Gender

  • The role of youth sexual and reproductive health in individual and national development

    In honor of this year’s World Population Day, the theme of which is youth engagement and the sustainable development agenda, we are reflecting on youth — our future leaders, parents, entrepreneurs and citizens. Today’s generation of young people is the largest in history: there are 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 on the planet. In many countries, more than half of the population is under age 25, creating opportunities for national economic growth but also underscoring the need for greater investment in their health — with consequences that will affect the world’s social, environmental and economic well-being for generations.

    Investment in young people’s sexual and reproductive health in particular ensures that young people are not only protected from HIV and other STIs, but also that they have the number of children they desire, when and if they wish to have them. The ability to control one’s fertility increases individuals’ productive capacity and can lead to a decline in a country’s dependency ratio (number of working citizens compared to nonworking citizens). When the dependency ratio declines in conjunction with adequate investments in youth education and economic opportunity, per capita income can increase — a phenomenon known as the demographic dividend.

    Unfortunately, many young people do not have access to the critical sexual and reproductive health information and services required to stay healthy and avoid unintended pregnancy. Many young women report not wanting to become pregnant, but the level of unmet need for contraception among adolescents is more than twice that of adults. In some regions of the world, the unmet need for contraception among adolescents is as high as 68 percent. Fulfilling the unmet need for contraceptives among adolescents alone could prevent an estimated 7.4 million unintended pregnancies annually.

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  • A call to prioritize gender in development

    The most effective 21st century international development organizations will be those that ask — and come up with workable answers to — the right questions about gender. The right answers are ones that boldly empower women and girls, engage men and boys as partners and don’t shy away from approaches that disrupt business as usual. The organizations that get gender right will be the ones that truly transform lives.

    On June 16, 2014, more than 200 gender experts, funders, policymakers and development organizations will convene for the inaugural Gender 360 Summit in Washington, DC, to explore approaches for empowering women and girls and prioritize gender equality in our work. It is an opportunity for the international development community to examine the roadblocks, reflect on what we are doing well and where we are failing, and push ourselves to do better.

    What have we learned about gender inequalities in different social, cultural and geographic settings? Beyond investing resources, what role can funders and their implementing partners play in elevating the importance of integrating gender considerations into all their work? What are the indicators of success and how do we measure them? These are just a few of the questions that need actionable responses.

    Gender is not just about women and girls. Understanding gender means understanding the differences, in particular the economic, social, political and cultural attributes, constraints and opportunities that are associated with being female and male, and in some places, a third (or other) gender. It also means understanding how the social and economic forces unleashed by modernization (and abetted by development programs) affect women, men, boys and girls and the interactive relationship among them.

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  • Naomi

    What prevents girls in Nigeria from receiving a quality education?

    Girls in Nigeria face many obstacles. These include high school fees, gender inequality and other social pressures that cause them to drop out. Security is a big risk for many girls, especially since the recent kidnappings. Some girls are just too afraid to go to class. The conditions at school can also be a challenge. My class has 50 students and no fan. Some classrooms have no ceiling, no fan and even more students. At certain times of the day, like when the sun is directly overhead, it is too hot for students to even sit in the classroom and impossible for them to concentrate and learn.

    Some policies also limit girls. If a girl is pregnant, she cannot return to school after she has her baby. One mistake should not be the end of a girl’s education.

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  • A version of this post originally appeared on Interagency Youth Working Group’s Half the World Blog. Reposted with permission.
    Why adolescents?

    In 2012, young people ages 15 to 24 accounted for an estimated 40 percent of new nonpediatric HIV infections worldwide [UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report 2012]. Furthermore, perinatal HIV transmission is a major cause for HIV infection, and given the success of pediatric antiretroviral therapy (ART), many more infants born with HIV are growing up into adolescents and young adults living with HIV.

    While care and treatment programs for people living with HIV (PLHIV) can be found in every country, there is a gap in provision of ongoing, supportive counseling for adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV). Adolescence is often when young people begin having sex, which increases chances that adolescents living with HIV might pass the infection to partners who are HIV negative. Another concern is that girls living with HIV may become pregnant; if they do not know about or have access to services for preventing mother-to-child transmission, they can pass the infection to their babies. Given that adolescents are a large sub-group of those living with HIV, there is a need for tailored interventions and support systems that address adolescents’ unique vulnerabilities.

    Positive Connections

    To shed light on the specific health and social support needs of ALHIV, FHI 360 — on behalf of USAID’s Interagency Youth Working Group — developed a resource called Positive Connections: Leading Information and Support Groups for Adolescents Living with HIV. This unique guide provides facilitators with background information about the needs of ALHIV, tips for starting an adult-led information and support group, 14 sessions to follow in a group setting and guidance on tracking a program’s progress.

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  • Gender, economics, and ART adherence: What’s the connection?

    In a rural village in central Africa, my colleagues and I stood over a registration book for antenatal care clients with the goal of identifying clinic-level data that could be extracted for a project evaluation. As we made our way through the book, the left sides of the pages were filled with names of women, dates and HIV test results — it was clear that almost all of the women who tested HIV positive received some form of antiretroviral therapy (ART). As my eyes ran to the right across spaces for follow-up records, however, the fields became increasingly emptier, and our team began to discuss the various barriers to services, even a highly effective service like prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT).

    Access and adherence to the greater continuum of HIV care is influenced by several factors, including community-level gender norms and related behaviors. For example, HIV-positive men may avoid HIV testing and may spend a significant amount of their income attempting to address symptoms of their illness rather than confirming their HIV status. Often, these behaviors are driven by fear that knowledge of a positive HIV test result could compromise their leadership at home and cause family instability. Research has also identified instances when men undermine their wives’ access and adherence to ART, even taking their wives’ medication for themselves. Interestingly, despite such challenges, women are more likely to access and adhere to HIV-related treatment and care than men.

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  • “I will not let you hit your wife!” I yelled. “I work for an organization that is empowering women to end violence in their lives.” Moments earlier, my older brother had joined his wife (my sister-in-law), daughter and me on the balcony of his house. As he ate, he complained that his wife was using the charger for his mobile phone. He grew so angry that he threw his plate of food on the floor and stood up to confront her. He tried to punch her, but I pushed him away.

    This was not the first time I had experienced violence. My former partner and the father of my two children threatened to kill me when I was 24 years old. He physically abused me, treating me like I was his punching bag. He often struck my face so people would know he “owned” me. With all of the bruises, I always felt ashamed to walk in public. My past experience with my former partner made me more sensitive to what was happening in my family.

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  • positive-connections-coverWhy adolescents?

    In 2012, young people ages 15 to 24 accounted for an estimated 40 percent of new nonpediatric HIV infections worldwide [UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report 2012]. Furthermore, perinatal HIV transmission is a major cause for HIV infection, and given the success of pediatric antiretroviral therapy (ART), many more infants born with HIV are growing up into adolescents and young adults living with HIV.

    While care and treatment programs for people living with HIV (PLHIV) can be found in every country, there is a gap in provision of ongoing, supportive counseling for adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV). Adolescence is often when young people begin having sex, which increases chances that adolescents living with HIV might pass the infection to partners who are HIV negative. Another concern is that girls living with HIV may become pregnant; if they do not know about or have access to services for preventing mother-to-child transmission, they can pass the infection to their babies. Given that adolescents are a large sub-group of those living with HIV, there is a need for tailored interventions and support systems that address adolescents’ unique vulnerabilities.

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  • Reducing violence against women and girls in Papua New Guinea

    Yesterday was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In Papua New Guinea, where I work for FHI 360, violence is a serious, widespread problem that affects many women and girls on a daily basis. While exact figures are difficult to obtain, recent estimates show that violence occurs in more than two-thirds of families living in the country.

    FHI 360 is tackling this pervasive problem through a new project. The Komuniti Lukautim Ol Meri Project (KLOM), funded by Australian Aid, supports women and girls who are survivors of violence in Papua New Guinea by providing community services focused on prevention, response and empowerment. The project, which is managed by FHI 360, is being implemented in ten communities in the Sandaun and Western Highlands provinces. Each community has two “mobilizers” who play a pivotal role in helping women and girls who survive violence. For example, when two primary school girls were gang-raped coming home from school in April, the girls’ families reported the incident to the two community mobilizers, who then accompanied the girls to town for medical and legal assistance. FHI 360 works closely with these mobilizers, as well as two provincial hospitals, a faith-based organization and a community-based organization.

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  • Promoting male involvement in Uganda

    Since August 2012, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) has partnered with FHI 360 to engage men in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and other family planning services in Uganda. The project, titled, “Promoting Constructive Male Engagement to Increase Use of PMTCT Services,” encouraged clients to seek HIV/AIDS care and treatment services at eight health facilities in the Kabale District of Uganda.

    Studies have shown that male involvement in PMTCT and other family planning activities can reduce the risks of vertical HIV transmission (mother-to-child) and infant mortality by more than 40 percent. Educating male partners about HIV in general and how it is transmitted is essential to successful, long-term approaches to eliminating HIV/AIDS. A 2008 study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and South Africa’s University of KwaZulu Natal found that male involvement in PMTCT was linked to more people taking advantage of HIV testing, antiretroviral treatment, condoms, and support for infant feeding choices. What’s more, some women say they need their partner’s support in order to access HIV prevention, care, and treatment services, including PMTCT.

    To encourage male involvement, team members from EGPAF and FHI 360 consulted with leaders in the Kabale district, including district health officials, civic leaders, religious leaders, politicians, and community groups to discuss matters related to gender and HIV and family planning. The community leaders then nominated well-respected men from their community to serve as champions (called “Emanzi” in the local language) and role models for their peers and lead discussions on gender and health issues in their communities.

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  • Focus on Education: To improve education globally we must end child marriage

    It seems remarkable that 11 October 2013 marks only the second time that the global community has come together to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child. Has it really taken us this long to recognise that adolescent girls hold the key to building a healthier, safer, more prosperous world?

    The theme for Day of the Girl 2013 – ‘Innovating for girls’ education’ – highlights this link, and recognises that we are unlikely to address global poverty if we don’t enable girls to complete their education. The case is clear. Girls who complete secondary school earn significantly more as adults. They are more likely to know about and use reproductive health services. And the benefits spill over to the next generation as well: mortality rates of children whose mothers have at least seven years of education are up to 58% lower than those among children whose mothers have no education.

    Despite all we know about the benefits of education for girls, millions of girls miss out. Indeed, only 30 per cent of girls around the world are enrolled in secondary school. That is why on Day of the Girl 2013, we cannot ignore the practices that keep girls out of the classroom.

    Child marriage is a major barrier to progress on girls’ education. When girls marry as children, they usually drop out of school, forced to abandon schoolbooks for household chores. They are denied the opportunity to learn the skills that could help them earn a safe, dependable income as adults and which are necessary to build a sustainable and prosperous future for their communities. Every year approximately 14 million girls a year marry before they turn 18. While not all of them will drop out of school, most do. How can we get all girls in school, when child marriage keeps pulling them out?

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