An Interview with
Andrea Bertone, Gender Expert, FHI 360
The theme of International Women’s Day 2013 is The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum. How have we made progress on gender equality?
We have made a lot of progress since Hillary Clinton has been in the leadership position of Secretary of State. Clinton pushed to have the development, diplomatic and even the defense communities pay attention to gender in the U.S. foreign policy arena. In addition, last year the U.S. gender policy was updated for the first time in thirty years. That was a big step forward. Gender is not only about women and girls. Gender is about the relationships between men and women, as well as the social dynamics and the norms that frequently lead to women and girls being at a disadvantage in many societies.
How does FHI 360 integrate a gender perspective into its work?
We developed a Gender Integration Framework, which is a set of guidelines that encourages FHI 360 staff working on programs and research to take gender issues into consideration from the start of a project through implementation. We formed a gender advisory council, which includes representatives from all of our major business units. We are also looking strategically at how we can include gender issues in proposals, provide technical assistance to our projects and more effectively talk about gender to our external audiences. I would say there is a lot of momentum and commitment to implementing our Gender Integration Framework.
Are you a gender focal person in your organization looking to access programmatic evidence, tools for gender and health advocacy? Perhaps you are a program manager seeking to view guidance on integrating gender in HIV/AIDS, family planning, maternal health and youth programs or access gender training curricula and materials. Maybe you are a donor who wants to learn about key issues in gender mainstreaming and gender integration. Well, there is a new one-stop shop for you! The newly revised Interagency Gender Working Group (IGWG) Gender and Health Toolkit is now available.
The Knowledge for Health (K4Health) project recently updated this electronic toolkit with input from leading gender experts. The result is a collection of carefully selected practical tools and instruments to help make programs and health systems more equitable and effective. Designed to move health practitioners, program mangers and policy makers from awareness and commitment to direct application and practice, the toolkit is a treasure trove of applied resources. This new IGWG Gender and Health Toolkit is a companion to the IGWG website and has the same goal: improvement of reproductive health/HIV/AIDS outcomes and sustainable development through the promotion of gender equity within population, health, and nutrition programs.
Today, October 11, 2012, marks the first UN International Day of the Girl. This day has been set aside to recognize girls’ rights and the challenges they face. The theme for this year is ending child marriage. On the UN International Day of the Girl, we are launching a series highlighting our work with girls around the world. We invite you to participate in the conversation on twitter with #IDG and #DayoftheGirl.
For the last four years, the Four Pillars PLUS project has been working with girls of primary and secondary school age in Kenya to address the complex barriers to achieving their educational success. Using the Four Pillars strategy — scholarship, teacher professional development, mentoring of...Read More
Today, celebrations across the world are taking place to mark the first ever UN International Day of the Girl. We have come a long way in recognizing the importance of addressing the most pressing needs of adolescent girls (ages 10‒19). But there is a growing urgency to translate this political...Read More
On Monday, September 17, the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC, hosted “Maintaining the Momentum: Highlights from the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning (FP).” This panel discussion was a virtual who’s who in family planning – with the main room full as well as two additional rooms literally overflowing – as folks gathered to hear current luminaries talk about highlights and next steps to the 2012 London FP Summit, what is now called FP2020. Panel moderator Karen Hardee, of the Futures Group, reminded us that the Summit confirmed family planning as a critical and global issue and that it set impressive goals and raised $2.6 billion dollars in pledged funding over the next eight years with the goal of expanding access to voluntary rights-based family planning for 120 million new users in poorer countries. The gathering represented a melting pot of perspectives with a mix of representation from government, civil society, and the private sector. There were lots of champagne toasts, speeches, and celebration in London, like at any wedding. Now, two months into the marriage, the hard work begins: how do we implement the summit’s lofty goals?
During the month of July 2012, two landmark gatherings advanced global progress in sexual and reproductive health. The Family Planning Summit was held in London on July 11. Co-hosted by the UK Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Summit’s goal was to offer millions of vulnerable women around the world renewed hope that they will soon have the means to determine the timing and spacing of their pregnancies through access to modern family planning methods. Less than two weeks later, the AIDS 2012 Conference was held in Washington, D.C. Organized by the International AIDS Society, AIDS 2012 was a multitrack, week-long convention of 24,000 attendees, including heads of state, celebrities, philanthropists, researchers, activists and people living with HIV. Their optimistic vision is to attain an AIDS-free generation.
Many of us who spend our time in the youth sexual and reproductive health (YSRH) world don’t often cross paths with those in the business of economic empowerment and livelihoods programs for young people. Although both worlds are aware of the converging paths, funding streams generally keep us operating on parallel roads. Therefore, I was pleased to facilitate a panel session this morning at the conference: “Exploring the Intersection of Adolescent Girls’ Reproductive Health and Economic Empowerment.” During a lively session, panelists shared their experiences with both issues for girls. Some of the themes were:
- Even though we are aware of the problem, the data on SRH and economic empowerment for girls, taken together for developing countries, is shocking. The rates of HIV, maternal mortality and morbidity, poverty and isolation paint a dismal picture for girls.
- Programs that target girls and adults in the community, with messages on both SRH and economic empowerment, are showing some successes. There’s more to learn, but results are encouraging.
- Models that incorporate peer education and work with girls on SRH and economic empowerment show positive results: the Tesfa program led by the International Center for Research on Women, the Siyakha Nentsha program in South Africa led by Population Council, and a program by Restless Development in Northern Uganda all included a peer education component.
- Reducing social isolation seems key for increasing both SRH and economic outcomes for girls. Girls need access to other girls for many reasons, but importantly, to give them an outlet to talk about themselves: their ideas, dreams and goals.
- It’s important to work with the adults, not just the girls. Teachers, parents and faith leaders all play roles in girls’ lives, and we need to get them on board with difficult topics. Sex and money are not easy to discuss with young people, and the adults need to build their skills to do it.
Today’s session initiated some vital discussion about next steps. It’s my hope that the two worlds of SRH and economic empowerment for young people will start to cross more often and begin to operate more closely together. This year’s conference is an encouraging step toward that. Look for more information on this topic, including a research brief and e-forum, by visiting the Interagency Youth Working Group website.
Imagine a line of dominos stretched out as far as the eye can see, with additional lines branching off into the distance. This web of dominos represents the multiple connections between family planning and every dimension of sustainable development. What many still don’t comprehend is how large and far reaching this web truly is.
We’ll begin with a simple and intuitive causal relationship: voluntary use of contraception prevents unintended pregnancies. Unintended pregnancies result in thousands of deaths globally and many more disabilities each year. Many unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. Almost half of the 40 million abortions performed each year are unsafe, placing nearly 20 million women at risk for infection, hemorrhage, disability, and death. Thus, contraception prevents unintended pregnancies and saves women’s lives.
And the benefits of family planning don’t end with women. Families using contraception have fewer, healthier children and reduced economic burden. Children born to mothers who have used modern contraception in planning their families are not only more likely to have a mother, and one who is healthy, they also are more likely to have been breast fed for longer and received more parental attention, support and resources than children born in to families that were not planned. All of these factors increase the chances that they will survive infancy into childhood. Therefore, family planning also saves children’s lives. Moreover, if after childhood girls and women are given control over their fertility, they are more likely to stay in school and to get jobs. Educated, employed women are in turn more likely to use contraception, thus re-initiating the virtuous cycle of benefits that family planning brings to women and their families.
The benefits still don’t end there. Ensuring that we can feed our growing population while protecting the planet has quickly become one of the most pressing challenges in sustainable development. Regions of the world with the highest unmet need for family planning are already forced to bear the burden of climate change effects to which they have contributed the least. These effects include drought and famine. Turning an extra acre of forest into tilled land is not a choice for a woman without access to reproductive health resources. It is a matter of survival. And it is a preventable scenario. Right now more than 200 million women worldwide want to plan and time their pregnancies but are unable to do so for lack of information and access to contraceptive resources. If the percentage of women with unmet family planning needs remains constant, developing country populations are expected hit 9.7 billion by 2050, and 25.8 billion by 2100. By filling this need, we could greatly relieve some of the combined pressures being placed on resources and communities, including a growing demand for food.
The right and ability of women and couples to plan their families is not peripheral to the aims and objectives of Rio+20. Indeed, the call for greater attention to women’s rights and issues at Rio+20 is growing into a crescendo. Women’s Major Group is mobilizing women across the world to share their stories and ensure that women’s rights are front and center on the agenda. Over 100 of the world’s leading scientific academies have called upon world leaders to enact rational, evidence-based responses to sustainable development challenges, including global access to comprehensive reproductive health resources.
Until now, too few people have been aware and too few leaders willing to acknowledge the essential role that family planning plays in achieving sustainable development. Rio+20 is our chance to tip this pivotal domino piece forward, and witness the measurable cascade of progress it evokes.
International media coverage paints a bleak picture of how fair, open and representative many recent presidential elections have been. Thanks to Programme Gouvernance et Paix (PGP), an FHI 360-led program funded by USAID, the 2012 presidential election in Senegal saw increased transparency and also increased participation from women and youth.
Senegal is an island of stability in a tumultuous region. Peace and democracy in Senegal have helped it become a hub for regional and international organizations that work in West Africa. And though the country has a long democratic history, there had been a regression in democratic indicators over the last ten years. FHI 360 teamed with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) to support the electoral process in Senegal.
Before the election occurred, PGP launched a civic awareness campaign that increased voter registration by 120% in Grand Yoff, a working-class suburb of 200,000 in Dakar. This initiative worked with women’s groups and youth organizations to boost voter registration in two underrepresented demographics. The project’s daily dialogue radio campaign was so successful that AFIA FM, one of the 17 implementing stations, incorporated it as a permanent fixture.
Beyond simply helping the public monitor the election, PGP took proactive steps to increase transparency in the pre-election period. PGP experts worked with leaders of both opposition and ruling parties to amend the election code. Negotiations reached consensus on more than 85% of issues. As a result of these negotiations, a single ballot was approved and a gender parity article was inserted. The next legislative election will, for the first time, provide gender and religious parity in the country’s General Assembly.
Working closely with print media, PGP trained journalists to monitor elections and provide objective coverage. As a result, those reporters published more than 30 election-related articles in prominent newspapers. Youth and female journalists trained through PGP interviewed presidential candidates about issues important to their respective demographics. Subsequent monitoring by journalists and interested constituencies has confirmed that Macky Sall, the current president, is adhering to the promises he made during these interviews.
PGP also coordinated a “situation room,” which connected election observers to a centralized technical center. This initiative, funded by USAID and implemented by local CSOs, deployed more than 1,500 election observers for each round of elections. Utilizing the mapping technology of partner OneWorldUK, the program facilitated the first real-time monitoring of a Senegalese election.
This program exemplifies the FHI 360 tagline, The Science of Improving Lives. We know the context in which we operate — the key actors, stakeholders and issues. We used an evidence-based approach to deliver an integrated solution with measurable impacts.