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When You Invest In Girls and Women, Everybody Wins

By: Katja Iversen; Originally posted by Huffington Post

Katja Iversen is the CEO of Women Deliver

After she got married, she had to drop out of 7th grade.

This is the beginning of a story I heard at the +SocialGood event last month from Miriam Enerstrida, a young woman who escaped child marriage in Zambia. When she was in 7th grade, Miriam was sold into marriage. Her husband's family kept her in their basement, naked, so she could not run away. When she asked about going back to school, she said she was beaten and they made her repeat the phrase "school is for boys and not for the girl child."

I'm sure just by reading this you can tell what is wrong here. Although marriage below the age of 18 is not permitted in most countries, social norms and discriminatory laws often allow the practice to continue even where laws are on the books. Every day, 39,000 girls under the age of 18 will be forced into early marriage. One in seven girls living in developing countries is married before her 15th birthday.

The real question is: Why?

Child marriage is not only wrong from a legal and human rights perspective, but also from a broader economic and developmental perspective. When girls are married young, they are more likely to drop out of school; more likely to acquire HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections; and more likely to live their lives in poverty - a poverty that often is passed on to their children. Read more...

Evaluating Women Deliver: A Look Back and a Plan for the Future

By: Jill Sheffield and Katja Iversen, Women Deliver

With the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) deadline rapidly approaching, the global community is taking stock of the tremendous progress we’ve made toward improving girls’ and women’s lives around the world and the challenges that remain. At Women Deliver, we too are taking advantage of this opportunity to reflect on what we’ve achieved and how we can do better to make a real and lasting impact for girls and women everywhere. 

Earlier this year, Women Deliver underwent an external, independent impact evaluation to 1) determine Women Deliver’s contributions to increasing visibility and awareness around girls’ and women’s health, and 2) inform a new strategic plan that will guide Women Deliver’s future programs. Our evaluators conducted a materials review, a media analysis, a survey of over 500 Women Deliver supporters, and interviews with almost 100 staff, board members and influential stakeholders in our field.

We are thankful to everyone who participated in this incredibly valuable project. We could not be more thrilled with the outcomes, and we are happy to share some of the findings. 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...

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...

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...

Celebrate Solutions: Tackling Menstruation Through Community Economic Empowerment

By: Rehema Namukose

Menstruation—the mere mention of that word to some people in my country, Uganda, will make them squirm and feel disgusted. Others consider it a private issue not worthy of discussion in public around men. These sentiments have contributed to the many factors that have hindered girls from freely attending school during such times of the month.

In some Nepalese and Bangladesh communities, people still practice backward taboos that depict menstruating girls as outcasts who are deemed unfit to live with others. They are not allowed to be in contact with anyone because they are viewed as cursed, and many such taboos are fueled by poverty. When a girl or woman cannot afford sanitary health care during this period, she will be viewed as dirty, shameful to the family, and to the community as a whole. This is why many girls' low rates of attendance of school have been linked to menstruation. Read more...

Women Deliver Welcomes Two New Board Members

Women Deliver, a global advocacy organization dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of girls and women, is pleased to announce the election of two new board members, effective immediately: Dr. Jotham Musinguzi, Regional Director of Partners in Population and Development’s Africa Regional Office, and Dr. Peter Cairo, a consultant who spent 20 years as a full-time faculty member at Columbia University and specializes in the areas of leadership development, executive coaching, and executive team effectiveness.

“We are excited and absolutely privileged to have Dr. Jotham Musinguzi and Dr. Peter Cairo join the Women Deliver Board of Directors,” said Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver. “They each bring a distinct outlook along with years of expertise in their respective fields. Their passion and commitment to our set of issues will be a great resource for Women Deliver as we move forward.” Read more...

#SinceWD2013: Share Your Progress With Us

By: Jill Sheffield and Katja Iversen

It has already been one year since the extraordinary 2013 Women Deliver global conference took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The three day event brought together 4,500 key stakeholders from approximately 150 countries to focus on the most pressing issues affecting girls’ and women’s health and rights. During this one year anniversary, we want you to share with us: what is the one thing you have done - or done differently - to advance the health and rights of girls and women in your country over the last year? Read more...

New World Bank Report Calls for More Action to Achieve Equality of Girls and Women

A new report released by the World Bank, entitled “Voice and Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity” presents new evidence about the key constraints withholding girls and women worldwide from achieving their full potential to benefit their families and communities.

One critical highlighted point is that girls’ access to education plays an essential role in shaping their future and enhancing their ability to implement decisions and choices, even when gender norms are limiting. The report reveals that girls with no access to education are six times more likely to get married as children, causing them to live in extreme poverty and denying them a voice at household level. This contributes to prevalent  levels of gender-based violence—one of the key constraints listed in the report. Read more...

IPPF Launches a Global #SRHR Campaign

Today, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) launched a sexual and reproductive health and rights campaign to end stigma and promote people’s  rights to make key choices regarding their bodies and relationships.  Titled I decide, the campaign aims to get one million signatures to present to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in the summer of 2015 to push for action from global leaders.

The campaign will hold events with over 50 IPPF Member Associations worldwide in partnership with politicians, media, civil society and youth groups to highlight the situation of people who are not able to exercise their sexual and reproductive health and rights due to stigma, discrimination, or abuse. Events include a radio talk show in Liberia and an event featuring theatre sketches and documentary films in Palestine. Read more...

Women’s Rights Defenders Call for the Inclusion of Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

On the re-launch of May 28 International Day of Action for Women’s Health, Women’s Rights Defenders Worldwide Call for the Inclusion of Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

This May 2014, in commemoration of 30 years of struggle and activism reflected in the victories of the women’s rights movement in the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994) and in the IV World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995), women’s rights defenders and activists worldwide are re-launching May 28, the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, by calling on governments to ensure a holistic, inclusive, and human rights-based approach to women and girls’ health, which includes sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Read more...

Jill Sheffield Named One of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century by Women’s eNews

Women Deliver Founder and President Jill Sheffield was selected as one of the 2014 21 Leaders for the 21st Century by Women’s eNews, an award-winning nonprofit news service covering issues of particular concern to women and providing women's perspectives on public policy. The list honors outstanding leaders that are committed to improving the lives of girls and women, each one insisting on equality and justice for women and girls. Sheffield was presented with an award for her life-long commitment to enabling women to plan their fertility and making childbirth safe. This year’s group includes leaders who are working globally and locally to ensure that women's rights are human rights.

Sexual and Reproductive Rights are Not ‘New’ Rights, Says UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

United Nations, New York, 8 April 2014 – Although sometimes considered controversial, sexual and reproductive rights are not ‘new’ rights, but “are intrinsic to a range of internationally binding treaties.”

That was one of the messages in the keynote address by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, speaking at a side event, Celebrating Cairo and Going Beyond, organized by the High-Level Task Force for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) on the occasion of the Commission on Population and Development. Read more...

CSW: Good News for Women’s Rights

Women Deliver welcomes the strong outcome of the 2014 UN Commission on the Status of Women, where a big battle was fought to prioritize gender equality and view women’s rights as human rights in the next development agenda.

After two weeks of tough negotiations between delegates, advocates praised the strong language around sexual and reproductive health in the outcome document. With the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire at the end of next year, the Commission recognized that although the MDGs have advanced progress in some areas, the goals that focus on the health and well-being of girls and women, particularly surrounding maternal and sexual and reproductive health, have made the least the progress. Read more...

Saundra Pelletier Announced as Keynote Speaker at Harvard School of Public Health

For Immediate Release: March 24, 2014

San Diego, CA – Saundra Pelletier, WomanCare Global’s (WCG) Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Women Deliver Board, has been announced as the Keynote Speaker at Harvard School of Public Health Women in Leadership Student Organization’s “2014 Women in Leadership Conference.” The conference will provide the opportunity for students and alumnae to participate in discussions relating to the role of women in leadership positions in public health.

Ms. Pelletier has dedicated her life and career to empowering women, and she has been a major force in bringing attention to the need for women globally to access reproductive health supplies. She has grown WomanCare Global’s reach to over 100 countries while also serving as the CEO of Evofem Inc., a privately held biotechnology company that develops innovative prescription and consumer products.

“I’ve focused my career on empowering women and girls and I am grateful to Harvard School of Public Health for creating a forum that allows us to explore critical issues in women’s health,” said Saundra Pelletier. 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...

‘PODER’: A Story of Girls Overcoming

By Denise Dunning; Originally posted on Huffington Post

Denise Dunning is the Founder and Executive Director of Let Girls Lead and Champions for Change

Girls around the world rarely have the opportunity to tell their stories and speak their truth to a global audience. That reality is about to change with the global film premiere of 'PODER,' a compelling short documentary about girls' power to transform their own lives, families, communities and the world.

'PODER' is the engaging story of Elba and Emelin, two indigenous Guatemalan girls who overcame poverty and discrimination to transform a community of over 26,000 people, and their nation of 14 million. Unlike many documentaries that depict girls as powerless victims, 'PODER' captures girls as leaders and powerful agents of change. Read more...

Global Leaders Call for Greater Investments in Girls and Women

As world leaders congregate in New York for the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, policymakers, advocates, and experts convened a high-level event to focus on the need for greater global investment in reproductive health, education, and equality for girls and women.

Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark delivered opening remarks at the event, “Invest in Girls and Women: Everybody Wins,” co-hosted by Women Deliver, The Permanent Mission of Denmark to the UN, Plan International, the Nike Foundation, and the UN Foundation. The event was in support of Every Woman Every Child, an initiative launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that aims to drastically improve the health of women and children around the world. Read more...

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