Over the past decade, there has been important progress in achieving the target of universal primary education. The total enrollment rate in developing regions reached 91 percent in 2015, and worldwide the number of children out of school has dropped by almost half. Still, disparities between children living in the poorest and wealthiest households and between those living in rural and urban areas remain high. How can these disparities be tackled to make education inclusive?
The years leading up to the 2015 benchmark for global goals saw enthusiastic calls for doing development differently, reaching a crescendo as the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted to guide our work through 2030.
Specifically, the new SDG era’s focus on integration among previously siloed social, economic and environmental aims has aid agencies wondering how to better address complex, 21st-century development challenges through meaningful cross-sector collaboration. In this industry, we like staying in our lane: doing what is familiar, what we are good at, and what we can count. As a result, we’ve become so focused on a plethora of micro-targets in isolation that we’ve lost sight of how families, communities, and societies actually work. How can we start moving beyond the long-entrenched, single-issue programs run by highly specialized staff? What can we do differently to better respond to people’s multifaceted lives?
To flip the script and make decisions based on actual problems (and their many root causes) rather than shaping them to fit the status quo development siloes, we designed a decisionmaking tool called the Development Sector Adjacency Map. The map offers insights about common relationships between development fields (called adjacencies) and strategic considerations to leverage those linkages through strategic adaptation and expansion.
A little more than a year ago, the world rallied around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a historic plan to improve the lives of people everywhere. This past year was a reminder of just how ambitious these goals are and how achieving them will test the commitment of the international community.
The year 2016 turned out to be a time of political, economic and social upheaval — from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and the U.S. election of a president vowing radical change to America’s domestic and foreign policies, to ongoing war and conflict in the Middle East and a global refugee crisis. We also witnessed extraordinary achievements, including a peace agreement that ended Colombia’s 50-year civil war and the discovery of a vaccine for Ebola — progress made possible by people working together for the common good.
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.
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?
World leaders recently ratified the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which set 169 ambitious targets to be achieved by 2030. Reaching these goals would greatly improve the lives of people worldwide. Women and girls have much to gain, especially because two of the targets call for ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning.
Given the contributions that family planning can make to nearly all 17 of the goals, we think that universal access to family planning could be a Sustainable Development Goal of its own. Still, the global community has taken a big step in the right direction.
Now, how can we ensure that universal access to family planning becomes a reality? Here are five ways.
1. Bring new and lower-cost contraceptive methods to market.
More than 225 million women in developing countries want to avoid or delay pregnancy but are not using an effective method of family planning. For many of these women, the currently available products do not meet their needs and preferences.
Some popular methods in the United States, such as the levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system (LNG-IUS), remain largely unavailable to women in developing countries because of cost. The introduction of more affordable products, such as the new LNG-IUS from Medicines360 and Sino-implant (II), can be game changing for diversifying the method mix accessible to women.
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.
Improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health in Bangladesh through the Sustainable Development GoalsWritten by
In mid-June, we had the opportunity to attend a national consultation with members of Parliament in Bangladesh on integrating sexual and reproductive health and rights into the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The consultation was hosted by the Family Planning Association of Bangladesh with support from the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Bangladesh has made impressive strides toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It has met the gender parity goals for primary and secondary education and is on track to fulfill the tertiary education goals. Bangladesh has also met the under-five mortality-reduction rate goal and is likely to reach the goal of reducing maternal mortality.