Inter Press Service » Women’s Health http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 29 Sep 2016 14:17:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 India’s New Maternity Benefits Act Criticised as Elitisthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/indias-new-maternity-benefits-act-criticised-as-elitist/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indias-new-maternity-benefits-act-criticised-as-elitist http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/indias-new-maternity-benefits-act-criticised-as-elitist/#comments Fri, 19 Aug 2016 18:20:39 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146620 The new law will benefit only a miniscule percentage of women employed in the organised sector while ignoring a large demographic toiling in the country's unorganised sector such as contractual labour, farmers, casual workers, self-employed women and housewives. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The new law will benefit only a miniscule percentage of women employed in the organised sector while ignoring a large demographic toiling in the country's unorganised sector such as contractual labour, farmers, casual workers, self-employed women and housewives. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Aug 19 2016 (IPS)

The passage of the landmark Maternity Benefits Act 1961 by the Indian Parliament, which mandates 26 weeks of paid leave for mothers as against the existing 12, has generated more heartburn than hurrahs due to its skewed nature.

The law will also facilitate ‘work from home’ options for nursing mothers once the leave period ends and has made creche facilities mandatory in establishments with 50 or more employees. The amendment takes India up to the third position in terms of maternity leave duration after Norway (44 weeks) and Canada (50).

However, while the law has brought some cheers on grounds that it at least acknowledges that women are entitled to maternity benefits — crucial in a country notorious for its entrenched discrimination against women and one that routinely features at the bottom of the gender equity index — many are dismissing it as a flawed piece of legislation.

The critics point out that the new law will benefit only a miniscule percentage of women employed in the organised sector while ignoring a large demographic toiling in the country’s unorganised sector such as contractual workers, farmers, casual workers, self-employed women and housewives.

Poor women working as labourers in India are deprived of any maternity benefits. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Poor women working as labourers in India are deprived of any maternity benefits. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

According to Sudeshna Sengupta of the Right to Food Campaign, India sees 29.7 million women getting pregnant each year.

“Even if the law is fully implemented,” the activist told IPS, “studies show that it will benefit only 1.8 million women in the organised sector leaving out practically 99 percent of the country’s women workforce. If this isn’t discrimination, what is? In India, women’s paid workforce constitutes just 5 percent of the 1.8 million. The rest fall within the unorganised sector. How fair is it to leave out this lot from the ambit of the new law?” asks Sengupta.

Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), opines that maternity benefits should be universally available to all women, including wage earners.

“But the act ignores this completely by focussing only on women in the organised sector. In India most women are waged workers or do contractual work and face hugely exploitative work conditions. They are not even recognised under the ambit of labour laws. The moment a woman becomes pregnant she is seen as a liability. The new law has no provisions to eliminate this mindset, ” Krishnan told IPS.

Some of the employed women this correspondent spoke to say that a woman’s pregnancy is often a deal breaker for employers in India. Sakshi Mehra, a manager with a garment export house in Delhi, explains that though initially her employers were delighted with her work ethic, and even gave her a double promotion within a year of joining, “things changed drastically when I got pregnant. My boss kept dropping hints that I should look for an ‘easier’ job. It was almost as if I’d become handicapped overnight,” Mehra told IPS.

Such a regressive mindset — of pregnant women not being `fit’ — is common in many Indian workplaces. While some women fight back, while others capitulate to pressure and quietly move on.

Another glaring flaw in the new legislation, say activists, is that it makes no mention of paternity leave, putting the onus of the newborn’s rearing on the mother. This is a blow to gender equality, they add. Global studies show lower child mortality and higher gender equality in societies where both parents are engaged in child rearing. Paternity leave doesn’t just help dads become more sensitive parents, show studies, it extends a helping hand to new moms coming to grips with their new role as a parent.

According to Dr. Mansi Bhattacharya, senior gynaecologist and obstetrician at Fortis Hospital, NOIDA, Uttar Pradesh, there’s no reason why fathers should not play a significant role in childcare.

“Paternity leave allows the father to support his spouse at a critical time. Also, early bonding between fathers and infants ensures a healthier and a more sensitive father-child relationship. It also offers support to the new mother feeling overwhelmed by her new parental responsibilities,” she says.

A research paper of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) — a think-tank of developed countries — says children with ‘more involved’ fathers fare better during their early years. Paternity leaves with flexible work policies facilitate such participation.

Paternity leave is also a potent tool for boosting gender diversity at the workplace, especially when coupled with flexi hours, or work-from-home options for the new father, add analysts. “Parental leave is not an either/or situation,” Deepa Pallical, national coordinator, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights told IPS. “A child needs the involvement of both parents for his balanced upbringing. Any policy that ignores this critical ground reality is a failure.”

The activist adds that granting leave to both parents augments the chances of women returning to their jobs with greater peace of mind and better job prospects. This benefit is especially critical for a country like India, which has the lowest female work participation in the world. Only 21.9 percent of all Indian women and 14.7 percent of urban women work.

Women in India represent only 24 percent of the paid labour force, as against the global average of 40 percent, according to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report. At 53 percentage points, India has one of the worst gender gaps (disproportionate difference between the sexes) in the world when it comes to labour force participation, World Bank data shows. The economic loss of such non-participation, say economists, is colossal. Lakshmi Puri, assistant secretary-general of UN Women, noted in 2011 that India’s growth rate could ratchet up by 4.2 percent if women were given more opportunities.

According to a World Bank report titled “Women, Business and the Law” (2016), over 80-odd countries provide for paternity leave including Iceland, Finland and Sweden. The salary during this period, in Nordic countries, is typically partly paid and generally funded by the government. Among India’s neighbours, Afghanistan, China, Hong Kong and Singapore mandate a few days of paternity leave.

In a fast-changing corporate scenario, some Indian companies are encouraging male employees to take a short, paid paternity break. Those employed in State-owned companies and more recently, public sector banks are even being allowed paternity leave of 15 days. In the U.S., however, companies like Netflix, Facebook and Microsoft offer generous, fully-paid paternity leave of a few months.

Perhaps India could take a page from them to address an issue which not only impacts nearly half of its 1.2 billion population, but also has a critical effect on its national economy. The right decision will not only help it whittle down gender discrimination and improve social outcomes, but also augment its demographic dividend – a win-win-win.

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Kenya’s Health Sector Challenges Present the Ideal Setting for Creating Shared Valuehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/kenyas-health-sector-challenges-present-the-ideal-setting-for-creating-shared-value/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyas-health-sector-challenges-present-the-ideal-setting-for-creating-shared-value http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/kenyas-health-sector-challenges-present-the-ideal-setting-for-creating-shared-value/#comments Wed, 10 Aug 2016 11:36:53 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee and Amit Thakker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146495 Siddharth Chatterjee, (@sidchat1) is the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative to Kenya. Dr. Amit Thakker (@docthakker) is the chairman of Kenya Healthcare Federation. ]]> UNFPA and private sector representatives in Mandera county in Northern Kenya to develop solutions with the community and the county government. Credit: © Ilija Gudnitz Weber

UNFPA and private sector representatives in Mandera county in Northern Kenya to develop solutions with the community and the county government. Credit: © Ilija Gudnitz Weber

By Siddharth Chatterjee and Dr. Amit Thakker
Mandera County, Kenya, Aug 10 2016 (IPS)

The increased budgetary allocations to the health sector by county governments point to an acknowledgement not only of the enormous challenges facing the sector, but also of good health as a prerequisite to overall development.

There has never been a better time for partnerships that harness the power of business to drive prosperity by tackling health challenges. The combination of a growing population and preventable infections means that companies with a focus on solving consumer challenges can expect to record impressive profits while at the same time serving a social good.

This is the approach that has brought together several public, private and non-profit partners to reduce illness and deaths among mothers and children in six counties in Kenya. Coordinated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Private Sector Health Partnership (PSHP) is an Every Woman Every Child joint commitment whose other partners include the Kenya Healthcare Federation, Philips, Huawei, Safaricom, MSD, and GSK.

The partnership aims to harnesses the strength, resources and expertise of the private sector, in close collaboration with the Government of Kenya and the six County Governments of Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Isiolo, Lamu and Migori. These counties contribute close to 50% of the country’s maternal deaths. ¬

The partnership seeks to significantly improve health outcomes in the counties, while also potentially creating shared value business opportunities, ensuring a sustained engagement that has a social as well as economic return on investment.

With support from the World Economic Forum, PSHP Kenya has built a strong platform to engage with key public and private stakeholders, create political support for the initiative as well as catalyse expertise for design of leapfrogging innovations.

It is not a partnership that is led by any one sector, but a coalition model where all players can see opportunity in line with their individual missions.

The active participation of the county governments and community organisations is helping to tweak technologies to suit local purposes. This approach is working impressively for instance in Mandera where Philips is establishing a Community Life Centre.

The Life centre is a health facility for providing vital primary care to mothers and children as well as a community hub. The local community can buy clean water and sustainable products like smokeless stoves and home solar lighting products, and benefit from solar-powered LED outdoor lighting that illuminates the area at night, improving security and extending daylight hours.

Other players like Safaricom and Huawei have started to pool their unique expertise and services in IT and mobile connectivity to design and test transformational digital health solutions. MSD has announced a USD 1.5 million grant, through its Merck for Mothers initiative, to a new project by JHPIEGO which will engage with the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) in Mandera and Migori.

UNFPA has also partnered with the Kenyan innovation incubator Nailab to support young Kenyan entrepreneurs and we have partnered with the First Lady of Kenya, Ms. Margaret Kenyatta’s Beyond Zero campaign to bring together government, private sector and the thriving civil society.

The situation in the six counties has in the past contributed to the country’s reputation as a dangerous place for a woman to give birth. Reduction of maternal and child mortality rates are some of the Millennium Development Goal targets that Kenya missed last year. However, it is clear that it is also an opportunity for collective action and a commitment to shared value creation.

In the words of Michael Porter; “for too long have business and society been pitted against each other”. The PSHP is showing the way in how different sectors with separate mission statements can be galvanized to find intersections in solving social problems.

For long, suspicions about the private sector’s motives have created a wedge, preventing social programmes from accessing the knowledge, ideas, capabilities and resources that abound in private companies.

Shared value propositions will enable different sectors to leverage each other’s assets, connections, creativity and expertise to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

We must continue finding new and creative ways to increase collaboration between government, the private sector and non-profits if we hope to reach Sustainable Development Goals.

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Indian Jails Slammed as Purgatory for the Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/indian-jails-slammed-as-purgatory-for-the-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indian-jails-slammed-as-purgatory-for-the-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/indian-jails-slammed-as-purgatory-for-the-poor/#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2016 08:00:19 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146421 Beggars are often rounded up by police and thrown into jail without charges being filed against them for years. This adds to the overcrowding in Indian prisons already reeling under a lack of basic facilities. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Beggars are often rounded up by police and thrown into jail without charges being filed against them for years. This adds to the overcrowding in Indian prisons already reeling under a lack of basic facilities. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Aug 9 2016 (IPS)

A media frenzy ensued in New Delhi last month when a popular television channel highlighted the horrific living conditions of women inmates in ward number six of Tihar Jail, South Asia’s largest prison.

The program – “Fear and Loathing in Tihar” — beamed into people’s homes the prisoners’ abysmal treatment by the administration: 600 of them packed like sardines into space meant for half that number, a lack of basic amenities, and a shocking state apathy towards detainees in the world’s largest democracy."Some [women inmates] even have kids who have to stay with them in those pathetic conditions till they are six years old." --Delhi-based human rights lawyer Maninder Singh

By highlighting the prisoners’ misery, the program also helped shine a light on a broken judicial system where thousands are subjected to prolonged periods of incarceration without ever seeing a judge, or whose perfunctory court appearances stretch for years thanks to a corrupt legal system clogged with too many cases, and too few judges to try them. The injustice of lengthy detention is compounded by the horrific conditions of the jail facilities.

As the world celebrates Prisoners Justice Day on Aug. 10, human rights advocates say the state of Indian detention centres needs to come into focus again. Most Indian jails fail to meet the minimum United Nations standards for such facilities, including inadequate amounts of food, poor nutrition, and unsanitary conditions. Torture and other forms of ill-treatment are also common. The cells are also often dilapidated, with poor ventilation and absence of natural light.

According to a 2015 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on Tihar Jail, the prison complex is reeling under a prisoner population more than double its sanctioned strength and understaffed by 50 per cent of its required workforce. The key findings of the report suggest that the 10 jails in Tihar were grossly overcrowded with 14,209 prisoners against a capacity of 6,250.

Moreover, against government rules, 51 prisoners awaiting trial were found to have already served more than half the maximum term of punishment for the offences they were booked under, the report says.

Medical facilities, adds the damning report, are non-existent. There’s paucity of doctors, paramedical, ministerial, factory and Class IV staff by 18 to 63 per cent in the prison which despite an in-house 150-bed hospital and additional dispensaries in each of the 10 jails. The CAG found that “the hospital was not equipped to face any emergency situation”.

The subhuman conditions take a toll on human health — both mental and physical, a former inmate told IPS. “Women prisoners prefer to take care of each other when they are indisposed as there are only male doctors doing rounds most of the time,” she said. “I remember once a young woman had a miscarriage and bled for a few hours before she was taken to the hospital.”

In India, a country where U.N. figures indicate that 270 million people - or 21.9 percent of the population - live below the poverty line, justice for the poor is often delayed as well as denied. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

In India, a country where U.N. figures indicate that 270 million people – or 21.9 percent of the population – live below the poverty line, justice for the poor is often delayed as well as denied. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The fate of prisoners on death row is worse. Not only do they inhabit inhumane living conditions, they face unfair trials and horrific acts of police torture, according to a study by the Death Penalty Research Project at the National Law University in Delhi. The study, based on interviews with 373 of the 385 inmates believed to be on death row in India, offers a harrowing insight into the unbearable conditions the prisoners have to live in as they wait for judges to decide their fate.

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) report 2015 says that poor budget allocation, the way accused are arrested and non-issuance of bail along with miserable conditions in prisons were leading factors attributed to the existing living conditions of the inmates. It added that the situation calls for a trained administration to bring reformation in prisoners’ lives.

Legal eagles say the biggest bottleneck is the country’s overburdened criminal justice system which has a cascading effect on prisoners’ lives. Overcrowding is the most common. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) records, in 2013, the total number of prisoners was 411,992, of which a startling 278,503 were prisoners awaiting trial. Delay in providing justice, inadequate court infrastructure, and inaccessibility of a large number of prisoners to legal help make matters worse.

As per records, currently over three million cases are pending in various Indian courts across the country. Erstwhile PM Manmohan Singh remarked that India had the world’s largest backlog of court cases. Bloomberg Business Week estimates if that all the Indian judges attacked their backlog without breaks for eating and sleeping, and closed 100 cases every hour, it would take more than 35 years to catch up.

“The severe delay in delivering justice is largely due to the fact that many courts share judges with each other, resulting in extremely slow trial procedures. There’s no effective legal redress mechanism for under trials,” explains Ajay Verma, Senior Fellow, International Bridges to Justice, a non-profit that supports justice and human rights. “These institutional pathologies result in unjust and prolonged detention.”

Delhi-based human rights lawyer Maninder Singh says that many detainees are forced to be in jail longer than the maximum sentence for the offense with which they were charged, with some people spending as long as two decades in detention before being convicted or released by the courts.

Women awaiting trial in particular, adds Singh, are made to suffer as they are too poor to afford justice. “Some even have kids who have to stay with them in those pathetic conditions till they are six years old. Many under trials languish for months without even charges being framed against them. There’s simply no legal recourse available to them.”

After studying the living conditions of jail inmates across India, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) made some key recommendations for prison reform. These include replacing the 1894 Prison Act with a new one, amending prison manuals keeping human rights in mind, reducing overcrowding, one of the biggest problems in most prisons, shifting foreign nationals to detention centres from prisons after their sentence is completed, till they are deported to their respective countries.

Despite the gloom, experts suggest that it’s not as if the situation is irretrievable. What is needed is political will and a more humanitarian approach to a very complex problem. Already, some measures in Indian jails — like rehabilitation and skilling prisoners for their gainful employment post jail term — have come in for accolades. Tihar boasts of a full-fledged cottage industry where training for carpentry, baking, tailoring, fabric painting and other crafts are imparted to empower inmates. The revenues generated from selling products made by the prisoners helps in the prison’s upkeep. Wage earning and gratuity schemes and incentives help reduce the psychological burden on the convicts.

But as Singh and Verma point out, while these measures should be amplified, the State needs to urgently focus on faster disposal of court cases, speedier justice and better conditions in jail to make life more bearable for the inmates.

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Sustainable Development in Africa Will Not Be Achieved Without Women’s Full Participationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/sustainable-development-in-africa-will-not-be-achieved-without-womens-full-participation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-development-in-africa-will-not-be-achieved-without-womens-full-participation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/sustainable-development-in-africa-will-not-be-achieved-without-womens-full-participation/#comments Mon, 08 Aug 2016 05:35:16 +0000 Gina Din http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146429 Ms Gina Din, the Founder and CEO of the Gina Din group, is a businesswoman from Kenya specializing in strategic communications and public relations. She was named CNBC outstanding businesswoman of the year for East Africa 2015 as well as 40 most influential voices in Africa.]]> Gina Din visits a UNFPA supported maternal and child health facility in Migori County, Kenya. Photo Credit: Gina Din Group

Gina Din visits a UNFPA supported maternal and child health facility in Migori County, Kenya. Photo Credit: Gina Din Group

By Gina Din
MIGORI COUNTY, Kenya, Aug 8 2016 (IPS)

In some parts of the world, the proverbial “glass ceiling” is shattering. As Theresa May and, most likely, Hillary Clinton join Angela Merkel at the leadership of three major world powers, women’s leadership in politics is on the ascent.

Unfortunately, improvements in political representation has not been accompanied by improvements in the material conditions of ordinary women’s lives.

As the National Honorary Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Kenya, I am well aware of just how far women in Africa still have to go not only in their quest for access to political participation, but also in the fight for the basic rights that will enable them to live healthily and safely. In fact, the advancement of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights is key to achieving their full and equal participation in the social, political, and economic realms.

The good news is that this is now a widely accepted truth: the pursuit of gender equality is not just an abstract ideal, but a prerequisite for human progress.

Throughout the world, UNFPA has been working to change the narrative about the role of women. UNFPA’s message has been that the roles that men and women play in society are not biologically determined, but socially constructed. This means that these roles are man-made and can be changed when circumstances call for it.

That is why UNFPA is working to change the circumstances of marginalized and vulnerable women such as the four in every ten women in Kenya who report being physically assaulted by people known to them. There is a need to change the circumstances of the nine in ten women in the north eastern parts of Kenya who undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), almost all of whom have never gone to school.

A lack of education severely restricts a woman’s access to information and opportunities. Conversely, increasing women’s and girls’ educational attainment benefits both individuals and future generations. Higher levels of women’s education are strongly associated with lower infant mortality and lower fertility, as well as better outcomes for their children.

There is need to give women power over their own bodies; the power to decide who and when to marry, how many children to give birth to and when to do so, the power to stay in school and the opportunity to find employment. When a woman can effectively plan her family, she can plan the rest of her life. Protecting and promoting her reproductive rights – including the right to decide the number, timing and spacing of her children – is essential to ensuring her freedom to participate more fully and equally in society.

In its effort to change mindsets and include women as equal partners at the social and political table, UNFPA Kenya has become a key voice in the national discourse, engaging people across both the public and private sectors and mobilising for more resources to be invested in broad gender equality programmes.

I particularly enjoy working with the UNFPA team led by Siddharth Chatterjee, an indefatigable advocate for women’s rights. His career with the United Nations, in some of the most unstable and risky parts of the world, has exposed him to the suffering that conflicts and disasters bring to communities, with the worst affected always being women and children.

The UNFPA Kenya team has shown the desire for attaining real impact on the challenges that women encounter in their day-to-day lives and – most importantly – empowering them to handle these difficulties on their own.

For instance, as per a report by Deloitte, UNFPA Kenya’s work in 6 high burden counties of Kenya to improve maternal health is bringing real change. I have been humbled to see women in Pokot organize themselves to build a rescue shelter for girls escaping early marriages. I have been amazed at the tenacity of schoolgirls in Baringo who stood firm and convinced their fathers of the harmful effects of FGM. These powerful success stories come out of the activities of UNFPA Kenya, whose leadership has been determined to succeed even in the face of entrenched cultures that deny women any agency.

The task at hand, then, is not to give women strength, but to give society new eyes to perceive the strength that they already possess in abundance.

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Pan African Parliament Endorses Ban on FGMhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/pan-african-parliament-endorses-ban-on-fgm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pan-african-parliament-endorses-ban-on-fgm http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/pan-african-parliament-endorses-ban-on-fgm/#comments Sat, 06 Aug 2016 18:14:05 +0000 Desmond Latham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146419 Female genital mutilation (FGM) traditional surgeon in Kapchorwa, Uganda speaking to a reporter. The women in this area are being trained by the civil society organisation REACH in how to educate people to stop the practice. Credit: Joshua Kyalimpa/IPS

Female genital mutilation (FGM) traditional surgeon in Kapchorwa, Uganda speaking to a reporter. The women in this area are being trained by the civil society organisation REACH in how to educate people to stop the practice. Credit: Joshua Kyalimpa/IPS

By Desmond Latham
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 6 2016 (IPS)

After years of wrangling and debates among African leaders, the movement to end female genital mutilation (FGM) is gaining real momentum, with a new action plan signed this week by Pan African Parliament (PAP) representatives and the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) to end FGM as well as underage marriage.

The UNFPA has already trained over 100,000 health workers to deal specifically with aiding victims of FGM, while tens of thousands of traditional leaders have also signed pledges against the practice.

The agreement followed a PAP Women’s Caucus meeting with UNFPA representatives in Johannesburg on July 29-30.

Kicking off the meeting, PAP President Roger Dang said, “PAP is determined to help and be part of stakeholders to come up with solutions to this practice. This is in line with the mandate of PAP to defend and promote gender balance and people living with disability.”

The PAP is the legislative organ of the African Union, and has up to 250 members representing the 50 AU Member States.

In some African countries, girls as young as eleven and twelve are forced to marry much older men. This has led to an increase in serious health problems, including cervical cancer and a host of social problems.

UNFPA East and Southern Africa Deputy Regional Director Justine Coulson said if the current trend continues, the number of girls under 15 who had babies would rise by a million – from two to three million.

“If we do nothing, in the next decade over 14 million girls under 18 years will be married every year,” she said.

There are believed to be at least seven million child brides in Southern Africa alone. While underage marriage and childbirth is a major health risk, the Pan African Parliament UNFPA workshop also heard how FGM had led to an increased likelihood girls and women would be exposed to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

The cause of this can be traced back to contaminated cutting instruments, hemorrhages requiring blood transfusions, and injurious sexual intercourse causing vaginal tearing and lesions.

Globally, an estimated 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM. In Africa, FGM is practiced in at least 26 of 43 African countries, with prevalence rates ranging from 98 percent in Somalia to 5 percent in Zaire.

The buy-in of African political leadership is crucial if this latest move is to succeed, with up to 140 million women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa who’ve been forced to submit to the practice of cutting their genitals. The aim is to influence people on the ground as well as effect legislation banning the practice.

The procedure intentionally alters or injures a girl or woman’s organs for non-medical reasons. There are no health benefits in the process and it can cause severe bleeding, problems urinating, cysts, infections and a host of childbirth complications.

There are four types of genital mutilation. Type 1 is a clitoridectomy which is where the clitoris is cut out. Type 2 is known as excision which is the totally removal of the clitoris and inner folds of the vulva. Type 3 is infibulation, which is the tightening of a a vaginal opening while, Type 4 is all other harmful procedures which includes piercing, cauterising, scraping and stitching the vagina.

The PAP also agreed to work with the UNFPA in seeking to overturn the practice of marrying off children under the age of sixteen.

In June, the UNFPA worked with Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum representatives at a meeting in Swaziland which voted through a Model Law on eradicating child marriage.

Coulson said moves such as these seen in SADC are beginning to show tangible results.

“Girls and women of Africa need your support to end female genital mutilation. We need to act now. All it requires is our engagement, passion and dedication to uphold the human rights of women and girls,” she told attendees at the workshop.

Now the PAP has setup a working group which will oversee the moves towards a similar law. The areas of priority include laws and legislation, engaging the community, mobilising resources, advocacy and implementing the plan at regional and national levels.

Dang also called on men to step up and join the fight against FGM, saying, “We have double responsibility to defend girls against this human rights violation.”

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The Right to Not Disappearhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-right-to-not-disappear/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-right-to-not-disappear http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-right-to-not-disappear/#comments Fri, 05 Aug 2016 20:59:26 +0000 Asha Rehman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146415 By Asha’ar Rehman
Aug 5 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

It goes something like this: there’s a murder in the name of ‘honour’ in a village somewhere in Pakistan. The story is reported and journalists are inspired to look for more such instances to cover. They disperse in all directions and no matter where they go searching, they return with more such murder cases to dump on the ‘honour’ killing pile.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

With time, the subject is replaced by, say, something as horrifying as gang rape. The media corps, its first line comprising the low-paid local correspondent with a finger on the market’s pulse, spreads afar and returns with a series of cases where only one would have been enough to ensure perpetual shame for all of us.

All the media, with its wide influence, needs is a cue to deliver on demand. It can unleash in relentless supply the most brutal of stories of exploitation, at workplaces, inside houses, of a sexual nature, et al, at a few hours’ notice. It can report on a story that had long been there. It can break it when it chooses, or it can hold on to it for unspecified durations, finally letting it out with a bang without bothering to explain the delay in the conveyance of the message.

How is the police file recording children’s disappearance different from a disappearance announcement made from a mosque?

Those who live close to a mosque in Lahore would vouch that children do go missing in this city: from children as small as toddlers who are barely able to tell their names, to those who are driven by the reputation of adolescence to be suspected of playing a hand in their own disappearance. The mosque’s loudspeaker is regularly used to announce the disappearance and to seek help in the recovery of those who go missing, an overwhelming majority of whom are children.

There may be sometimes an urge to find out if those who had been unaccounted for did return. No one has ever heard the respected maulvi sahib celebrate a reunion of the missing with their family by issuing a statement of congratulations through the public address system.

So regular are these announcements about the missing that now nobody seems to be too bothered about them. People hear them, say tauba, and go about their work without any grand show of emotion. The same trend that begins from the streets around the mosque is then reflected at various levels, creating many layers of indifference that the most knowledgeable amongst us believe is essential to life as it is.

Just think about it: how is the police file recording the cases of children’s disappearance in a specific period different from a disappearance announcement made from a mosque? Like these calls, these numbers have been compiled year after year, with little in terms of action to ensure a safer world for our children.

A typical such file will take you over a familiar route. The spots from where children are more likely to be picked up are highlighted, such as the darbar or shrine of the most revered saint or the tower built to mark independence or the bazaar named after the beloved damsel torn between Akbar and his son Saleem. A child may be abducted from all these places or from a park or a hospital or a mere bus terminal. The police’s book diligently counts these incidents. The self-indictment comes when these cold figures are not accompanied by any plans – not even a pledge — of just how serious our law enforcers are to safeguard these vulnerable young citizens against the cruel hands of a long grown-up society.

Missing had been the story about just how hazardous the streets of Lahore — or any other place in Pakistan — were for those we must never tire of calling as our future. A series of stories about the children missing or kidnapped has opened the floodgates on gushing fears pegged on both real and imagined incidents. The warning letters have been written, about how the children can be– how they are, says the chorus — duped into following their abductor like the rats followed the Pied Piper.

The imaginary stuff would have been easier to deal with had the ‘real’ stories not been packed with the horrors of the most fearsome kind. Imagine… no do not imagine but try and come to terms with the unearthing of this racket where a food catering contractor apparently bought young boys and then employed them as slave labour. Try and come face to face with the recovery of the disabled young girl whom the members of a beggars’ ring had abducted out of here and taken deep into Sindh.

The labour camp, the beggars’ mafia, are just two manifestations; the stereotype is kept alive in so many of our responses. Not the least most painful among them is how Lahore as the venue for these disappearances has left some people typically aghast. They must show mock surprise at the wonder-city that hogs funds and official patronage but is so oblivious to the plight of the young ones in its charge. It is the same smirk that had previously been displayed when Lahoris were found to be eating donkey-meat or when they were being preyed upon by a killer mosquito. Little does the envious crowd realise that where the development projects are grand, the likelihood of serious everyday issues suffering neglect is that much greater. The missing resolve on children is proof.

These stories come in steadily, each one of them bringing back the sensation we experienced when as a young, learning soul we were given our earliest lessons in how to keep our distance from the big bad world we were such an integral part of. There was nothing more serious, more nightmarish than being lost in a world we were required to explore, to tame and to conquer. The way we have failed to deliver on the basics — such as a young, and old, soul’s right to not disappear — shows we have all been long lost.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.
Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Uganda Ill-Equipped for Growing Cancer Burdenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/uganda-ill-equipped-for-growing-cancer-burden/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uganda-ill-equipped-for-growing-cancer-burden http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/uganda-ill-equipped-for-growing-cancer-burden/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:34:15 +0000 Amy Fallon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146200 Jovia, who died on Apr. 29, 2016, suffered from both HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer, a deadly combination affecting thousands of women in Uganda. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Jovia, who died on Apr. 29, 2016, suffered from both HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer, a deadly combination affecting thousands of women in Uganda. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

By Amy Fallon
KAMPALA, Uganda, Jul 25 2016 (IPS)

Lying on a dirty bed in a crowded, squalid hostel in Kampala, emaciated Jovia, 29, managed a weak smile as a doctor delivered her a small green bottle containing a liquid.

“I’m so happy they’ve brought the morphine,” the mother told IPS, just about the only words she could get out during what would be the last weeks of her life. “It controls my pain and makes my life more bearable.”“As long as radiotherapy is not available in Uganda many more patients will die.” -- Dr. Anne Merriman

Jovia was suffering from both HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer, a deadly combination affecting thousands of women in Uganda. While the east African country had huge success in the battle against the HIV virus in the 1990s, cervical and other cancers are the new health crises gripping the developing nation. One in 500 Ugandans suffers from cancer. But only five per cent of patients will get any form of treatment, facing an often tortuous death.

Thanks to Hospice Africa Uganda (HAU), founded 23 years ago by the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, British-born Dr. Anne Merriman, patients like Jovia are given not only affordable pain-controlling oral liquid morphine, but comfort, hope and dignity in their last days.

At 81, Dr. Merriman is credited with introducing palliative care to Africa. HAU has cared for a total of 27,000 seriously ill and dying people since 1993, the vast majority with the morphine made at its Kampala headquarters for just two dollars a bottle, with government funding.

In Uganda, cancer is usually diagnosed quite late, due to poor screening and lack of health services. According to the country’s Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI), 80 per cent of sufferers die because of late diagnosis.

For patients like Jovia, who passed away peacefully on Apr. 29, leaving a daughter, 14, radiotherapy can cure or extend life when treated in early stages.

A tray of morphine for Jovia. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

A tray of morphine at Hospice Africa Uganda. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

But in early April, Uganda’s only radiotherapy machine broke beyond repair. It was used by about 30,000 cancer patients annually. Since then, thousands in need of radiotherapy to cure their cancer, or extend their lives, have been left without vital treatment.

The Ugandan government had purchased a new machine, worth a reported 500,000 dollars, three years ago, but it could not be delivered as special bunkers needed to house the machine had to be built.

Facing an uproar from within Uganda at the lack of radiotherapy services, the government promised a new bunker would be built within six months. Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, offered free treatment for 400 Ugandan cancer patients. The plan was that they would be sent there by the Ugandan government through the UCI.

But more than three months later there is still huge confusion and contradictory reports and statements about the delivery of this promise, and controversy over the delay in getting desperate patients. Despite repeated requests for clarification the UCI nor Uganda’s ministry of health are able to state exactly how many patients – if indeed any – have yet been sent to Kenya for treatment.

Christine Namulindwa, UCI’s public relations officer, pointed out patients going to Nairobi have to go through an “evaluation”, and be approved by a board.

“So far we’ve submitted 15 names to the ministry of health and more are yet to be submitted,” she said last month. The pledge for free treatment from Aga Khan did not cover the cost of transporting patients and upkeep while in Nairobi, she said.

She said there were “patients who are still waiting” and referred IPS to the health ministry for further questions.

On July 1, Professor Anthony Mbonye, Acting Director General of Health services, told IPS via email the ministry of health had “received a budget for supporting patients to Aga Khan and will provide transport and funds for maintenance”.

A lawyer had “cleared a memorandum of understanding between Aga Khan and UCI,” he said.

“The radiotherapy machine was bought, but the bunker is yet to be rehabilitated. In two months’ time the machine will be installed and services will resume.”

Stories in East African papers in early July reported that the “long wait” was “over” for patients, after Aga Khan signed an MOU with UCI, allowing 400 out of 17,000 patients to “receive treatment”. But they did not give a date for when they would go to Kenya.

Another report said only tumour patients with chances of survival, but including those suffering breast and cervical cancer, would be transported to Kenya using government vans. It said accommodation and other support services were being organised by Uganda’s High Commission in Nairobi, and 20 patients have been approved to go. But again it gave no specific date for their transportation.

Two of seven patients have been treated at Aga Khan not through the UCI and the Ugandan government, but through a partnership with HAU and Road to Care, a programme developed by Canadian doctor Joda Kuk. He set up scheme in 2011 after he witnessed women with cervical cancer in rural areas of Uganda needing desperate assistance to get to Kampala for radiotherapy.

Mary Birungi and Mary Gahoire, a mother of three, both from western Uganda, returned home the week of July 21 after travelling to Kenya by road, being housed by Road to Care and completing radiotherapy treatment there. They are now back with their families.

Two more patients are in the middle of treatment this week and and two more will travel to Kenya. The seventh patient is due to go there in the first week of August.

Dr. Anne Merriman pleaded with the Ugandan government to do all in its power to complete the building of the new bunkers so the new radiotherapy machine can be commissioned as soon as possible.

“We are so happy that under Road to Care seven of our patients will be treated in Kenya, but this is just a drop in the ocean,” she said. “The need is huge. There has been so much confusion since the machine broke down, causing huge stress to patients and families. “

“As long as radiotherapy is not available in Uganda many more patients will die.”

On July 23, Professor Mbyonye told IPS that “some” patients have gone to Kenya and had already come back through the agreement between the health ministry and Aga Khan, but couldn’t give more details.

For many though, it’s too late.

Vesta Kefeza, 49, a mother of seven, has advanced cervical cancer. Lying on a mattress on the ground of her one-room home in Namugongo slum, Kampala, she is immobile, as her leg has ballooned due to a complication from the cancer.

She has been on HAU’s programme since 2011 and is administered morphine by their nurses. Uganda became the first country in the world to allow nurses to prescribe the drug in 2004. The hospice team also provides food and spiritual support.

In June, thanks to a donation from Ireland, Kefeza received a wheelchair, allowing her to get out into the fresh air and go to church.

“Until then I lay in bed all day,” she said. “I thank God for my blessings. I am lucky to have HAU caring for me.”

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Entrenched Inequalitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/entrenched-inequalities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=entrenched-inequalities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/entrenched-inequalities/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:19:17 +0000 Faisal Bari http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146083 By Faisal Bari
Jul 15 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Do a girl born in a poor household in rural Balochistan and a boy born in a rich household in Karachi have the same or even a similar set of opportunities in life? Are their chances of acquiring an education similar? Do they have access to comparable healthcare services and facilities? Do they have equal opportunities for access to physical infrastructure and the freedom of movement and association?

Faisal Bari

Faisal Bari

The girl from the poor household in rural Balochistan has a significant probability of not surviving infancy. If she does, it is unlikely she will go to school. The chances of her making it to matriculation are almost negligible. She will be malnourished as a child and anaemic as an adult (the oft-heard refrain that at the very least nobody goes to sleep hungry in Pakistan is a blatant lie and a powerful means of self-deception). If she survives and makes it to adulthood, it is unlikely that marriage will change her economic/social status by much. Childbearing-related health risks and exposure to environmental hazards will make it likely that she will have a less than average lifespan.

Distribution of opportunities is highly unequal in Pakistan, and the differences are of many dimensions: income, wealth, gender, caste, ethnicity, sect, religion, rural/urban and provincial. But, more importantly, these inequalities are very deeply entrenched in our social, political and economic fabric. Our institutions, organisations and ways of doing things are structured to perpetuate this inequality and deepen it across generations. A poor child is likely to remain poor in his/her lifetime and his/her children are likely to remain poor too.

Our society and institutions are structured to perpetuate inequality across generations.

Socio-economic inequalities, and their entrenched and self-perpetuating nature, are the biggest challenge we face in shaping a future for Pakistan. It is easy to find challenges that Pakistan faces: there are plenty of good candidates. The fundamental one is inequality and what perpetuates it. But, and here is the perplexing part, despite its fundamental nature, it is one issue that is not even on the agenda for discussion or on the reform agenda.

People have been concerned about terrorism and extremism. Right or wrong, the government, with most stakeholders in agreement, came up with Operation Zarb-i-Azb and the National Action Plan to deal with it. We have been concerned about stabilisation and, right or wrong, we have been shoving stabilisation policies, under the guidance of the IMF, down everyone’s throat. We have become concerned about growth and, right or wrong, we have responded with investments in energy, infrastructure and now through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

But where is the response to the highly unequal access to opportunities in the country? Where is the outrage against this blatant neglect of the rights and needs of the majority? The politicians are not interested in the issue. There is no debate on the issue in legislatures, there are no policy options on the table, and there is not even an articulated demand or ideological approach by any political party on this larger question.

There does not seem to be any articulated demand from the public for addressing this issue either. Elections are not lost or won on the issue of addressing equality of opportunity: the provision of quality education/skills training, basic health, access to good social/physical infrastructure, and employment and growth opportunities.

Though we often talk of both the free, highly vocal and developed mass media in the country and the free and independent judiciary, they have not been instrumental in raising fundamental issues of rights and opportunities. The media produces more heat than light through the debates that incessantly go on. The judiciary has not taken up any of the fundamental issues — be it the right to education, healthcare or employment or questions of access to resources through land reform — at all. Cases filed on these matters with the higher courts have been languishing for years.

Is it not a fact that the hold the upper classes have on society is very strong, not only in terms of managing access to resources but even over the power to start and sustain debate? The upper classes, the top five to seven per cent, the main beneficiaries of the current system, do not have an interest in starting a debate on rights and equality of opportunities: they stand to lose the most. But, in addition, it seems that the people who rise to middle-class level (the professionals), the subsidiary beneficiaries of the current system, also see their benefit in perpetuating the system rather than in challenging it. They are co-opted.

But if we feel we can address terrorism, extremism, ethnic strife, sustainable development, high growth, and income and employment generation without addressing the issue of opportunities for all, we live in la-la land. If we believe we do not have the resources to provide a basic level of services to all, we are wrong again. Kerala, an Indian state that boasts developed society level statistics on education, health and well-being, provided basic health and education services to all when it was a relatively poor state.

Many people also feel that there is a trade-off in growth and expenditure on basic services. They are wrong. Human development theories have shown that. Empirical evidence is also there. Kerala was not the fastest-growing state in India when it extended basic services to all, and many critics thought this extension would limit Kerala’s growth prospects even further. Today, Kerala stands at the top of the list of Indian states in growth and income terms.

If a poor girl from rural Balochistan does not get almost the same opportunities as a boy from the middle or upper class from Karachi, our dreams for a better Pakistan will remain just that: dreams. And, in reality, we will continue to live the nightmare that we currently face.

The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives and an associate professor of economics at Lums, Lahore.
Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2
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This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Large-Scale Rainwater Harvesting Eases Scarcity in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2016 21:02:07 +0000 Justus Wanzala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146014 African Water Bank technicians put the final touches on a water storage tank at a homestead in the Duka Moja area of Narok County, Kenya. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

African Water Bank technicians put the final touches on a water storage tank at a homestead in the Duka Moja area of Narok County, Kenya. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

By Justus Wanzala
NAROK, Kenya, Jul 12 2016 (IPS)

Rainwater harvesting in Kenya and other places is hardly new. But in this water-stressed country, where two-thirds of the land is arid or semiarid, the quest for a lasting solution to water scarcity has driven useful innovations in this age-old practice.

The African Water Bank (AWB), an international nonprofit, has committed to providing and managing clean water using a much cheaper and efficient method.

The technology’s main focus is to harvest and store rainwater on a large scale. It has features such as an enhanced collection area, a guttering system and a storage system. Additional features include filters, water gauges and first flush devices.

A typical AWB rainwater harvesting system collects 400,000 to 450,000 litres of rainwater within two to three hours of steady rain. It has an artificial roof of 900 to 1,600 square metres and storage tanks. The largest tank ever constructed in Narok County has a capacity of 600,000 litres. All the units can be expanded per the owners’ needs.

This amount of water can serve a community of 400 people for approximately 24 months without extra rain. The capacity can be added at a rate of 220,000 litres per year. The system is low cost and can be 100 percent maintained locally. It also uses local skills, labour, materials and technology.A typical AWB harvesting system collects 400,000 to 450,000 litres of rainwater within two to three hours of steady rain.

Chip Morgan, AWB’s Chief Executive Officer, says their system collects huge volumes of rainwater and conserves it in large storage tanks. “This is akin to one earning money and saving it in a bank, the reasons we are called AWB,” he says.
He adds that the size of the system installed by households is dependent on their needs.

Currently, AWB focuses on the semiarid Narok County, in Kenya’s Rift Valley region, mainly occupied by the pastoral Maasai community. The technology has also been introduced in the semiarid Pokot, Machakos, Samburu and Kajiado counties in Kenya as well as in Zambia’s Chavuma district. Most of the clients are homes and institutions such as hospitals and schools.

Construction of tanks is funded by communities, donors and individuals who pay 50 percent up front before construction begins. Morgan says that despite growing demand, they are still in a phase where people are learning of the immense potential of the initiative. “This year we are fully booked. Our target is to build 50 units in a year,” he says.

The AWB CEO, who has worked for decades in the development sector starting in his native Australia, where water scarcity is a challenge to communities residing in remote areas, argues that one of the reasons why people are poor in many parts of the developing world is lack of water.

According to the 2012 Joint Monitoring Programme’s report, access to safe water supplies throughout Kenya was only 59 percent, while access to improved sanitation was 32 percent. The situation might have improved of late, but the challenge of access to water in both rural areas and urban areas still abounds.

Due to poor access to water and sanitation, says Morgan, water, sanitation and hygiene-related illnesses and conditions are the main cause of disease among children under five.

Meanwhile, just a small tank can irrigate a greenhouse on a one-third acre piece of land, thus promoting food security. As a result, AWB is keen to work with companies involved in the provision of greenhouse irrigation services to assist communities engaged in commercial farming.

Access to water and sanitation is also vital in reducing women and girls’ workload since culturally, fetching water is their job. This enables them to attend to other activities, such as school and homework.

Morgan notes that they use both skilled and unskilled local labour and continuously train their technicians. This is essential because the emergence of plastic tanks had killed demand for concrete ones, resulting in a decline of the number of concrete tank technicians. He says concrete/masonry tanks can last a lifetime.

AWB has two engineers. They offer training to technicians from outside Kenya. Four Ugandan community-based organisations have benefited from AWB’s skills transfer programme by sending their members to be trained on AWB rainwater harvesting technology.

Wataka Stephen, a trainee from Mbale, Uganda, says he was keen to acquire skills and transfer them to Uganda. “I intend to utilize the skills that I have acquired to employ myself,” says Wataka.

Swaga Jaberi, another Ugandan undergoing training at AWB, says his home region in eastern Uganda relies heavily on boreholes, but they are drying up as the water table decreases. Borehole digging is also expensive.

AWB’s rainwater harvesting technology is unique compared to the systems common in Uganda, he says. Jaberi intends to target hospitals, schools, and community centres as his potential clients.

The AWB rainwaters harvesting is indeed beneficial to communities in the semi arid Narok County. Apart from saving livestock during perennial droughts, it is also boosting education. Tonkei Ole Tempa, headmaster of the Ilkeek Aare mixed Day and Boarding Primary School, cannot hide his satisfaction. He says  that since the school completed construction of its 600,000-litre water tank in March, it has enough water to meet all its needs.

The system has a rainwater collecting roof of 400 square metres and was put up at a cost Kenya shillings 4.3 million (USD 43,000). Ole Tempa says the school, which has a total of 410 pupils with 180 pupils being boarders, now has enough water to last from one rainy season to the next.

Ole Tempa reveals that enrolment has gone up. “In 2013 the school had only 106 pupils but this year it has grown to 410,” says the headmaster. He adds that the availability of water has enhanced the school’s feeding programme. This has improved student health and performance. Hygiene standards in the school, adds Ole Tempa, have equally improved.

Indeed, various studies commissioned by Kenya’s ministry of education and other independent bodies in the past have indicated that in schools without clean water and toilets, pubescent female pupil’s absenteeism is rampant during days when they are menstruating. This affects their performance in school, with some dropping out altogether.

According to Ole Tempa, it is because of the vulnerability of girls that they offer boarding facilities to girls as matter of priority courtesy of availability of enough water. He adds that previously they used to spend 48,000 Kenya shillings (480 USD) every three months to buy water, but since they stared harvesting rainwater, the cost is zero.

The head teacher says that they intend to establish a vegetable garden through irrigation to supply fresh vegetables to the school and also rear two dairy cows to lower spending on milk for pupils. Funds for the construction of the roof and tank were provided by the Rotary Club in Kenya and the African Water Bank partners. Parents also chipped in by contributing Kenya shillings 5,000 each (USD 50). “The input by the parents was meant to ensure ownership of the project for sustainability purposes,” he says.

The government has equally recognized the impact of rainwater harvesting technologies in arid and semiarid areas on education. Speaking in Baringo County in June 2016, Fred Segor, Principal Secretary, Kenya’s ministry of water, urged schools to practice rainwater harvesting. He said the move will reduce incidences of water related diseases among pupils.

Apart from boosting access to water in arid and semi regions, rainwater harvesting contributes to water conservation thus reducing overexploitation of water resources. Moreover, rainwater harvesting reduces surface runoff during heavy precipitation which causes floods and erosion as water is harvested.

Morgan says AWB is keen to surmount challenges such as scarcity financial constraints by partnering with financial institutions. This will eliminate dependence on donors and lessen the burden on communities which lack funds to put up large scale rainwater harvesting units.

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The Eugenics Debatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-eugenics-debate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-eugenics-debate http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-eugenics-debate/#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 16:01:21 +0000 Rukhsana Shah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146003 By Rukhsana Shah
Jul 11 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The current debate on the re-emergence of eugenics is worrying, as most of its proponents seem to be urging for gene manipulation for higher intelligence and beauty, while only a few are concerned with its dystopian implications.

The writer is a former federal secretary.

The writer is a former federal secretary.

Plato was the first to develop the idea of eugenics, which literally means ‘good race/stock’, to improve the human race through controlled and selective mating. In ancient Greece, if a child was considered incapable of living independently by the city elders he was either executed or exposed to the elements to die. Similarly, the Fourth Law of the Roman Republic stated that deformed children must be put to death, and patriarchs could discard infants at their discretion.

Thus, disability has always been seen as an aberration of the natural order of things. With the advent of religion, local communities and religious institutions looked after lepers and people with physical and intellectual disabilities. In the 17th and 18th centuries, lazar and leper houses, infirmaries, hospitals, charities and retreats were built for people with disabilities, but these institutions could not change attitudes towards them.

In the 19th century, Darwin published his Origin of the Species, which led Sir Francis Galton to revive the theory of eugenics in 1865 on the basis that the theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest precluded care for the disabled. Social Darwinists believed that ‘unfit’ people should be wiped out to make way for evolution of superior human beings. This led to the enactment of the first disability policy in the US in 1883, preventing people with disabilities from marrying and procreating, and introducing enforced sterilisation.

Disability has always been seen as an aberration.

Eugenics was supported by Charles Davenport, the Carnegie Institute, presidents of Harvard and Stanford Universities, and the Wharton School to restrict immigration of non-Nordic races into the US. In Japan, the National Eugenic Law was promulgated in 1940 under which sterilisation could be carried out on criminals, albinos, epileptics and patients with mental illnesses.

In its heyday in Britain, eugenics attracted eminent people like Julian Huxley, G.B. Shaw, Stephen Webb H.G. Wells, John Maynard Keynes, Havelock Ellis, Bertrand Russell, Winston Churchill and even William Beveridge, the founder of the welfare state in England. It also enabled the enactment in England of the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act, which allowed segregation of the ‘feeble minded’ and their selective sterilisation.

In Nazi Germany, under the principle of ‘racial hygiene’, experimentation was carried out on living human beings and ‘human material’ was gathered from the notorious Auschwitz camp. In 1939, the programme was initially aimed at children under three with disabilities and people with psychiatric conditions in state-run hospitals and institutions. However, forced sterilisation was carried out on around 400,000 people, and between 100,000 to 200,000 institutionalised persons with disabilities were killed through euthanasia, lethal injections and gas.

It was only after the Second World War and in reaction to these heinous crimes that eugenics became unpopular. It was replaced by social biology, followed by anthropology, biology and biogenetics. In the meantime, many countries including the US, UK, Canada, Switzerland and Sweden continued to sterilise ‘unfit’ people until the 1970s. Even today, people with disabilities continue to face systemic and systematic apartheid despite many UN resolutions and conventions on medical ethics and the rights of persons with disabilities.

Today, the debate is whether to restrict genetic engineering to reduce the incidence of disability or whet¬her this kind of med¬dling will open up a Pandora’s box of moral and practical issues. While embryo selection may make people more resistant to disease, it will also inevitably lead to the misuse of technology, for instance, sex selection, or increasing IQ levels of certain populations for political reasons.

It is also argued that the future of human and other species may become unpredictable as a result of precipitate scientific interventions as has happened in the case of nuclear science, global warming and environmental degradation.

However, screening policies for couples in Cyprus have helped to reduce the ratio of children born with thalassaemia to almost zero, while in Israel, genetic tests have helped to control hereditary diseases such as Tay-Sachs. DNA mutations can be reduced through bio and stem cell technology to prevent seizures, strokes, visual and hearing impairments, and other serious conditions.

With these scientific breakthroughs, the anti-eugenics movement propounding human diversity has little support from parents of children with disabilities in poor countries where less than one per cent of persons with disabilities are able to live in dignity or achieve their potential. If medical science is about stopping nature from destroying the body and mind, the restricted use of eugenics can perhaps help to at least reduce the incidence of disabilities in the future.

The writer is a former federal secretary.rukhsana.hassan@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Latin American Development Depends On Investing In Teenage Girlshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/latin-american-development-depends-on-investing-in-teenage-girls/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-american-development-depends-on-investing-in-teenage-girls http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/latin-american-development-depends-on-investing-in-teenage-girls/#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 15:23:23 +0000 Estrella Gutiérrez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145995 Two Mexican teenage girls at their school. Investing in education for teenage girls in Latin America is regarded as the way forward for them to become future drivers of sustainable develpment in their societies. Credit: UNFPA LAC

Two Mexican teenage girls at their school. Investing in education for teenage girls in Latin America is regarded as the way forward for them to become future drivers of sustainable develpment in their societies. Credit: UNFPA LAC

By Estrella Gutiérrez
CARACAS, Jul 11 2016 (IPS)

Latin America’s teenage girls are a crucial force for change and for promoting sustainable development, if the region invests in their rights and the correction of unequal opportunities, according to Luiza Carvalho, the regional head of UN Women.

“An empowered adolescent will know her rights and will stand up for them; she has tools for success and is a driving froce for positive change in her community,” Carvalho told IPS in an interview from the regional headquarters of UN Women in Panama City.

Adolescent girls and boys will have a leading role in their societies when the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development has been completed, she said. One of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is gender equality. Investing in today’s girls will have “a great transformative impact in future,” she said. “Investing in education and protection against violence are important tools for fulfilling the potential of teenage girls and young women,as wellas for promoting gender equality” -- Luiza Carvalho.

The world today has a higher proportion of its population aged between 10 and 24 years old than ever before, with 1.8 billion young people out of a  total population of 7.3 billion. Roughly 20 percent of this age group live in LatinAmerica and the Caribbean, Carvalho said.

According to data given to IPS by the regional office of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 57million of the region’s 634 million people are girls aged between 10 and 19, living mainly in cities.

The theme for this year’s World Population Day, celebrated July 11, is “Investing in Teenage Girls”, on the premise that transforming their present situation to guarantee their right to equality will not only eliminate barriers to their individual potential but will also be decisive for the sustainable development of their countries.

Women Deliver, an international organisation, has calculated the benefits of this investment in financial terms. For every additional 10 percent of girls in school, national GDP rises by an average of three percent; for every extra year of primary schooling a girl has completed, her expected salary as an adult grows by between 10 and 20 percent.

This is fundamental because, as Carvalho pointed out, “lack of economic empowerment, together with generalised gender discrimination and the reinforcemet of traditional stereotypes, negatively affects the capability of women in Latin America and the Caribbean to participate on an equal footing in all aspects of public and private life.”

Luiza Carvalho, regional director of UN Women for Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: UN Women LAC

Luiza Carvalho, regional director of UN Women for Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: UN Women LAC

That is why “investing in education and protection against violence are important tools for fulfilling the potential of teenage girls and young women,as well as for promoting gender equality,” she said.

Teenage women, she said, “are an especially vulnerable group who face special social, economic and political barriers.” Their empowerment in the region may come up against difficulties such as unwanted pregnancy, forced early marriage or union, gender violence and limited access to education and reproductive health services.”

As an example of these obstacles, the regional director of UN Women said that a Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) study of women aged 15-49 years in 12 countries of the region “reported that for a substantial proportion of these women, their first sexual encounter had been unwanted or coerced.”

Carvalho stressed that “early marriage or union imposed on girls is a major concern in the region, and it significantly affects the exercise of adolescent girls’ rights developing their full potential.”

“It is a form of violence that denies them their childhood, interrupts their education, limits their social development, curtails their opportunities, exposes them to the risk of premature pregnancy at too young an age, or unwanted pregnancy and its possible complications, and increases their risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV (human immuno-deficiency virus),” she said.

It also increases the girls’ exposure to “becoming victims of violence and abuse,” Carvalho said.

In Carvalho’s view it is very positive that all the countries inthe region have established minimum ages for marriage in their laws, but on the other hand, the laws fix different minimum ages for boys and for girls, and in certain cases such as pregnancy or motherhood, girls may legally marry before they reach the minimum age.

In Latin America, far from diminishing, teenage pregnancies have increased in recent years, due to cultural acceptance of early sexual initiation. As a result, the region ranks second in the world for adolescent birth rates, with an average of 76 live births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years, second only to sub-Saharan Africa.

Furthermore, 30 percent of Latin American teenage girls do not have access to the contraceptive care services they need, according to UNFPA. Sexual and reproductive health face especially high barriers in this region because of patriarchal,culture, the weight of conservative sectors and the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church.

In Latin America, indigenous teenage girls, together with their rural counterparts, are the group most discriminated against in terms of opportunities and access to education. Credit: Rajesh Krishnan/UN Women

In Latin America, indigenous teenage girls, together with their rural counterparts, are the group most discriminated against in terms of opportunities and access to education. Credit: Rajesh Krishnan/UN Women

In contrast, the region has a good record on education. Over 90 percent of its countries have policies to promote equal access by teenagers to education. Ninety percent of teenage girls have finished their primary school education, although only 78 percent go on to secondary school, according to UNFPA.

The greatest educational access barriers are faced by rural and indigenous teenage girls, who have difficulties for physical access to some education centres. In the case of indigenous and Afro-descendant girls, this is added to inappropriate curricula or the absence of educational materials in their native languages (mother tongues). 

Carvalho highlighted as a positive element that education laws, especially those that have been reformed recently, “have begun to recognise the importance of establishing legal provisions that promote and disseminate human rights, peaceful coexistence and sex education.”

However, she regretted that “direct connections with prevention of violence against women and girls are still incipient.”

In her view, the school curriculum plays an essential role. Including contents and materials “related to human rights and the rights of women and girls, non-violent conflict resolution, co-responsibility and basic education about sexual and reproductive health,” will potentiate more non-violent societies, inside and outside of the classroom, she said.

Carvalho quoted a 2015 study carried out in 13 Latin American countries by UN Women and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which concluded that education systems are failing to prevent violence against girls.

“This is something that must be improved, because it is in the first few years of early childhood that egalitarian role modelling between girls and boys can occur and lay the foundations of the prevention of violence, discrimination, and inequality in all its forms,” she emphasised.

Carvalho said changes should start with something as simple as it is frequently forgotten: “Girls, teenagers and women are rights-holders and entitled to their rights.”

If girls are given “equal access to education, health care, sexual and reproductive education, decent jobs, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes, sustainable economies would be promoted and societies, and humanity as a whole, would benefit,” she concluded. 

Edited by Verónica Firme. Translated by Valerie Dee.

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Talking Openly – The Way to Prevent Teenage Pregnancyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/talking-openly-the-way-to-prevent-teenage-pregnancy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=talking-openly-the-way-to-prevent-teenage-pregnancy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/talking-openly-the-way-to-prevent-teenage-pregnancy/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 18:39:09 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145981 A teenage mother and her toddler in Bonpland, a rural municipality in the northern province of Misiones in Argentina. Latin America has the second highest regional rate of early pregnancies in the world, after sub-Saharan Africa. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

A teenage mother and her toddler in Bonpland, a rural municipality in the northern province of Misiones in Argentina. Latin America has the second highest regional rate of early pregnancies in the world, after sub-Saharan Africa. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES, Jul 8 2016 (IPS)

In plain and simple language, an Argentine video aimed at teenagers explains how to get sexual pleasure while being careful. Its freedom from taboos is very necessary in Latin American countries where one in five girls becomes a mother by the time she is 19 years old.

“For good sex to happen, both partners have to want it and this is as much about being sure they want it, as about being in the mood or ‘hot’ with desire,” said psychologist Cecilia Saia who made the video “Let’s talk About Sex” (Hablemos de sexo), aimed at adolescents and preadolescents and posted on social networks.

The video was produced by Fundación para Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer (FEIM – Foundation for Women’s Studies and Research) as part of a Take the Non-Pregnancy Test campaign. It was also distributed to teenagers so they “would be able to take free and informed decisions about becoming mothers and fathers.” “Keeping children in the education system or bringing them back into it would be effective interventions to prevent teenage pregnancy. In the same way, creating conditions within the education system to ensure that pregnant teenagers or adolescent mothers can continue their education, would be another intervention with a positive impact” - Alma Virginia Camacho-Hübner.

During the campaign, teenagers of both sexes were given boxes similar in appearance to pregnancy test kits, containing information about teenage pregnancy and the myths surrounding how it is caused, as well as condoms and instructions on how to use them, Mabel Bianco, the president of FEIM, told IPS.

The campaign was broadcast on YouTube and other social networks, with candid messages in the language used by adolescents. “This meant we could reach a large numbers of 14-to-18-year-olds, an age group that such campaigns usually find hard to reach,” she said.

According to FEIM, in Argentina 300 babies a day, or 15 percent of the total, are born to mothers aged under 19.

“This percentage has shown a sustained increase over the last 10 to 15 years, and the proportion of births to girls under 15 years of age has also risen,” Bianco said.

Argentina exemplifies what is happening in the rest of Latin America, which is the world region with the second highest teenage fertility rate, after sub-Saharan Africa. The national rate in Argentina is 76 live births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years, according to United Nations’ demographic statistics.

In order to call attention to this problem and to the general need to promote the equal development of women, Investing in Teenage Girls is the theme of this year’s World Population Day, to be celebrated July 11.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) states that one in five women in the Southern Cone of South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay) will become a teenage mother, in an area where over 1.2 million babies a year are born to adolescents.

“Early pregnancy and motherhood can bring about health complications for mother and baby, as well as negative impacts over the course of the lives of adolescents,” says a UNFPA report about fertility and teenage motherhood in the Southern Cone.

The report says that “when pregnancy is unplanned, it is a clear indication of the infringement of teenagers’ sexual and reproductive rights and hence of their human rights.”

Alma Virginia Camacho-Hübner, UNFPA sexual and reproductive health adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS that teenage pregnancy has implications for individual patients, such as maternal morbidity and mortality associated with the risks involved with unsafe abortions, among other factors.

Prematurity rates and low birthweights are also several-fold higher, especially among mothers younger than 15.

For health services, the costs of prenatal care, childbirth, postnatal care and care of the newborn are far higher than the cost of interventions to prevent pregnancy and promote health education.

“For society as a whole, from a strictly economic point of view, in countries that enjoy a demographic dividend, early motherhood represents an accelerated loss of that demographic dividend,” Camacho-Hübner said from the UNFPA regional headquarters in Panama City.

This is because “instead of increasing economic productivity by having a larger economically active proportion of the population, a rise in early motherhood causes a rapid rise in the dependency ratio, that is the proportion of the population that is not economically active and requires support from family or society,”she said.

The Southern Cone study found that dropping out of school usually preceded getting pregnant.

“Therefore, keeping children in the education system or bringing them back into it would be effective interventions to prevent teenage pregnancy. In the same way, creating conditions within the education system to ensure that pregnant teenagers or adolescent mothers can continue their education, would be another intervention with a positive impact,” Camacho-Hübner said.

In her view, teen pregnancy and motherhood are an issue of inequality which mainly affects women in lower socio-economic strata.

“It is teenagers from the poorest families and with the least education, living in underprivileged geographical regions, that are most prone to becoming adolescent mothers,” she said.

“Becoming mothers at an early age reinforces conditioning and the inequalities in the process by which teenagers who are, and who are not, mothers, effect the transition into adulthood,” she said.

“The main consequence of pregnancy is the interruption of schooling, although in many cases they have already dropped out by the time they become pregnant. But they do not go back to school afterwards because they have to look after the baby,” Bianco said.

“This makes for a poorer future, as these girls will have access to lower-paid jobs and will be able to contribute less to the country’s development. On the personal level, they will have to postpone their adolescence, they cannot go out with friends, go dancing and other typical teen activities,” she said.

Federico Tobar, another UNFPA regional adviser, said that “in addition to strengthening health, education and social services, there must be investment to promote demand, with interventions to motivate young people to build a sustained life project.”

“This involves incorporating economic incentives as well as symbolic remuneration, and also concrete childcare support for teenage mothers so that they can finish school and avoid repeated childbearing, which is frequently seen in these countries,” he told IPS.

Among other positive experiences, Tobar mentioned the Uruguayan initiative “Jóvenes en red” (Young People’s Network) which includes returning to school and work, and promotion of sexual and reproductive health.

“I believe it is important to invest in the education of teenage women, including comprehensive sex education and the capacity to decide whether or not they wish to have children. It is not a question of eliminating all pregnancy in adolescence, but of making it a conscious choice rather than an accident,” Bianco said. 

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez. Translated by Valerie Dee.

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Malagasy Children Bear Brunt of Severe Droughthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/malagasy-children-bear-brunt-of-severe-drought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=malagasy-children-bear-brunt-of-severe-drought http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/malagasy-children-bear-brunt-of-severe-drought/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 10:39:53 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145975 Nearly half the children in drought-stricken South Madagascar are malnourished. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Nearly half the children in drought-stricken South Madagascar are malnourished. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
AMBOVOMBE, Madagascar, Jul 8 2016 (IPS)

Voahevetse Fotetse can easily pass for a three-year-old even though he is six and a pupil at Ankilimafaitsy Primary School in Ambovombe district, Androy region, one of the most severely affected by the ongoing drought in the South of Madagascar.

“Fotetse is just like many of the pupils here who, due to chronic malnutrition, are much too small for their age, they are too short and too thin,” explains Seraphine Sasara, the school’s director.

The school has a total population of 348 – 72 boys and 276 girls – and they range from three to 15 years. Fewer boys stay in school as they spend most of their time helping on the farm or grazing the family livestock.

The tide, however, turns when the girls reach 15 years, at which point most are withdrawn from school and married off.

But in school or out of school, nearly half of the children in Southern Madagascar have not escaped malnutrition. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says that stunting –  where children are too short for their age – affects at least 47 percent of children under five.“I feed my eight children on rice for breakfast and supper but for lunch, they have to eat cactus fruits." -- Mamy Perline

Compared to acute malnutrition, which can develop over a short period and is reversible, stunting has more far-reaching consequences.

“Stunting is a gradual and cumulative process during the 1,000 days from conception through the first two years of a child’s life,” Sasara told IPS.

It develops as a result of sustained poor dietary intake or repeated infections, or a combination of both.

“It is not just about a child being too short for their age, it has severe and irreversible consequences including risk of death, limited physical and cognitive capacities,” Sasara said.

Statistics show that two million children in this Southern African country are stunted, placing Madagascar fourth in the “Global Chronic Malnutrition” table.

In February this year, though the global acute malnutrition level reached an average of eight percent, it is much higher in many regions in Southern Madagascar where most districts have surpassed the critical threshold of 10 percent.

Rainfall deficit and recurrent drought in Southern Madagascar has led to the deterioration of household food security, which has had a significant impact on the nutritional status of children under five.

Sasara says that the situation has been worsened by the rice eating culture across Madagascar “where children eat rice for breakfast, lunch and supper.”

But Mamy Perline told IPS that even rice is not always available. “I feed my eight children on rice for breakfast and supper but for lunch, they have to eat cactus fruits,” she said.

According to the WFP, which runs a school feeding programme in affected districts, Tsihombe district in Androy region is the most affected, with an average of 14 percent of children under five presenting signs of acute malnutrition.

WFP estimates show that nearly 50 percent of the Malagasy children under five suffer from iron deficiency which causes anemia.

Consequently, of every 1,000 live births, 62 result in children dying before they reach five years.

The lack of clean water and proper sanitation has compounded the situation facing the South.

The education sector continues to bear the brunt of the severe drought, with statistics by various humanitarian agencies including WFP showing that the net primary education enrolment rate in Madagascar is on a downward spiral.

Though an estimated 96.2 percent of children were enrolled in 2006, the number had dwindled to 69.4 percent in 2012, with Sasara saying that the current enrolment is likely to be much lower as children are too hungry to stay in school.

This is the case in Tanandava village, Amboasary district, Anosy region, where hundreds of out of school children gather each day to receive a meal from the village canteen offered by Catholic Relief Services, a humanitarian agency working in the area.

WFP statistics further show that the number of out of school children between six and 12 years is estimated at 1.5 million, with regions such as Anosy, Androy and Atsimo Andrefana in the South of Madagascar which have high rates of food insecurity posting alarmingly low levels of school performance.

Since 2005 WFP has implemented a school feeding programme, providing daily fortified meals to nearly 300,000 children in 1,300 primary schools in the south of the country but also in the urban slums of Antananarivo, Tulear and Tamatave.

“The meals are fortified with micronutrients and are crucial in breaking the malnutrition cycle in this country,” Sasara said.

The school feeding programme is a joint community effort where parents are involved in the preparation of the food, therefore providing a platform for the implementation of other interventions geared towards improving the health and nutrition of vulnerable children.

These interventions access to water and sanitation, which are twin problems in this region.

“When it rains and water collects in potholes on the road, this is the water we collect in containers for drinking, cooking and washing. It does not matter how many cars or people have stepped into the water, it is the only source we have,” says Perline.

Given the increase in acute malnutrition, a contributing factor to child mortality, WFP supports the National Office for Nutrition through its Regional Office for Nutrition, which continues to provide supplementary feeding programs for the treatment of moderate acute malnutrition across villages in the South.

“Treating children affected by moderate acute malnutrition can reduce drastically the number of those affected by severe acute malnutrition and to restore an adequate nutritional status,” says Yves Christian, Head of Regional Office for Nutrition.

WFP is further providing technical assistance to the government at various levels that is expected to result in a nationally owned school feeding programme.

New modalities of school feeding will also be piloted at the start of the next school year later in September 2016.

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Closing the Gaps in Sexual Education for People with Disabilitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/closing-the-gaps-in-sexual-education-for-people-with-disabilities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=closing-the-gaps-in-sexual-education-for-people-with-disabilities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/closing-the-gaps-in-sexual-education-for-people-with-disabilities/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 20:27:20 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145967 Melody Kemp/IPS

Melody Kemp/IPS

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7 2016 (IPS)

From forced sterilisation to sexual abuse, young women and men with disabilities are much more likely to have their sexual and reproductive health rights violated than other people.

However despite the increased risks they face, young people with disabilities are also much less likely to get the sexual health education that they need.

Sometimes this is because well-meaning caregivers fail to realise the sexual desires and needs of people with disabilities, Malin Kvitvaer who works for the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) told IPS.

“They see only the deafness and forget that there is a young person there too,” said Kvitvaer who works on a special project aimed at improving sexual education in sign language and is herself deaf.

Parents and caregivers can forget that young people with disabilities also have questions about their bodies and thinks about sex, just like any other teenager, said Kvitvaer.

Even where young people with disabilities do have access to sexual health education, it can be incomplete or inadequate due to access barriers, Kvitvaer added.

“Young people with disabilities are at higher risk of experiencing sexual violence and face greater barriers when accessing sexual and reproductive health services and education,” -- Leyla Sharafi, UNFPA.

“There are many instances where the teacher, not being fluent in sign language, does not know how to teach sexuality education in sign language and either teaches a very compromised version, or skips it altogether,” she said.

Communication barriers can have an even greater impact, when abusers take advantage of the fact that it is harder for young Deaf people to report abuse.

“In the history of the Deaf community there is a history of young Deaf girls – boys too, but mostly girls – who were subjected to sexual abuse by the adult men around them, such as teachers, Deaf priests and so on.”

“Many times they also knew that the girls’ families did not speak Sign language and so they wouldn’t be able to tell (their families) about the abuse,” said Kvitvaer who was also the Swedish youth delegate to the United Nations in 2011.

We Decide, a new initiative launched last month by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) aims to address the gaps in sexual and reproductive health services, education and information which disproportionately effect young people with disabilities.

Leyla Sharafi. Gender and youth specialist at UNFPA told IPS that adolescents and youth around the world struggle to access appropriate sexual and reproductive health services and that for young people with disabilities the barriers are even greater.

“Young people with disabilities are at higher risk of experiencing sexual violence and face greater barriers when accessing sexual and reproductive health services and education,” Sharafi told IPS.

“UNFPA and the We Decide program is advocating that all young people with disabilities enjoy their human rights, including living a life free of violence and discrimination.”

Sharafi added that the program was designed in collaboration with young people with disabilities, taking into consideration their wants and needs.

To this end, Kvitvaer notes that sexual education should not just focus on the negative aspects of sex, but also the positive aspects.

“I also think it is important to not only focus on problems that sex can cause – such as unwanted pregnancies, STDs, but also that sex is a good thing when consensual and that is just as ok to want to have sex, as it is to not want to have sex.”

This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which Sharafi notes “is one of the only conventions that explicitly talks about access to sexual and reproductive health.”

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First Independent Expert To Tackle LGBTI Discrimination: “Historic Victory”http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/first-independent-expert-to-tackle-lgbti-discrimination-historic-victory/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=first-independent-expert-to-tackle-lgbti-discrimination-historic-victory http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/first-independent-expert-to-tackle-lgbti-discrimination-historic-victory/#comments Fri, 01 Jul 2016 19:48:48 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145910 Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Phillip Kaeding
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 1 2016 (IPS)

Human rights groups have described the UN Human Rights Council’s (HRC) decision on Thursday to appoint an independent expert to target the ongoing discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people all over the world as a “historic victory.”

“For LGBTI people everywhere who have fought so hard for this victory, take strength from this recognition, and let today represent the dawn of a new day,” OutRight International’s executive director Jessica Stern said. OutRight International was one of 28 non-governmental groups which welcomed the resolution with a joint statement.

More than 600 nongovernmental organizations helped ensure that the HRC in Geneva adopted the resolution to “protect people against violence & discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity”.

The establishment of an expert-position for these problems is a significant step since not all of the UN’s 193 members see eye to eye on LGBTI issues. “A UN Independent Expert sends a clear message that violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are a concern for the international community and need to be addressed by Member States,” John Fisher of Human Rights Watch told IPS.

With regard to compliance, Fisher said: “Of course, some States will decline to cooperate, which only underlines the need for the outreach work that an Independent Expert will conduct. Members of the Human Rights Council are required by a GA (General Assembly) resolution to cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one of the biggest defenders of LGBT rights in the United States, expressed its approval, too. Jamil Dakwar, ACLU’s International Human Rights Director, told IPS the HRC resolution “is yet another affirmation that the promise of universal human rights leaves no one behind.”

"Transgender persons face laws which deny their fundamental self-defined gender identity." -- John Fisher

He also emphasized that “even in a country like the United States, where some LGBT rights are legally recognized, recent events, including the tragic mass shooting at an LGBT club in Orlando and the post-marriage equality legislative backlash against transgender people, confirm that the human rights of LGBT communities are in dire need of attention and protection.”

Indeed, although many states are making progress, LGBTI people still face discrimination and violence. According to studies, between half and two thirds of LGBTI students in the US, UK and Thailand are bullied at school and thirty percent of them skip school to avoid the trouble.

Fisher said to IPS that “discrimination is faced in access to health, housing, education and employment, transgender persons face laws which deny their fundamental self-defined gender identity.”

In the past years, violence, particularly against transgender people was shockingly common. For example, the 2014 report of the Anti-Violence Project showed that police violence was 7 times more likely to affect transgender people than non-transgenders. The 2015 report, released this June, revealed that 67 percent of victims of hate violence related killings of LGBTQ people were transgender.

A study released this week shows that there are 1.4 million transgender persons living in the United States: Twice as many as previously estimated. Although the US is slowly addressing some issues related to LGBT rights, such as removing barriers for transgender persons in the military some states have begun banning transgender people from using the bathroom according to the gender they identify with.

Human Rights Watch and others are happy to witness progress in states like the US and many Latin American countries. There was a clear pattern in the voting behavior of Thursday’s HRC meeting, too. No African and few Asian countries (only South Korea and Vietnam) voted in favor of the resolution. The 18 votes against the new resolution came among others from Russia, China and various Arab States.

The non-governmental actors who supported the resolution, however, also came from developing countries. “It is important to note that around 70 percent of the organizations are from the global south,” Yahia Zaidi of the MantiQitna Network said.

The resolution builds on previous HRC decisions in 2011 and 2014. In the newest draft, the independent expert is the most important innovation. Still, other parts of it were debated, too:

“Some amendments were adopted suggesting that cultural and religious values should be respected; these amendments could be interpreted as detracting from the universality of human rights. The resolution does, however, also include a provision from the outcome document of the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, affirming the primacy of human rights,” Fisher reported from the council in Geneva.

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Uganda Rolls Out Compulsory Immunization to Dispel Anti-Vaccine Mythshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/uganda-rolls-out-compulsory-immunization-to-dispel-anti-vaccine-myths/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uganda-rolls-out-compulsory-immunization-to-dispel-anti-vaccine-myths http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/uganda-rolls-out-compulsory-immunization-to-dispel-anti-vaccine-myths/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 17:49:56 +0000 Amy Fallon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145876 Women wait to immunize their children at the Kisugu Health Centre in Kampala, Uganda, where free vaccinations take place. The nurse in the foreground is Betty Makakeeto. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Women wait to immunize their children at the Kisugu Health Centre in Kampala, Uganda, where free vaccinations take place. The nurse in the foreground is Betty Makakeeto. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

By Amy Fallon
KAMPALA, Jun 29 2016 (IPS)

Patience*, a Ugandan maid, planned on taking her three-year-old son for polio immunization during the country’s mass campaigns a year ago, until her landlord’s wife told her a shocking myth.

“The medicine they are injecting them with means the boy when he’s an adult won’t be able to reproduce,” Patience, 32, recalled to IPS what she’d been informed. “She said: ‘Don’t even think about immunization’.”

Patience said that in her neighborhood, the Kyebando slum in Kampala, many families “lied to medical personnel” because they were “terrified” about what this woman had told them.

Earlier this year, the country’s president signed the Immunization Act 2016, prescribing fines, a jail term of six months or both, for parents who don’t vaccinate their children in the age bracket of five days to one year old.“They said the vaccines are made out of pigs, wild animals, (that) our children will behave like wild animals.” -- MP Huda Oleru

The Act also requires the production of an immunization card before admission to day care centres, pre-primary or primary education. It also aims to provide for compulsory immunization of women of reproductive age and other target groups against immunisable diseases.

According to the legislation, passed by Parliament last year, diseases for which immunization is compulsory include tuberculosis, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B, polio and measles.

One in five African children still do not receive all of the most basic vaccines they need, including ones for three critical diseases—measles, rubella and neonatal tetanus – a report issued by WHO at the first ministerial on Immunization in Africa, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in February.

Uganda was ranked lowest in east Africa for immunization coverage, with one example being the country’s 2014 diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) coverage which was at 78 percent compared to DRC (80 percent) Kenya (81 percent), Tanzania (97 percent) and Rwanda (99 percent).

According to outgoing female MP Huda Oleru, who tabled the private member’s bill in 2011, the biggest obstacle to vaccination in Uganda was the 666 cult made up of more 500 members but “growing” across the country, who refuse to immunize their children.

“They said the vaccines are made out of pigs, wild animals, (that) our children will behave like wild animals,” Oleru told IPS.

Oleru is continuing talks with the groups in eastern Uganda, and said she hoped “in the long-term” they would come around.

But for now the law was the “easiest way” of getting them to immunize their children.

“When I entered Parliament (ten years ago), I realised that we didn’t have an immunisation law, and a law is guidance or directive and it guides us in areas of impunity,” said Oleru.

At least ten members of a Christian group were detained over refusing to vaccinate their children against polio, the Daily Monitor reported last month.

Dr. Henry Luzze, the deputy program manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization, told IPS the government was currently vaccinating against ten diseases. It had submitted an application to GAVI ((the Vaccine Alliance) and received approval to introduce the rotavirus vaccine for diarrhea in children, a “big problem”. They were also looking at introducing a rubella vaccine by 2018 and a second measles vaccination to be given at 18 months.

Measles were still a huge threat, after outbreaks last year in western Uganda, he said.

“We still have some districts and communities that are still below what we want in terms of coverage in the eastern part of the country, areas where there are very high hills and no transport,” said Dr Luze.

Children were also not being vaccinated due to shortages in a number of facilities at a district level, but through recent support from GAVI, Uganda was able to procure solar powered fridges to keep the vaccines in areas prone to power cuts.

The influx of refugees from Burundi, DRC and South Sudan, where immunization rates are low, pose another challenge to Uganda. Late last month at least three cases of yellow fever were confirmed here, with scores of cases suspected.

According to the new Act, “the government shall provide free vaccines and other related services to every Ugandan required to receive vaccination”.

Dr Luzze said the law was good as it was balanced and compels the government to “make sure all the vaccination services are in place”.

“After that, then you commit the parents or the caretakers to make sure all their children are vaccinated,” said Dr Luzze, claiming the legislation “empowers CSOs to challenge the government”, who could be taken to court over shortages.

But there has already been some criticism from Ugandans that the law is too harsh, and during a recent mass polio campaign, held in March, there were reports that about 2,000 children below the age of five missed out on immunizations in Karamoja, northeastern Uganda, according to the country’s Daily Monitor newspaper.

The Act also creates the establishment of an Immunization Fund, house by the ministry of health, to “purchase vaccines and related supplies, cold chains, and funding of immunization outreach activities”.

Sources will be made of up monies appropriate by Parliament for the fund and donations.

“GAVI has been supporting this country so much and they’re still giving, but the challenge is GAVI has its criteria,” said Oleru. “Soon we might become a middle-income country, then we shall not be eligible (for support) under GAVI.”

Luzze said he believed the law would be easy to enforce because “the president, the ministers, the parliamentarians, religious leaders” all supported it.

President Yoweri Museveni was “aggressive” about promoting immunization because he believes it saves “families from spending too much money and time caring for sick members”, among other reasons, said his spokesperson Lindah Nabusayi.

Dr Moses Byaruhanga, the director of medical and health services for Uganda’s police, told IPS the authorities would go on radio talk shows to talk about the law, but would be strict on it.

“Police will be able to find out if (parents) did not take their kids for immunization,” he said, adding health workers, local leaders and schools would be the eyes and ears of the community.

International immunization experts such as Mike McQuestion, director of sustainable immunization financing at Sabin Vaccine Institute in the US, have praised the new legislation as a “textbook example of good governance”.

“The way the Ugandans created this law was itself impressive,” he told IPS. “Several public institutions had to work together to write it, vet it and push it through.”

In late March, about two weeks after it emerged the law had passed, Patience had her son immunized against polio, during a door-to-door mass campaign.

“It was very easy, they just put a drop in the mouth, then a mark on the finger,” she said, adding it took only three minutes.

Patience admitted she had been “partly” worried about going to jail under the new law, and that was the reason she’d chosen to vaccinate her son. But she said the nurse had told her “you shouldn’t not vaccinate him because you’ll be arrested, but because he can get sick”.

“I think now he is free from becoming sick,” said Patience.

*Patience’s name was changed for personal reasons.

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Preventable Child Deaths Not Always Linked to Poorest Countries: UNICEFhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 02:01:10 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145867 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/feed/ 1 Biogas Brings Heat and Light to Pakistan’s Rural Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 19:08:30 +0000 Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145856 Nabela Zainab prepares tea on the biogas stove in her home in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The stove has eased indoor air pollution and restored her health. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

Nabela Zainab prepares tea on the biogas stove in her home in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The stove has eased indoor air pollution and restored her health. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

By Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio
FAISALABAD, Pakistan, Jun 28 2016 (IPS)

Nabela Zainab no longer chokes and coughs when she cooks a meal, thanks to the new biogas-fueled two-burner stove in her kitchen.

Zainab, 38, from Faisalabad, a town 360 kilometers from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, is among the beneficiaries of a flagship pilot biogas project to free poor households and farmers of their dependence on wood, cattle dung and diesel fuel for cooking needs and running irrigation pumps.

She got the biogas unit, worth 400 dollars, at a 50 percent subsidised rate from the NGO Rural Support Programme Network under the latter’s five-year Pakistan Domestic Biogas Programme (PDBP).

In the past, Zainab had to collect wood from a distant forest three times a week and carry it home balanced on her head.

“Getting rid of that routine is a life-changing experience,” she told IPS.

The four-cubic-meter biogas plant requires the dung of three buffalos every day to meet the energy needs of a four-member family, including cooking, heating, washing and bathing for 24 hours.

It saves nearly 160 kg of fuelwood a day, worth 20 to 25 dollars every month for a four-member family.

The wife of a smallholder vegetable farmer, Zainab says she has suffered from a cough and sore eyes for the last 20 years. “We have no access to piped natural gas in our village. The rising cost of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) was not feasible either for us poor. However, we had no choice but to continue burning buffalo dung cakes or fuelwood,” she said.

Last January, cattle farmer Amir Nawaz installed a biogas plant of eight-cubic-meter capacity at a cost of 700 dollars under the PDBP. He got subsidy of nearly 300 dollars.

“I am now saving nearly 60 dollars a month that I used to spend on LPG,” he told IPS.

His plant is fueled by the dung of his six buffalos — enough to meet household gas needs for cooking and heating.

Nawaz also uses biogas to power wall-mounted lamps in his house at night, saving another 15 dollars a month.

“Above all, this has helped our children do schoolwork and for me to finish up the household chores in the evening hours,” Nawaz’s wife, Shaista Bano, said with a smile.

As many as 5,360 biogas plants of varying sizes have been installed in 12 districts of Punjab province over five years (2009-2015), ridding nearly 43,000 people of exposure to smoke from wood and kerosene.

Nearby, 500 large biogas plants of the 25-cubic-meter capacity each have also been introduced in all 12 districts of Punjab province under the PBDP, namely: Faisalabad, Sargodha, Khushab, Jhang, Chniot, Toba Tek Singh, Shekhapura, Gujranwala, Sahiwal, Pakpatan, Nankana Sahib and Okara.

Such plants provide gas for a family of 10 for cooking, heating and running irrigation pumps for six hours daily.

Rab Nawaz bought one of these large plants for 1,700 dollars. PBDP provided him a subsidy of 400 dollars as part of its biogas promotion in the area.

“I use the dung of 18 buffalos to produce nearly 40 cubic meters of gas every day to run my diesel-turned-biogas-run irrigation pump for six hours and cooking stove for three times a day,” he told IPS, while shoveling out his cattle pen in Sargodha.

The father of three says that after eliminating diesel — which is damaging to the environment and health, as well as expensive — he saves 10-12 dollars daily.

As a part of sustainability of the biogas programme, 50 local biogas construction companies have been set up. International technical experts trained nearly 450 people in construction, maintenance and repair of the biogas units.

Initiated in 2009 by the non-governmental organization National Rural Support Programme – Pakistan (NRSP-Pakistan), PBDP was financed by the Netherlands Embassy in Pakistan and technical support was extended by Winrock International and SNV (Netherlands-based nongovernmental development organisations).

“The biogas programme aimed to establish a commercially viable biogas sector. To that extent, the main actors at the supply side of the sector are private Biogas Construction Enterprises (BCEs) providing biogas construction and after sales services to households. At the demand side of the sector, Rural Support Programmes organized under the RSPN will be the main implementing partners, but will also include NGOs, farmers’ organizations and dairy organizations,” NRSP CEO Shandana Khan told IPS.

“The 5,600 biogas plants are now saving nearly 13,000 tons of fuelwood burning worth two million dollars and 169,600 liters of kerosene oil for night lamp use,” she said.

“Implemented at a total cost of around 3.3 million dollars, the biogas plants have helped reduce the average three to four hours a woman spent collecting fuel-wood and cooking daily. These women now get enough time for socialization, economic activity and health is returning to households thanks to the biogas plants… which provide instant gas for cooking, healing and dishwashing,” she said.

More significantly, the programme is helping avoid nearly 16,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, she calculated.

At present around 18 percent of households in Pakistan, mostly in urban areas, have access to natural gas. Over 80 percent of rural people rely on biomass (wood, cattle dung, dried straw, etc) for cooking, heating and other household chores, according to Pakistan’s Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB).

Chairman of the AEDB Khawaja Muhammad Asif said, “It is unviable for the large number of rural households to have access to piped natural gas. However, biogas offer a promising and viable solution to meet energy needs of the households in the country’s rural areas, which are home to 60 percent of the people live and 80 percent of over 180 million cattle heads.”

He argued that some 80 million cattle and buffaloes and an estimated 100 million sheep and goats and 400 million poultry birds in the country can also provide sufficient raw material for substantial production of biogas.

“This way, the biogas can be tapped to cope with a range of health, environmental and health and economic benefits,” he stressed.

Pakistan is home to over 160 million head of cattle (buffalo, cow, camel, donkey, goat and lamb). The dung of these livestock can feed five million biogas plants of varying sizes, according to energy experts at the National University of Science and Technology (Islamabad) and Faisalabad Agriculture University (Punjab province).

This can help plug the yawning gas supply gap. According to government figures, 73 percent of 200 million people (a majority of them in rural areas) have no access to piped natural gas. Such people rely on LPG gas cylinders and fuelwood.

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Civil Society Under Serious Attackhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-under-serious-attack http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 22:51:25 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145847 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/feed/ 0 Women’s Health Takes Center Stage at UN Population Awards   http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:38:18 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145796 By Aruna Dutt
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 24 2016 (IPS)

Social Scientist, Carmen Barroso and Polish Organisation, Childbirth in Dignity received the United Nations Population Awards here Thursday for their outstanding work in population, improving individuals’ health and welfare, and specifically for their decades-long leadership in women’s rights.

“I dedicate this award to anonymous health providers everywhere, who day in and day out help women to exercise their rights and preserve their health,” said Barroso on accepting the award.

Barroso has been actively involved in reproductive health and population issues for more than forty years. She was selected for her leadership in developing programmes, funding and policies related to sexual and reproductive health and rights and for mobilising the voices of people in the South around those issues.

In 1966, Sao Paulo, Brazil, a country rising under the weight of a military dictatorship, Barroso was a 22 year old college student living off of her husband’s meagre salary. Committed to achieving social justice, they did not plan to start a family for many years, and had a very important vision of their future.

On birth control for a long time, she was becoming uncomfortable with the hormones she was putting into her body. A doctor offered her an alternative: IUDs. When she started, she began having copious periods of painful cramps, but she decided to wait in hope they would go away. But they didn’t. One day, she missed her period.

She froze with horror: “All of a sudden, the castle of my future came crashing down.”

At the time, abortion was a taboo subject. She never thought it was something that would happen to her, but now she knew that was what she wanted, and went to the doctor.

He performed the abortion, telling her to keep it secret and cover it up as a miscarriage.

“I would not be here today if it weren’t for the courage of a doctor operating under restrictive laws. Because of him, we were able to live the future we dreamed of.”

Later Barroso became a senior researcher with the Chagas Foundation, where she pioneered innovative evaluation methods and later created Brazil’s first and foremost women’s studies center, despite protest from colleagues who saw it as an “imperialistic import of feminist ideology.”

Dr. Barroso became the first non-American to be appointed as director in the US MacArthur Foundation, and she recently resigned from her tenure as Director of Planned Parenthood International, Western Hemisphere.

Childbirth in Dignity Foundation

Twenty years ago in Poland, pregnant women had little freedom to choose the environment in which they gave birth. Lack of privacy, loneliness and inadequate support were the rule, with women having to go through mandatory episiotomies, and other arcane procedures such as not having time with their newborn child immediately, or having their significant other in the room during childbirth, made the experience far from joyful, in fact, humiliating in many cases.

A nationwide campaign, “Childbirth with Dignity” which empowered women to share their stories, caught international attention, causing government legislative action like Perinatal and Postnatal Care Standards in line with World Health Organization (WHO) standards. Partners are now allowed in the delivery room, mothers can have visitors, and newborns are able to breastfeed, being placed in the mother’s arms to bond right after being born making childbirth an easier experience for mothers.

Childbirth in Dignity Foundation was awarded for their strong advocacy and support of the rights of women and newborns for over 20 years, and for empowering women, as patients, to demand their rights in relation to childbirth.

Both laureates were chosen from among several international nominees, by the Committee for the United Nations Population Award chaired by Paraguay, and including Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Haiti, Iran, Israel and Poland. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) serves as secretariat for the award.

Past laureates selected by the Committee included individuals and organizations, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Dr. Allan Rosenfield, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and the Population Council.

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