More From the Blog

  • Rachel — like #YesAllGirls — is determined to go to school


    Photo Credit: Dooshima Orjime, 4 Pillars PLUS project

    In the beginning of September, Malala challenged girls around the world to show their support for refugee girls by sharing a #YesAllGirls photo — just like she did with her classmates.

    Girls (and boys!) from all over posted picture after inspiring picture, with each group seemingly larger than the last. One of our favorite photos came from the students at JSS Government Secondary School Federal Housing Estate in Calabar, Nigeria.

    Rachel, a 13-year-old student enrolled in the Cross River State school, shared her story.

    “After my dad married my mum, they had my sister and I. My father did not care for my mum because he gave her only female children. He kept late nights and had other women. My mum left after she couldn’t take it anymore. She also left us at a tender age with our grandmother. My father married another woman, who had male children for him. My step mum told my dad to send us out of the house which he did. My sister was serious about writing her Senior Secondary Exams; but due to lack of parental guidance and care on the part of both my mum and dad, my sister failed her exams. This has made life more depressing for her. Anytime I see my sister I cry, because her education has ended from the lack of concern on the part of my father, it makes me sad. I pray for my sister and don’t want her life stagnated or her education ending just like that.

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  • Equity in education: Evidence for investments in the SDG era

    Nothing has inspired me more than the sacrifices I have seen African parents make to send their children to school. In Swaziland in the 1990s, I calculated that a typical rural family spent over 60 percent of its disposable income to pay for school fees, books and uniforms. The reason families are willing to devote so much to educate their children was summed up by the pioneering American educator Horace Mann in 1848, when he wrote, “Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.”

    As our world has become more interconnected and technology-dependent, the role of education as the primary pathway to social and economic mobility has grown stronger. We now live in the most prosperous era in the history of mankind, but one where a quality education is the price of admission into the 21st century knowledge economy.

    As more countries have prospered, the gap between the haves and the have nots — which, in most low- and lower-middle income countries, is the gap between the well-educated and the undereducated — has become a potentially destabilizing factor. Lack of education decreases life opportunities and increases political marginalization, perpetuating and exacerbating social and economic inequality. In an increasingly uncertain and volatile world, educational inequality not only is a main component of the poverty trap, but is also a tripwire for social strife and conflict.

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  • Keeping male contraceptive research front and center

    Developing a new male contraceptive might seem like a daunting challenge. But, novel approaches, identification of new genetic targets and more expansive research on acceptability could lead to the development of a game-changing male contraceptive in our lifetime. In recognition of World Contraception Day 2016 (September 26), we are pleased to share this five-part blog series, Keeping Male Contraceptive Research Front and Center. In this series, the Contraceptive Technology Innovation (CTI) Exchange brought together experts in the field to discuss the state of the science. Over the next several months, the CTI Exchange will continue hosting other guest authors who will offer insights on this subject. The CTI Exchange is a knowledge-sharing portal managed by FHI 360 experts. 

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    Does epidemic control inadvertently reinforce inequality?

    HIV clinic in Mozambique

    An HIV clinic in Maputo in Mozambique. Photo: Talea Miller/PBS NewsHour/CC BY-NC

    Over the last two years, ministries of health in sub-Saharan Africa and other countries with a high burden of HIV/AIDS have implemented strategies that concentrate resources on high prevalence areas and key populations.

    Encouraged by their donor partners, such as PEPFARUNAIDS and The Global Fund, these strategies employ a biomedical approach that focuses on suppressing the viral load in the population in line with UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 objectives to reduce new infections and bring the HIV epidemic under control. If successful, this approach holds out the tantalizing prospect of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

    Often referred to in U.S. government circles as “the pivot,” this shift in strategy reflects constrained foreign assistance budgets as well as a number of successes in fighting AIDS over the last decade. We now have more robust surveillance methods that allow us to better target disease hotspots and key populations, countries have improved diagnostic and laboratory capacity that enable more rapid and sophisticated analyses, and new therapies allow people who are HIV positive to treat HIV/AIDS as a chronic condition instead of a death sentence. Call it the triumph of the medical epidemiologists.

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  • Armed conflict and education inequality: What do we know?

    What do Ethiopia, Nepal, Niger and the Philippines have in common? Each country had episodes of conflict in the 1990s, and each bucked the global trend of declining education inequalities in a subsequent time period. Researchers have long puzzled over the relationship between inequality and civil conflict: Do grievances over a lack of access to resources or social capital actually lead people to go to war? For some academics, the question is met with skepticism, as empirical research has often led to inconclusive results. Recent changes in the way inequality is conceptualized and measured have changed the way people think about this connection.

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  • A Deeper Look: Making development more relevant and effective

    How can we make our work more relevant and effective?

    Earlier this summer, FHI 360 held its first summit on integrated development, Greater Than the Sum of its Parts. Ben Ramalingam, a researcher and the Leader of the Digital & Technology Cluster at the Institute of Development Studies, delivered our keynote address. While Ben was in town, we talked about how to maximize the effectiveness of international development and how we need a paradigm shift to generate real change.

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    Why we shouldn’t be working ourselves out of a job

    Patrick FineRecently, I heard the head of a nonprofit organization that works in Africa declare that the goal of his organization is to work itself out of a job.

    “With your support now,” he assured the audience, “in just a few years, our help won’t be needed.”

    This is an old adage among development workers and one that is especially popular with some funders, such as the U.S. Congress, who think of foreign assistance as global philanthropy to provide a short-term hand up — not a hand out.

    With this view goes the belief that if we just do a good job, then prosperous, well-governed communities will quickly take root and eliminate the need for further assistance. After all, that’s what happened in South Korea. Unfortunately, success in one country does not predict success in another, and all the evidence on social and economic development tells us we still have a long row to hoe.

    If you date the modern era of international development to the emergence of the post-World War II world order and the end of European colonialism in the late 1950s, then we’ve been trying to work ourselves out of a job for more than 60 years.

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  • The issues we must address to #EndHIV4Her

    Adolescent girls and young women continue to be at unacceptably high risk for HIV infection. UNAIDS estimates that 7,500 girls and young women, 10 to 24 years of age, become infected with HIV every week, with the highest rates in southern and eastern Africa. Girls and young women account for 71 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa, highlighting the gender disparity in this age group. Despite active prevention efforts, recent clinical trials in southern Africa have measured new HIV infection rates of 4 to 6 percent per year among young women. It is imperative that we implement aggressive measures to decrease new HIV infections among girls and young women.

    Our current HIV prevention package of HIV testing, behavioral risk reduction, management of sexually transmitted infections and condom use is inadequate because young women often lack the ability to control their risk. The evidence is clear that the source of HIV infection for most girls and young women in southern Africa is older men. For young women, a complex mix of economic dependency, limited educational opportunity, gender inequality, unequal power dynamics and social norms leads to a lack of choice of how and with whom to have sex.

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  • A conversation on coming to terms with the high cost of human development

    How do we measure nonprofit organizational effectiveness?

    I was delighted to have a conversation with Jeri Eckhart Queenan, Partner & Global Development Practice Head at the Bridgespan Group, about the challenges in financing development. This was a great opportunity to discuss emerging trends in how organizations manage their programs in order to deliver the most effective results while maximizing value for their stakeholders, especially the beneficiaries of their work.

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  • Does evidence tell us that integrated development approaches work? It depends!

    ID Summit logoWhen we tackle complex, global challenges and their many root causes, intuition tells us that development initiatives need to be more holistic — the approaches may need to be as interconnected as the problems. Even the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda states its aims are integrated and indivisible. Yet, the critically important question, “What evidence supports integrated development in practice?” can best be answered through the saying “context is king.”

    Integration is an umbrella phrase that can describe thousands of different cross-sector approaches — from health and microfinance, to nutrition and education, to conservation and livelihoods. Consider how evidence showing huge impacts in the integration of savings groups with girls’ education would be relevant for people trying to decide whether to integrate agriculture and environmental conservation. Context matters. A lot. What is being integrated with what? How? For what purpose?

    Global development decisionmakers must resist the temptation for a simple, universal answer to whether integration works. The notion that any one gold-standard study on its own will answer the integrated development hypothesis is false. Evidence for cross-sector approaches will always depend on the specific sectors, geography and people in question.

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