The Guardian newspaper has shortlisted three journalists for their coverage of how maternal, reproductive, and sexual health and rights shape the lives of girls and women and their communities as part of its fourth annual “International Development Journalism Competition.”
The competition seeks to highlight “often overlooked or underrepresented” stories on development challenges. The newspaper has partnered with several U.K.-based nongovernmental organizations and corporations for the competition, including Marie Stopes International, CARE International U.K., the David Rattray Memorial Trust U.K., Direct Relief International, FHI, International Childcare Trust, Malaria Consortium, Plan U.K., Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, Barclays, and GlaxoSmithKline.
While the 16 short-listed stories cover a range of topics from child soldiers in Sierra Leone to violence against women, one theme that emerges is a focus on the link between maternal, reproductive, and sexual rights and the status and well-being of women in society:
- In “Is education the best contraceptive?” writer Eleanor Davis explores the need for proper education in ensuring the use of family planning methods. She writes, “Although it is in the developing world that inadequate family planning has the worst affects. The failure to prioritise family planning, sexual and reproductive health in Western international development agendas is a failure to tackle poverty, and so a failure to tackle at least six of the Millennium Development Goals.”
- In “Abortion in the Philippines,” journalist Hanna Hindstrom examines the impact of restrictive abortion laws in the Philippines. The South East Asian nation imposes a complete ban on abortion, even in instances of incest and rape or if a mother’s life is in danger. The article notes that unsafe abortion accounts for 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide—and reaches up to 35 percent in regions with severely restricted abortion services.
- In “Bridging the gap: If diarrhoea doesn't kill you, starvation will,” journalist Alice Klein discusses the need for better integration of humanitarian relief efforts and traditional development programs. Klein details how a nonprofit with extensive experience in Pakistan was able to meet the maternal health needs of pregnant women affected by the country’s dramatic 2010 floods. “We don’t see our emergency response as a short-term relief effort,” says Sally Clarke, an official with the British health charity Merlin. “Our eye and our programmes are always on the long-term. Many believe you can’t do long-term work in disaster settings. Merlin believes that’s exactly when strengthening health systems is most vital.”
Read these articles, and the articles of all 16 finalists. The finalists will be flown to a developing country to research a new assignment, and those pieces will then be published in two Guardian newspaper supplements, after the announcement of the two winners at an awards ceremony in November 2011.