Gender

  • Harnessing power to shift the economic balance toward equality for women

    Shaheen, owner of a leading fashion house in Dhaka.

    Shaheen, owner of a leading fashion house in Dhaka. Photo: Asian Development Bank/CC BY-NC-ND

    The push to advance women’s economic empowerment around the world is not a fashionable procurement exercise. It is not a way for governments, private sector investors or implementing partners such as FHI 360 to look good. It is necessary and urgent. It is a lifeline to women, families, communities and countries struggling with health and food security, environmental degradation, economic growth barriers and political turmoil.

    Economic empowerment is a universal human right that protects women and people of all genders and social identities from sexual harassment, exploitation and gender-based violence.

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

    Rachel

    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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  • 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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  • Women and girls deserve better

    How can an adolescent girl succeed in school if she is not protected from sexual violence inside the classroom? How does a child thrive when his mother must choose between buying medication or nutritious food? We know that poverty, lack of access to education, poor health and violence are intimately linked, and how we tackle these problems is a global issue with important implications for the way the United States funds international development programs for women and girls. At the moment, we tend to compartmentalize our efforts in top-down, single-issue solutions, not because that is the most effective way to meet the needs of women and girls, but because it meets the needs of funders and their implementing partners. As we enter the new era of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we need to do better.

    There is an obvious starting point.

    We need to be a lot more deliberate and get a lot better at integrating efforts to improve the well-being of women and girls. Given the siloed nature of how we organize development work, especially in terms of funding and specialized expertise, we tend to think and act with narrowly predetermined notions of cause and effect. As a result, we miss vital connections and opportunities for action and impact. For example, I recently asked an African Minister of Health what was the biggest obstacle to women’s and girls’ health, and he immediately responded, “access to transport” to get to health facilities and obtain medicines. And yet, how often does transport come up as a priority when funders and development agencies plan health programs?

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  • Zika infection during pregnancy: Why we need gender and social norms changes for girls and young women

    A version of this post originally appeared on Devex. Reposted with permission.

    The link between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and birth defects poses yet another threat for girls and women of reproductive age in the Americas as they struggle to chart a positive course through life transitions.

    Unfortunately for girls and young women, the choice of whether or when to become pregnant is often not their own. Age and power dynamics heighten the impact of traditional gender and social norms for girls and young women and can inhibit informed decision making and positive sexual and reproductive health behaviors. Lack of empowerment leaves them more vulnerable to gender-based violence, increasing the risk of unintended pregnancy, while fear of discrimination from health providers or condemnation from family and community means girls and young women delay seeking and receiving contraception or antenatal care.

    The Zika virus is another threat for girls and women as they chart a positive course through life. Click To Tweet

    A public health response to the Zika virus must include addressing some of these root causes that preclude girls and young women from realizing their sexual and reproductive health choices — and social norms that inhibit contraceptive use for girls and young women need to be addressed in programming.

    Note: The authors would like to thank their colleagues from the Passages project team. FHI 360 is part of a team of global health organizations implementing this new reproductive health initiative in Asia and Africa, which aims to improve the healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies by youth and first-time parents in developing countries.

    Read the entire blog here.

  • Developing girls’ mathematics identity through teacher education

    A disturbing trend has developed showing that decreasing numbers of girls and women are majoring and entering careers in science, mathematics, engineering, technology and computer science (STEM-CS). Some of this decline is attributed to how math is taught in schools. If students do not find math interesting, if the teaching of math is described as boring or not fun, and if students do not see the relevancy or application of math in their personal lives, then students and girls particularly are not going to be interested in or pursue careers in mathematics or any of the other STEM-CS fields.

    Since math and science both suffer from teacher and student low self-efficacy, it is extremely important to make these subjects interesting and relevant. Thus, much of my role as a science teacher educator working with preservice and in-service elementary teachers is to begin building a foundation for them to become reacquainted with math and science and to excite an interest of learning these areas, so that they can do the same for their students. Below I outline a few ways teacher education can support the development of girls’ math identity. A first step is to encourage a math and science identity with teachers during their teacher preparation with the hope that they will foster math and science identity with their students.

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  • A version of this post originally appeared on Girls’ Globe. Reposted with permission.

    Opening up the panel, Greg BeckFHI 360‘s Director of Integrated Development, told the story of one particular attempt to aid in relief efforts. After great effort, and amassing donations and supplies, they opened boxes to find stacks of things like inflatable toilets and acne cream.

    Asked Beck, “How is this going to help anybody rebuild their life?”

    Beck’s point was an extreme example of a nonetheless integral point: development and aid are not straightforward, not simple. They don’t consist of simply hurling donations and good intentions at a problem and hoping something sticks.

    The term “integrated development” means just that — that development is complex and requires coordinated, planned effort across sectors.

    It operates around the idea that development does not exist problem by problem, sector by sector. You can’t improve global health without improving education without improving women’s rights. Naturally, there are some specific efforts that require a concentrated approach, but overall, a holistic view is more effective, and organizations and governments need to address what people really lack in the complex, multilayered environments in which they live — not just what we think they need.

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  • Beyond the health benefits, what does family planning have to do with the SDGs?

    A version of this post originally appeared on K4Health. Reposted with permission.

    The international community is abuzz with excitement about the new global development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Officially being launched this month, the aims laid out are more ambitious and all encompassing than ever before. As such, they’ve generated an expectedly broad, diverse and loud chorus of suggestions for their implementation. Everyone seems on the hunt for the best new idea or technology to carry the agenda forward. Yet, after decades of work and untold millions of dollars in investments in research and ideas, surely we must know something useful today that could be put to good use? Perhaps while smartly pursuing innovations that keep pace with our changing world, we can also put some real investment behind some of even the simplest things that we already know to be true and which might just need a little more traction before we can finally benefit from their full potential impact.

    For example, right now we have a tool available to us that spans almost every SDG. It’s a relatively inexpensive solution that can simultaneously improve global outcomes in education, health and wealth. It can help preserve our environment and ensure food security for people around the world. You may be wondering why you have not heard of this amazing tool, but it’s far from new. Drumroll … it’s fully meeting the global demand for contraception. That’s right — sound evidence from around the world tells us several things.

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  • Srey Sros: Addressing the needs of transgender populations in Cambodia

    Srey Sros model

    A transgender model promotes the Srey Sros program. Photo: Graphic Roots Studio, Cambodia

    I have three long-haired boys, and wherever we go in Cambodia, people are confused, certain they are girls. We are constantly asked, “Why?” The answer is simple: They like having long hair. My boys’ push against traditional gender expressions is perhaps acceptable only because Cambodians have come to expect odd behavior from foreigners.

    Yet, it is a different matter for a Cambodian transgender individual with long hair. Transgender individuals in this setting face many acute challenges, and their unconventional appearance is only one of them.

    Transgender individuals in Cambodia carry a high burden of HIV. According to a study conducted by FHI 360 in select urban centers of the country, transgender individuals have an HIV prevalence of 4.15 percent (compared to 0.6 percent for the general population). Despite this striking percentage, they have historically been left out of HIV prevention and care programs. When they were included, they were incorrectly targeted as men who have sex with men. This means that there were no distinct behavior change communications or services for this group.

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  • Math identity is the key to girls’ math success

    Photo: Jessica Scranton/FHI 360

    Photo: Jessica Scranton/FHI 360

    Girls get the message — from the toys they play with, the TV shows they watch and the attitudes of their parents, teachers and peers — that math is NOT for them! From an early age, girls are taught that math success is about an innate ability that they lack and that being feminine and being good at math are mutually exclusive.

    As a result, girls do not develop a positive math identity — an identity that research tells us is key to their interest, participation and persistence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and careers. Without a solid background in math, girls will not develop the critical STEM skills that will be required for 60 percent of the new jobs that will become available in the 21st century.

    There are two pillars of a positive math identity: the belief that you can do math and the belief that you belong. Identity is fluid and dynamic. It is developed through social practice, and it is through social practice that learners develop a sense of who they are. There is no such thing as a “math gene” or a “math brain,” but the myth is perpetuated, and it is particularly harmful to girls and students of color. Teachers and parents often unconsciously convey stereotyped messages that girls do not need to be good in math.

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