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Rights-Based Family Planning: Importance of Increased Access

By: Chastain Fitzgerald; Originally posted by Population Council

Chastain Fitzgerald is the Chief Program and Development Officer of WomanCare Global

This post is part of a monthly blog series profiling viewpoints from leaders in reproductive health who are members of the Bellagio Group on Long-Acting Reversible Contraception. The Bellagio Group is a coalition of experts that convenes annually to discuss practices for expanding contraceptive choice and accelerating progress toward the Millennium Development Goal of universal access to reproductive health services. This post represents the views of the author and is not a representation of the Population Council or the Bellagio Group. Please direct any questions to the author at cfitzgerald@womancareglobal.org.

Two weeks ago, I observed a focus group in Lusaka, Zambia, where a moderator from a South African marketing agency spoke with eight young women about their views on contraception. Joined by a local researcher, a program manager, and marketers, I watched the session next door through a live television feed. Our goal was to get a head start on the development of marketing strategies for new contraceptive products—a project funded by USAID. In that small room in the Lusaka office building, we huddled around the television listening to these women’s opinions about different contraceptive options, hoping to understand how they make decisions about which methods to use and how the public health community can better meet their needs. Read more...

 

Invest in Adolescents and Young People for a Better Future

The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) Partners’ Forum begins on June 30th in South Africa. The annual conference brings together global partners in the maternal, newborn, and child health communities to discuss trends, challenges, and opportunities in ensuring the wellbeing and empowerment of the world's children and women. With the Millennium Development Goals set to expire in 2015, this year’s conference will have a particular focus on envisioning the post-2015 development framework. Ahead of the event, Women Deliver launched a new infographic and co-hosted a Google+ Hangout with Girls’ Globe and young leaders to reignite a conversation about the importance of investing in the health and rights of adolescents and young people. 

The new infographic brings attention to the current global status of today’s youth. It highlights the barriers that young people, particularly young women, face in fully realizing their rights and makes the case for meaningful youth participation in the development processes. The infographic joins six others in a series, all devoted to a variety of girls’ and women’s health and rights issues. Read more...

Joining Hands to Improve Reproductive Health Outcomes for Youth in Uganda

By: Martin Wanzala, Allied Youth Initiative (Uganda)

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

Growing up on the fringes of Ugandan society, I have witnessed firsthand how HIV/AIDS, early or unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion rob my country of the lives of young men and women. The World Bank indicates that more than three quarters of Uganda’s population is below the age of 30. The health of these young people should be a national priority.

While Uganda has made significant strides in improving sexual and reproductive health (SRH) indicators over the last decade, the status of young people, reflected by those same indicators, remains very poor. For instance, Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) rates are four times higher in youth than in the general population. The unmet need for contraception is an unacceptably high 41 percent, while the adolescent pregnancy rate stands at 43 percent. HIV/AIDS is all too common, infecting 8.3 percent of young women and 6.1 percent of young men. The 2013 State of Uganda Population report reveals that of the estimated 297,000 unsafe abortions that occur every year in the country, nearly half of them are among girls and young women ages 15-24. Read more...

Jagoroni: The Rising of a Movement against Dowry and Early Marriage

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: SM Shaikat, SERAC-Bangladesh

Early marriage and dowry-related violence are harmful practices, but they are common in Bangladesh. When girls marry, they often drop out of school and have limited social interaction. Currently, just 45% of adolescent girls are enrolled in secondary school, and even fewer attend regularly. Domestic violence occurs all too often and with impunity. From January to September 2013, 265 cases of violence against women occurred; 128 women died from physical torture, but just 111 cases were filed against the perpetrators.

Most cases of marriage-related violence are never reported and some are intentionally covered up. Until recently, no group existed in Bangladesh that could track and prevent these types of gender violence. To address this situation, I developed a project called Jagoroni, a Bengali word that means “rising.” I’m creating a youth-led watchdog system to eliminate dowry- and child marriage-related violence against girls and women in Mymensingh district, which has the highest rates of violence in the country. Read more...

Women Deliver Young Leader Humphrey Nabimanya Nominated for Award

Humphrey Nabimanya, winner of a C Exchange Seed Grant and a 2013 Women Deliver 100 Young Leader, has been nominated for the inaugural 2014 MTV Base Leadership Award for his outstanding work as a youth advocate in Uganda.

This award, created by Viacom International Media Networks (Africa) and MTV Base as part of the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAs), recognizes young Africans, under the age of 35, whose leadership and contributions are making a remarkable impact towards the growth and development of the continent. Read more...

We Have the Power to End Child Marriage

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By; Yemurai Nyoni, Bulawayo Youth Development Organization (Zimbabwe)

When Tecla woke up, she carried out her chores with a little more urgency than usual. She was starting a new job to raise money for her school fees, so she couldn’t afford to be late. When she had finished collecting water, cleaning the house and preparing breakfast, she left with her mother to meet her employers.

As they walked together, she felt happy. The money she would earn as a maid would help her parents send her to school. She would be like the other children in Epworth. She could play games, listen to exciting stories and achieve her dream of being a teacher. As her thoughts turned into a pleasant day-dream, she was brought back to reality by her mother’s voice as she said nervously, “tasvika” (we’ve arrived).

Now her joy turned to fear, because of the tone of her mother’s voice, but also as she thought of the enormity of the task ahead. She was going to be a maid for a family she had never met, and at 12 years old, she felt she wasn’t ready. Nonetheless, she followed obediently behind her mother, the woman who had sacrificed so much for her. Read more...

Traditional Rulers Take Action Against Adolescent Pregnancy in Cameroon

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: Numfor Alenwi Munteh, Cameroon Agenda for Sustainable Development (CASD)

There is an African proverb which says, “The piper – not the dancers – determines the rhythm of music.” Similarly, in Cameroon, traditional rulers – not community members – define cultural and traditional practices that influence attitudes and behaviors.

For centuries, cultural practices and beliefs promoted by traditional leaders (“Fons”) in the North West Region (NWR) of Cameroon have led to high rates of adolescent pregnancy. In many Cameroon villages, people believe that if a man or woman dies without a child, they should be buried with a stone as a sign of disgrace. There is also the belief that a newlywed girl must prove her maturity and fertility by giving birth as soon as possible after marriage. These societal pressures make early motherhood a likely outcome for many young women. Read more...

Campus-Based Initiative Delivers SRH Information and Services to University Students in Nigeria

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: Ajidagba Emman Babatunde (Tunde), Campus Health & Rights Initiative (Nigeria)

Every year in my home country of Nigeria, there are 6.8 million pregnancies. Approximately one in five of them are unintended. There are 3.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS and 60% of new infections occur among young people ages 15 to 24. One reason for these staggering numbers is the low level of contraceptive use among young people, who encounter socio-cultural barriers that prevent them from accessing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services.

Having worked for over 10 years in the field of young adults’ sexual and reproductive health, I have seen firsthand the challenges that young people, particularly those in university settings, confront. They include engaging in risky behaviors like having transactional sex, unprotected sex, and sex with multiple partners, as well as facing the threat of sexual violence. Read more...

The Power of Peer-Education in Preventing HIV/AIDS among Female Sex Workers

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: Chukwudera Bridget Okeke, Concern Women International Development Initiative (Nigeria)

My project in Nigeria’s Benue State aims to make real change in the lives of female sex workers (FSW) and their clients by enhancing their knowledge of HIV/AIDS and empowering them to negotiate safer sex with their clients. In Benue State, female workers account for just 1% of the population but make up 23% of new HIV infections. I strongly believe that knowledge of sexual and reproductive health and rights, including HIV/AIDS, among female sex workers will go a long way in creating positive behavior change and, in turn, will reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. Read more...

Plan at Hand Empowers Girls in Tanzania

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: Maureen Anyango Oduor, Plan At Hand Girl Empowerment Project (Tanzania)

It all started with three questions: “Why is she left out? What are the key barriers? And, what can be done to effectively change the situation?” The expulsion of pregnant schoolgirls, many of which never return, has continued to widen the gender gap and deprive adolescent girls of the right to education in Tanzania. Issues surrounding sexuality are treated with secrecy and it remains taboo to talk about sex or to be sexually active before marriage. Therefore, teenage pregnancies continue to sky rocket. Pregnant adolescents are viewed as brides, not girls. Alternatives to abstinence are highly inaccessible, as girls need parental consent to access any family planning services. Beyond that, barriers to services include cost, location of the provider, a lack of complete and correct information, and social-cultural barriers, like restrictive norms associated with adolescent girls’ sexuality and provider’s bias. Clearly, there is a dire need for a unique, inclusive, and girl-friendly family planning and reproductive health program in Tanzania, and particularly in Muheza District in Northern Tanzania. Read more...

Young People for Young People: Peer Education in Uganda

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: Humphrey Nabimanya, Reach a Hand Uganda

Today, there are more young people under the age of 30 than ever before, representing half the world’s population. This demographic has been strongly affected by HIV/AIDS. Uganda's youth are estimated to represent 78% of the total population, and this is the age group that is most affected by HIV/AIDS. High-risk, sexually active women account for 36% of youth, while high-risk sexually active men account for 49%. Related to these behavioral challenges are unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and cross-generational sex that are grossly exploitative, especially for the girl child. Young people therefore require full access to reproductive health services and information to protect themselves. Read more...

Adolescent and Youth Motherhood: What Do Comprehensive SRH Policies Look Like?

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: Cecilia Garcia Ruiz, Espolea (Mexico)

Advocating for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people entails much more than giving visibility to what happens when rights are restrained or denied. This endeavor requires a deep understanding of the specific needs that young people have in this regard - usually linked to individual and collective diversities - as well as of the different barriers we might encounter along the way. 

The family planning strategies implemented around the world in the last couple of decades have proven their effectiveness but not necessarily amongst the youngest population. The State of World Population1 released in 2013, revels a startling reality: 7.3 million births occur among girls under 18 every year in developing countries. Among member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes a number of middle-income countries, Mexico has the highest birth rate (64.2 per 1,000 births) among adolescents between 15 and 192. Read more...

IPM Receives Worldwide Rights to HIV Prevention Medicine

Expanded public-private collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson will speed development and global distribution of dapivirine-based HIV prevention tools for women

The International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) announced today that it has received exclusive worldwide rights to a promising HIV prevention medicine called dapivirine from Janssen R&D Ireland, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. The agreement expands on IPM’s existing rights to develop, manufacture and commercialize dapivirine-based products for use by women in developing countries and will now give women in developed countries access to products containing dapivirine, such as a vaginal ring that combines dapivirine and a contraceptive. Read more...

Youth-Led Project in Bangladesh Wins Online Voting Competition

Women Deliver is pleased to announce the “Social Rising for Dowry and Early Marriage Prevention” project by S M Shaikat from Bangladesh as the winner of the C-Exchange Seed Grant competition. After almost 1,500 people voted, S M Shaikat will receive an additional US$500 to implement his project to monitor and prevent early marriage and dowry violence. This competition was held with the support of the Women Deliver C-Exchange, a Women Deliver-led private sector forum that includes Johnson & Johnson, WomanCare Global, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, GE, HRA Pharma Foundation, MTV Staying Alive Foundation, and Merck (known as MSD outside the United States). Read more...

Young #WomenInspire us to #InvestInGirls

By Lindsay Menard-Freeman; Originally posted on Huffington Post

March is an exciting time to celebrate girls and women. Women's History Month commemorates the pioneers of women's rights and equality, past and present. International Women's Day encourages us all to continue the fight for women's rights around the world. And this week, the United Nations 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women revives our commitments to build a better future for girls and women everywhere.

This March, however, also marks a particularly critical time for women's health and rights: For the first time in over a decade, we have an opportunity to shape a brand new global development agenda. The 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) generated unprecedented political will and funding for girls' and women's health and rights. Unfortunately though, the MDGs are quickly coming to an end just when we are beginning to gain momentum. Read more...

This International Women’s Day, Invest in Our Future

By: Jill Sheffield, Founder and President of Women Deliver; originally posted on Devex

Throughout the last three decades, I’ve dedicated my life’s work to improving the health and well-being of girls and women. I have tremendous gratitude for the trailblazers who made this possible — those around the globe who spoke up for the health and rights of girls and women even when it was unpopular or dangerous to do so. They have made possible all the progress we’ve seen, and inspire me to keep striving for more.

On this International Women’s Day, I want to look ahead to the future and celebrate the young men and women, many of whom weren’t even born when I began my journey, who are not only picking up the torch to advocate for women’s rights, but are carrying it with new fervor, passion and creative thinking. Read more...

International Women’s Day: Give Yourself the Chance to Be Extraordinary

By Saundra Pelletier; Originally posted by Huffington Post

Saundra Pelletier is the CEO of WomanCare Global, an international nonprofit organization that improves the lives of women by providing access to quality, affordable women’s healthcare products through a sustainable supply chain.

As I think about International Women's Day on March 8th, it reminds me that throughout my life I have been groomed by a series of extraordinary women who have always encouraged me to be an advocate for women who need a louder voice. I grew up in Caribou, Maine, a small town distinguished only because it is the Northern-most city in the United States. Women in this farming community were told they had only two important choices in life: whom they would marry and how many children they would bear. My mother felt oppressed by this mentality, so when I was 5 years old she told me, "Domestic skills won't get you out of Caribou, so you leave those to me and I'll teach you what's really important."

Instead of dusting and cooking, my household tasks included balancing the checkbook, educating my younger brother and organizing family activities. My mother's reluctance to raise another Betty Crocker became blatantly obvious when I started kindergarten and she sent me to school with a briefcase instead of a lunchbox. According to her, school was not about what your lunch looked like, it was about progress. Read more...

10 Young Leaders, 10 Promising Solutions to Benefit Girls & Women

Women Deliver Awards US$50,000 in Seed Grants to Young Advocates in Africa, Asia & Latin America

New York, NY – Today, in celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, Women Deliver awarded seed grants of US$5,000 each to 10 young people to support projects aimed at advancing girls’ and women’s health and rights in their communities.

Women Deliver also launched an online voting competition that will allow the public to vote for the project they believe will have the greatest impact. Voting will close on March 20 at 5 PM EST, and the winner will receive an additional $500 for his or her project. Read more...

WD Board Member Saundra Pelletier Speaks with NY Times

Women Deliver Board member and WomanCare Global CEO Saundra Pelletier recently spoke with Adam Bryant at The New York Times on leadership, management and career advice. When asked about leadership roles growing up, Pelletier noted that "...in high school, I was passionate about creating a different mind-set around women and the worth of women and girls because there was a sense that there were only domestic choices: who you married and how many kids you would have. So I tried to encourage girls to create the life that they want. That’s something I still carry with me. I have a big invisible chip on my shoulder around deciding what balance is for you and what success is. Don’t apologize for it, and you can have more than just one good aspect of life." Read more...

Saundra Pelletier Talks about WomanCare Global’s New Product at the World Economic Forum

In January, 2,500 global leaders, key decision-makers, entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and youth from around the world gathered in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. The theme of this year’s meeting was The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business. Key issues included innovative ways to optimize funding for health programmes in developing and middle-income countries, closing the gender gap, and shaping global policy through advocacy. Read more...

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