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Lessons Learned in Building Up Youth Groups to Fight 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

Writing a good story is much easier than making it happen. There are many challenges to creating lasting change, especially when it comes to changing a society’s cultural norms.

To start, the goal of my Jagoroni project is to create a social movement against the century old dowry custom and child marriage trend in Bangladesh. The motivation for this project came in February when I heard the Law Minister say that my district, Mymensingh, has the highest rate of dowry violence in Bangladesh. For me, it was not easy to accept. Read more...

Celebrate Solutions: Girl Advocates Fighting Child Marriages in Malawi

By: Rehema Namukose, Women Deliver

Malawi is one of the top ten hotspots of child marriage worldwide, with five out of every ten girls married off before the age of 18. This is majorly attributed to strong taboos around child and early marriage practices such as the Kusasa Fumbi practice, in which girls (usually aged 10-12) who have just begun their menstrual cycles  have sex with a man as a way of removing “childhood dust;” Chitomero, another common practice that encourages parents to offer dowry to an older man who agrees to marry their young daughter; and kupimbira, a practice in the northern part of Malawi where a young daughter is married off as repayment for a debt.

These practices expose girls to HIV and sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), denying much the chance to finish school and exposing them to higher risks of maternal mortality due to early pregnancies. Child and early marriages violate a girl’s right to education and choice on who and when to get married, perpetuating poverty levels among various communities. Read more...

The Outreach with Maureen Odour, Tanzania

Orginally posted by Maafanta.com

An interview with Maureen Odour, a Women Deliver Young Leader and Founder of Plan at Hand Girl Empowerment Project

Oumie: Greetings Lady Maureen! It’s indeed an honor and pleasure to have the opportunity to talk with a fantastic, extremely brilliant and committed young woman as you. I must admit that I am delighted having you as our guest, especially for this month that we are celebrating International Youth day. It’s an honor to showcase your work in the Outreach. Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Maureen: Oumie, I am really honored to be part of the Outreach. I am Maureen Oduor, a development specialist by profession and women and girls reproductive health rights activist. I am Kenyan but work in Tanzania with African Peace Ambassadors Tanzania. I am the regional coordinator of the organization. Also, I am one of Women Deliver’s 100 young leaders working on women and girl’s empowerment.

Oumie: Thank you. Let’s begin with a little bit of history here. We all have our different paths that have motivated us or influenced our involvement in the global women’s movement. Please tell us a little about how your journey began. Read more...

Giving Young People a Fighting Chance

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)

I grew up under difficult circumstances. My three siblings and I were raised by a single mother, my brothers taunted me constantly and I bore witness to the vulnerability of my little sister. From these experiences, I learned how to stand up for and defend myself and speak out against injustices endured by others. I became a firm believer in progressive alternatives to restrictive societal norms, especially those that limit opportunity and equality for women. 

In my home country of Zimbabwe, child marriage is a particularly egregious problem. 1 in 3 girls are married before 18 years of age, and 90 percent of adolescent pregnancies occur among girls who are married or in unions. Taking girls from their families threatens their health and educational development and violates their rights as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Read more...

Dreaming of a World without Maternal Deaths

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)

I dream of a world where every woman can consciously plan and space her pregnancies, and each baby is delivered safely and in good health. However, the reality in many developing countries plays more like a nightmare.

In my home country of Cameroon, nearly 14 percent of deaths among women of reproductive age are due to maternal causes, compared to 1.5 percent in the United States and 0.5 percent in Switzerland. Globally, almost 800 women die every day due to preventable complications in pregnancy and childbirth. Ending maternal deaths will not be easy, but I’ve made it my mission to conquer this challenge. Read more...

Celebrate Solutions: “Dropping the Knife” Celebrations as Alternatives to FGM in The Gambia

By: Lindsay Menard-Freeman, Women Deliver

Bat mitzvah. Sweet sixteen. Quinceañera. Russefeiring. Ceremonies to celebrate rites of passage are often an energetic party, defining a coming of age moment and cultivating a sense of hope for the future. These celebrations also often serve as a marker of maturity and preparedness for the “real world.”

Yet for millions of girls, their rite of passage includes a serious violation of their basic human rights through female genital mutilation (FGM). Current trends suggest that at least 30 million girls will be at risk for FGM over the next decade. An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM, with 92 million over the age of 10 and residing on the African continent. Read more...

For a Better World for All

By: Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, UNFPA and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women; Originally posted on The Huffington Post

It is now 100 long days since the abduction of 276 girls from their school in Chibok in northern Nigeria shocked and outraged the world. While a few of the girls have managed to escape their captors, the majority remain separated from their shattered families.

It is the nature of news - and, sadly, terrible events happening elsewhere -- that the Chibok girls, and indeed, more Nigerian girls who have been kidnapped since, are no longer in the global spotlight. We must not forget them, and we must keep demanding action to bring back our girls. Read more...

Young People: Our Present and Our Future

By: Katja Iversen, Women Deliver

Nelson Mandela once said: "Whenever I am with young people, I feel like a recharged battery." I couldn't agree more, after having spent the last couple of days with a good bunch of the Women Deliver Young Leaders at the Partnership on Maternal, Child and Newborn Health (PMNCH) Partners' Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa.

When young people tell me what motivated them to advocate for girls' and women's health and rights, their stories are at once heartbreaking and inspiring. For Yemurai Nyoni in Zimbabwe, it was a 12-year-old girl named Tecla who was sold into marriage and contracted HIV. For Mary Mwende in Kenya, it was the violence of male-dominated politics that she witnessed as a child in the slums of Mombasa. When faced with injustice, these young leaders took action to improve the world around them -- and their stories, in turn, inspire others. Read more...

It’s All Possible: We Have the Solution in Our Hands!

By: Martin E. Wanzala, Uganda

As deliberations on the post-2015 development agenda at the 3rd PMNCH Partners’ Forum here in Johannesburg, South Africa gain momentum, it is a great opportunity for young people to ensure that their voices are heard when and where it matters most.

The post-2015 development discussion is one of the most important debates of our time. The global framework that world leaders agree upon in 2015 will guide all future government policies and spending on social and economic development in both developed and developing countries. Read more...

Let’s Go Deeper into Remote Areas for the Post-2015 Development Goals

By: Mary Mwende, Kenya

The first day of the PMNCH Partners’ Forum was an exciting one. I have listened to all of the sessions with keen interest. The forum is a fountain of knowledge and information, with every sentiment converging at the same point. The unity of thought clamors for one common goal - to create a better and healthier world for mothers and newborns around the world, particularly for those who are most vulnerable and impoverished.

I agree with all of this and hope it will be achieved.

As we discussed during the youth pre-forum yesterday, there is a lot left to achieve when it comes to Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5. More young people have to be meaningfully involved to continue making progress. A drive to create change among youth must be led by the young! Regrettably, the most afflicted youth - particularly girls - are seldom involved in these conversations. Read more...

Be seen! Be heard! Youth at the 3rd PMNCH Partners’ Forum

By: Yemurai Nyoni and Lindsay Menard-Freeman, Women Deliver

This 3rd PMNCH Partners’ Forum is the first large-scale involvement of young people to date. Out of the approximately 1000 participants here in Johannesburg, nearly 10% are youth representatives under 30. This is a great start, and a clear opportunity to increase meaningful youth engagement in the forum and others like it. Will PMNCH consider including a youth constituency to its other seven constituencies while mainstreaming youth within and throughout? We really hope so.

Partners’ Forum representatives come together from governments, civil society, development agencies, private sector, and the media to deliberate on how best to accelerate progress for women, children and adolescents in the context of RMNCH. Youth representatives are uniquely positioned to put our issues front and center, and to magnify our contributions to advancing maternal and newborn health. Read more...

Women Deliver Announces ‘Dr. Fred Sai Scholarship for Young African Women’

ACCRA, Ghana, June 30, 2014 – Women Deliver is proud to announce a new scholarship program that will help bring young African women to its triennial conferences, beginning with Women Deliver 2016. 

Every three years, the Dr. Fred Sai Scholarship for Young African Women – named in honor of Ghanaian sexual and reproductive health and rights advocate and Women Deliver Board Member Emeritus Dr. Fred Sai – will be given to five African women under the age of 30 who have shown extraordinary leadership on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Scholarship winners will be selected through a competitive online application process. Women Deliver will look for young women who are passionate about improving the health and well-being of girls and women; who can contribute meaningfully to conference sessions and discussions; and who will strive to incorporate lessons learned to work in their home countries. Read more...

Celebrate Solutions: Creating Education Opportunities for Girls in South Sudan

By: Sara Pellegrom, Women Deliver

Despite the recent atrocities in Sudan and South Sudan over the last two decades, the VAD Foundation and the Marial Bai Secondary School (MBSS) have only become more committed to their mission of educating Sudanese young people, particularly girls.

Between 1983 and 2005, the turmoil of the civil war in Sudan killed two and a half million people and displaced nearly six million more. South Sudan gained independence in 2011, but faced a new wave of violence in December 2013. Due to this resurgence of fighting, many government agencies, aid organizations, and international companies have left the country for security reasons. 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...

Celebrate Solutions: Transforming Gender Norms Through Soccer and Sports (wo)manship in Cambodia

By: Lindsay Menard-Freeman, Women Deliver

There has never been a timelier occasion to highlight the impact that soccer (or football, or fútbol) has on individuals, communities, and nations than the World Cup. The sport can unify and empower, and provides a platform for  global dialogue about teamwork, leadership, and comradery. But community soccer clubs for girls can be wrought with complexity as they defy deeply engrained gender norms and challenge the status quo.

The Salt Academy, an organization based in Cambodia working to develop young leaders through a sustainable community-based football league, has a program for girls called Mighty Girls, designed to respond to this exact challenge and combat trafficking into forced labor. Read more...

Celebrate Solutions: Bicycles as Vehicles for Change in Zambia

By: Joanna Hoffman, Women Deliver

Fifteen year-old Ethel used to walk more than two hours every day from her home in rural Zambia to reach her school. Last year, she received a bike from World Bicycle Relief that shortens her commute down to 45 minutes, allowing her more time and energy to learn and manage her many responsibilities. “When I received my bicycle, I was so excited,” Ethel told World Bicycle Relief. “Now I would have time to study, travel comfortably to school, and still help with chores... this bicycle has changed my life.” Read more...

Q&A with Katja Iversen About Her Vision for the Future

In this Q&A, Women Deliver’s new CEO Katja Iversen shares her motivations for becoming an advocate for girls’ and women’s health and rights; discusses lessons she has learned in her career; offers advice for emerging advocates; and describes her vision for the future for girls and women around the world.

Q: What first inspired you to become a maternal and reproductive health advocate?

I’m proud to say it was my grandmother. Back in the 1930s she – in her own quiet and behind-the-scenes way – fought fiercely for girls’ and women’s reproductive rights in Denmark, where I am from. At the time, only married women could get access to modern contraceptives.  She and my granddad lived together without being married, and she worked seven days a week to get him through college, so getting pregnant just wasn’t an option. Even when she got married and had kids, she kept up the fight for all women’s reproductive rights – because it was just the right thing to do. 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...

Celebrate Solutions: Update from Nigeria

By: Tyler LePard, Catapult

This report is from The Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), a beneficiary of the Support Girls’ Education project funded by Catapult. Their team travelled to Maiduguri, Borno State, from May 13-18, 2014, to assess what the communities in the region need following the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls in Nigeria.

Now that they’re safely back from their mission to Borno State, we’re able to share the name of our partner organization, KIND.

It was a difficult and dangerous trip. The team overcame harassment at the many security check-points and witnessed the physical devastation in multiple areas. Working closely with a local organization and a leading advocate for women in the region, they met with a girl who escaped from her Boko Haram kidnappers, women survivors of violence, families of kidnapped girls, school leaders, and government officials.

KIND provided us with an incredibly powerful and authentic update, documenting the reality on the ground in Borno State. It’s long and detailed, and clearly identifies the needs in the area. Read more...

Girls’ Globe and the 2013 Women Deliver Conference – One Year Later

Originary posted by Girl's Globe

Has it already been one year since the 2013 Women Deliver Conference? Where has the time gone? Although it may seem as if the conference was only yesterday, a lot has happened over the past year.

The 2013 Women Deliver Conference was not only a remarkable occasion for various actors within the realm of international development to get together to discuss solutions and take action for women’s and girls’ well-being and health around the globe. This conference was the first time the Girls’ Globe team met face-to-face. It was at this place that the seed was planted for Girls’ Globe to grow into the youth-driven advocacy and communications organization that we are today. And since then, we’ve been active! Read more...

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