rise in female education between 1970 and 2009 prevented more than 4 million child deaths. With the Millennium Development Goals still met, perhaps this is an essential place for the U.N. to make a change.

– Sonia Aviv

Sources: Global Post, TIME, Huffington Post
Photo: The Guardian

The United Nations’ recent session on forced marriage raised an issue many attendees called “unacceptable.” Arranged marriages are a cultural tradition in many countries; however, they often lead to “child brides” dropping out of school at the orders of their husbands and pregnancy complications for young girls.

Pregnancy complications commonly occur for young women under the age of 15. The risk of dying during childbirth is five times more likely to happen than for women who are in their 20s. Women under the age of 18 are also at a higher risk of dying during the first year of their child’s life. Some may be surprised to learn that childbirth, not disease, is the leading cause of death for girls between 15 and 18 years old.

Poverty plays a crucial role in forced marriages as well. A study by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s office found that impoverished girls are two times more likely to marry before they are 18. Because the arranged marriages of young girls is a tradition in some countries, Baird says he has been discouraged from publicly criticizing it at times. This line of thinking, Baird explains, has to stop.

Among the riveting anecdotes about girls being forced into wedding older men included the story of how one young girl witnessed the forced marriage of one of her friends to a 40-year-old man who forbade her from attending school. Another friend of the girl was married at a young age and beaten by her husband after giving birth to a girl instead of a boy.

Baird is working with international organizations to make forced marriages for girls a thing of the past. He is adamant that “in a generation, we can end this practice.”
Baird and his supporters are combining their efforts with those of the United Nations and its global goals for 2015, which include universal access to contraceptives as well as improved newborn and maternal health.

– Mary Penn

Sources: CBC News, Too Young To Wed
Photo: Living With Libby

“Educate a girl, change the world.” Armed with the star power of its Academy Award nominee director Richard Robbins, the groundbreaking film “Girl Rising (2013) has sparked a movement based on this simple, but compelling principle. Though the power of educating girls in developing nations is well known among international development practitioners, this concept is slowly gaining importance in the public’s mind, largely due to awareness-based films like “Girl Rising” and “Half the Sky.”

Narrated by the voices of celebrities such as Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Freida Pinto, Kerry Washington and Selena Gomez, “Girl Rising tells the stories of nine girls who differ in backgrounds, but all share the dream of getting an education. For each of the girls, standing in the way of this dream are barriers such as bonded child labor, sexual abuse, poverty, arranged marriage and other social injustices.

Girl Rising” spotlights girls from nine different countries, including India, Nepal, Cambodia, Peru, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Egypt. One remarkable story is that of Sokha, an orphaned child who rose from the garbage dumps of Cambodia to become an excellent student and dancer. Another is that of Suma, who was sent to be a domestic servant in Nepal at age six, but was liberated and returned to school at age twelve, and is currently an activist to free other child laborers.

Tinged throughout this film is a spirit of hope and strength, despite dark circumstances. Rather than focus on the bleakness of each girl’s situation, “Girl Rising” concludes each story with a message of inspiration regarding the girl’s determination to shape her own future.

Besides “Girl Rising’s” strong storyline, the film’s interesting visual techniques make it worthy of mention. “Girl Rising” employs a different strategy to recreate each of the nine stories, such as superimposed animation or black and white filming. This stylistic variation throughout the film has been both praised and critiqued for its effect on the film’s message. Supporters argue that it helps to illustrate the stories in a vivid manner, while critics believe the varying styles can be distracting and unnecessary.

All in all, “Girl Rising” serves as a strong consciousness-raising effort that advocates for the power of educating girls in order to solve the world’s social ills. The film reminds its audience of the everyday realities that girls in developing countries face and the ripple effects that an education can have on their lives.

Yet this film pushes beyond the boundaries of movie theaters. The social action campaign supporting the film, “10×10,” has led a global movement for the education and empowerment of girls. With the film as its epicenter, the “Girl Rising” movement pushes for greater awareness both at the ground and the policymaking level.

You can learn more about the movement and attending a “Girl Rising” screening here.

Tara Young

Sources: Girl Rising, IMDb, CNN, The Credits, TCW Mag
Photo: PhotoPin

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has contributed a $625,000 grant to The Linda Norgrove Foundation in an effort to provide greater access to education and build a network of 40 libraries across the war-torn region of Afghanistan through a community literacy project called Afghanistan Reads.

Afghanistan Reads will be launched in 2013 by the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan), a non-profit, non-religious, and non-political charity dedicated to advancing access to education for women in Afghanistan. The objective of Afghanistan Reads will be to provide 840 women with literacy classes and an estimated 20,000 people access to community libraries.

With the country having one of the lowest literacy rates in the world as a byproduct of decades of war, this grant from USAID demonstrates its continued commitment to expanding literacy and access to education to regions experiencing continual crisis and conflict.

Literate women in Afghanistan comprise less than 20 percent of the population and, according to Unicef Afghanistan, only a third of women retain literacy skills after primary school due to this lack of access to education, thus this network of libraries will focus on providing literacy schemes for women and girls.

The Linda Norgrove Foundation is a grant-giving trust with a primary objective to fund education, health and childcare for women and children affected by the war in Afghanistan. The Foundation was established in October 2010 in the memory of Scottish aid worker Linda Norgrove, a 36-year old woman devoted to achieving prosperity and stability in the country during the rebuilding process. Norgrove was kidnapped in Kunar on September 26, 2010 and subsequently died in a rescue attempt by U.S. forces on October 8th. Norgrove’s parents established the foundation in an effort to continue her work of developing programs that provide greater access to education and incomes for women affected by the war.

Afghanistan Reads has four interlinked components – literacy learning, library services, capacity development for delivering library services, and life skills learning. Through these four components, the program will support community and home-based literacy classes and a network of libraries, in addition to community workshops. The ultimate goal of the program is to provide greater access to education and information that will help foster independent, lifelong learning for the women and girls in the country, and raise literacy rates which will lead to better economic opportunities for Afghan women and their families in the future.

Taheera S. Randolph

Sources: The Herald Scotland, Canadian Women For Women in Afghanistan, USAID, UNICEF Afghanistan, The Linda Norgrove Foundation

Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban after advocating for girls’ right to education, addressed the United Nations on her 16th birthday, speaking about the power of education to overcome extremism. The U.N. declared July 12 “Malala Day” to honor Yousafzai, who went back to school in March after recovering from the October attack.

According to a report released by UNESCO and Save the Children, 95 percent of the 28.5 million children who are not receiving a primary education live in low and lower-middle income countries, and girls make up 55 percent of those who are not in school. The report also stated that there were more than 3,600 documented attacks on education similar to that faced by Yousafzai. Listed below are five of her most inspiring “Malala quotes”, which highlight the influence and importance of education.

  1. “We realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them.”
  2. “There was a time when women social activists asked men to stand up for women’s rights, but this time we will do it by ourselves.”
  3. “I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.””
  4. “We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”
  5. “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.”

– Katie Bandera

Sources: Huffington Post
Photo: The Guardian


Read Humanitarian Quotes.

At the Women in the World Summit earlier this week, Angelina Jolie paid tribute to Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban in October because of her activism on educating girls and women. Jolie also pledged $200,000 to an educational fund that will provide money to build a girls school in Pakistan.

The Malala Fund, which will be directed by the girl, is set to build a school large enough for 40 girls to attend. In a video played at the conference, Malala told the audience that she hopes the 40 girls educated at her namesake school will turn into 40 million girls, and said it was the “happiest moment of her life.”

In her tribute to Malala, Jolie told the audience of her story and how the Taliban set out to silence Malala and her message, but only “made her stronger.” Other stars to appear at the Women in the World conference include Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep, Barbara Walters, and Eva Longoria. Christiane Amanpour was also in attendance and moderated a panel on “The Next Generation of Malalas,” where she spoke to two young Pakistani girls also advocating for girls’ education.

Christina Kindlon

Source: CBC News

USAID Funds Partnerships for Women's LeadershipUSAID funds partnerships with Higher Education for Development (HED) to encourage women’s leadership throughout a number of developing countries, including South Sudan, Rwanda, Paraguay, and Armenia. As part of the new Women’s Leadership Program, five American universities will partner with universities and colleges throughout the select countries.

The partnership between universities aims at encouraging women’s status in a number of vital sectors for economic development, including agriculture, business, and education. The goals of the program also fall in line with previous goals laid out by USAID as part of the Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy, which was released in 2012.

HED will be in charge of administering the programs, which will total one in each country and two in Rwanda. Funding for the program from USAID will total $8.75 million.

Some of the more specific goals of the Women’s Leadership Program will include increased access to higher education and advanced degrees for women, increases in foreign universities research on women’s leadership, and encourage women’s leadership through advocacy in struggling communities. The American universities that are participating in the program are Arizona State University, Michigan State, Indiana University, UCLA, and the University of Florida.

USAID Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, Carla Koppell, said “USAID is very excited to be collaborating with academic institutions in the United States and abroad in advancing women’s leadership. These partnerships offer a meaningful and important opportunity to ensure women are empowered and advance in economies and societies globally.”

Christina Kindlon

Source: USAID

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