girls

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Child marriage seen as a girl’s health issue | 

IG_CM_BTN_byWealth_v7
CFR

The development community is starting to pay closer attention to the problem of child marriages.

Long considered an issue of human rights, the conversation about child marriage is shifting to that of health and education. Girls married too young are denied the educational opportunities of their peers and are put at greater health risks, such as HIV and teen pregnancy.

What may seem like a distant problem, child marriage is found in every part of the world. Ending the global practice will unleash opportunity for millions of women and girls.

The number of global child marriages is declining, but not quickly enough. Rates are staggering in places like Chad, Niger and the Central African Republic. More than two out of every three girls are married before eighteen. Roughly half of the girls married early in Niger do so before turning fifteen.

The global rate of child marriage is alarmingly high in developing countries where one out of every three girls will marry before turning eighteen. It is estimated that 142 million girls will marry before the age of eighteen this decade. The majority of cases are found in South Asia and West and Central Africa, but it is India that carries the majority of the burden, 40% to be exact.

It is not only a problem in Africa and Asia. Closer to the US, Haiti has a child marriage rate exceeding thirty percent. Continue reading

Afghanistan lagging on enforcing law protecting women against violence | 

Afghan women's self-help group.
Afghan women’s self-help group.
Canada in Afghanistan

The landmark law enacted in Afghanistan four years ago is providing little protection for women.

In 2011, Afghanistan was found to be the worst place to be a women, according to a survey by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The greatest threats to Afghan women, according to those polled, were non-sexual violence, a lack of access to economic resources and health.

The establishment of the Elimination of Violence Against Women law in August 2009 was heralded as an important advance for the safety of women. Some twenty-two acts were included in the law ranging from forced marriage and forced self-immolation to violence and the practice of giving away women to settle a dispute.

Yesterday, a report released by the UN raised serious concerns with the progress over the past four years.

“Implementation has been slow and uneven, with police still reluctant to enforce the legal prohibition against violence and harmful practices, and prosecutors and courts slow to enforce the legal protections in the law,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. Continue reading

Seattle takes it personally – women and girls | 

Editor’s Note: I have neither the time nor the inclination to engage in the journalistic pretense of objectivity today, which is why I am calling this post an analysis. It’s not really going to be very analytical, but that’s the word journalists use when they actually say what they think.

Yvonne Mutoni Musiime, Rwanda Girls Initiative
Yvonne Mutoni Musiime, Rwanda Girls Initiative

Analysis

Here at Humanosphere, the world’s leading news resource for global health and the fight against poverty (okay, that’s not true), we frequently pretend to be objective.

Journalistic objectivity is, of course, more an ideal than a practice any individual can achieve in reality. But we do try to be fair and accurate and not engage in too much personal opinion. We strive to give people the whole picture, as we see it.

I don’t have the time and inclination for all that objectivity head-faking today.

I don’t have the time because of two powerful gatherings that took place in Seattle this week, one by Global Washington and the other by the Seattle International Foundation (or SIF, which I need to disclose is one of Humanosphere’s leading financial benefactors). Both of these yearly confabs truly exemplify what’s so special about the local humanitarian scene. And by happening on the same week every year (WTF?) they also annually consume what little free time I have for that week.

I also don’t have the inclination – to engage in the pretense of objectivivity, in case I lost you – because, well, we were all blubbering this morning over our breakfast. It’s hard to report objectively when you’ve got tears in your eyes.

So what was the blubber fest? It was SIF’s annual Women in the World breakfast.

Paula Clapp
Paula Clapp

“The voices of women are often ignored … or punished for speaking out,” said Paula Clapp, co-founder of SIF and one of the region’s leading philanthropists. Clapp has been devoted to empowering (and protecting) women for a long time, but she still choked up speaking this simple truth. So did many in the auditorium at the Four Seasons Hotel. But they were mostly women. I was a guy and damn if I was going to start crying. Continue reading

The 10 stories you missed while following the Philippines | 

The disaster following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines rightly has dominated the global twenty-four hour news cycle. Humanosphere has devoted more of our reporting time to the issue than anything else this week. With nearly one million people displaced and close to twelve million affected, the scope of the problem is vast and the relief effort has a long way to go.

While we were paying attention to the Philippines, there were other notable news stories that garnered less attention. Here are ten notable events and happenings (presented in no particular order) that you might have missed this week. It is by no means a comprehensive list. Do add anything else of note in the comments section.

1) Polio is worse this year in Pakistan, so the region is taking on the challenge by working together.

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Gates Foundation

The number of polio cases in Pakistan have already exceeded the total from 2012. Health officials announced Wednesday that there are sixty-two cases of polio in 2013. The total for 2012 was fifty-eight. Pakistan is one of only polio-endemic countries, alongside Afghanistan and Nigeria.

Attacks on polio workers over the past year have hampered the effort to vaccinate children. An estimated 240,000 children living in the northwest were not vaccinated in August due to a ban by the Taliban.

The problem is affecting neighboring countries. An outbreak of polio in Syria was recently linked to Pakistan. To deal with the issue, the WHO is working with twenty-one Middle Eastern countries to stop polio in its tracks. However, much of what happens in Pakistan is out of the control of the UN and its neighbors.
Continue reading

The trouble with Maasai boys | 

DSC_0093Uwiro, Tanzania - A drought in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northwest Tanzania claimed the lives of more than 200 children in 2011. The dry season and unsure rains mean that the Maasai children that live in the region are still at risk.

It may be the boys who are at the greatest risk.

Girls fall behind at an early age compared to their male peers around the world. The semi-nomadic Maasai tribe of Kenya and Tanzania are known for their male warriors, the morani. The masculine culture would lead one to conclude that the problems start with the girls, but it is the Maasai boys who are in trouble.

Boys traditionally take care of the cattle during the day, leaving them with little to eat for a day that requires a lot of walking and work. An analysis of the body mass index (BMI) of school-age boys and girls (between seven and nineteen years old) in the region shows a stark divide. Malnutrition is striking at a point of vital development for all children. Continue reading

Chelsea Clinton champions youth engagement and women’s rights | 

Chelsea Clinton leads a plenary discussion at CGI.
Chelsea Clinton leads a plenary discussion at CGI 2013.
CGI

(New York) – Chelsea Clinton recognizes that being the daughter of a former US President and former Secretary State pushes her onto the American political stage.

It is an opportunity rather than a burden for Clinton. In a conversation with a small group of bloggers on the Sidelines of the Clinton Global Initiative last week, she described her interest in women’s rights, national service and youth engagement.

CGI used to host a separate track for women and girls. The idea was to raise the issues concerning the group, but the foundation came to realize that it was not a separate issue. Rather, women and girls are a part of all aspects of development.

“All of our work must have implications for girls and women and for the gender gap,” she said.

The organization now advises its members to consider how they are going to reach women and girls, as well as other marginalized groups, when developing their pledges. The change is working, she said. Nearly two-thirds of all commitments this year included women and girls in their plans. That is up from half last year. Continue reading

Law & Order: Poverty alleviation unit | 

Gary Haugen
Gary Haugen

(New York) – Movement inside of the Sheraton Hotel, location of the Clinton Global Initiative meeting, came to a standstill as President Obama exited the building.

Press and meeting attendees left at once, flooding the lobby of the hotel. A swarm formed in front of the elevators as people tried to predict which door would open first and ensure that they would board to head upward.

I made it up to the fifth floor when the elevator behind me arrived at the lobby. After being cleared by the Clinton Foundation volunteer gatekeepers, wearing white shirts and adorned in CGI branded scarves or ties, I was escorted to one of the conference rooms.

Gary Haugen, founder of the International Justice Mission (IJM), jumped up to greet me as I apologized for my tardiness. He offered his forgiveness with a flash of his gap-toothed smile. A former Department of Justice lawyer, Haugen wears his grey hair in a flat-top style that taunts gravity’s pull.

He led the UN investigation following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The research and his human rights work led to the founding of the International Justice Mission (IJM) in 1997. He discovered that violence is one of the core problems related to poverty.

“The thing you notice is this massive level of violence against the poor in the developing world and the way it undermines their development and opportunity to get out of poverty,” he explains. Continue reading

Better Data will Empower More Women | 

Polio vaccination team member, Sujata Roy, marks a house during a campaign in Balarampota village.
Polio vaccination team member, Sujata Roy, marks a house during a campaign in Balarampota village.
Gates Foundation

(New York) – Melinda Gates and Hillary Clinton agree, better data is vital to achieving lasting women’s empowerment. The gains made over the past few decades are encouraging they said while speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative, but there is still a long way to go.

One of the major obstacles is legal equality. A World Bank report released on Tuesday showed 50 years of gains for women around the world, but said that restrictive laws are harming economic opportunities for women. Though the trend is promising. Legal changes have been made in 44 countries over the past two years that improve economic opportunity for women.

“When women and men participate in economic life on an equal footing, they can contribute their energies to building a more cohesive society and a more resilient economy,” said World Bank President Jim Kim. “The surest way to help enrich the lives of families, communities and economies is to allow every individual to live up to her or his fullest creative potential.” Continue reading