Inter Press ServiceWomen’s Health – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 17 Jan 2019 16:51:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Shedding Light on Forced Child Pregnancy and Motherhood in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/shedding-light-forced-child-pregnancy-motherhood-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shedding-light-forced-child-pregnancy-motherhood-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/shedding-light-forced-child-pregnancy-motherhood-latin-america/#respond Mon, 14 Jan 2019 08:35:45 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159601 Research and campaigns by women’s rights advocates are beginning to focus on the problem of Latin American girls under the age of 14 who are forced to bear the children of their rapists, with the lifelong implications that entails and without the protection of public policies guaranteeing their human rights. The Latin American and Caribbean […]

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The Adolescent Girl Holds the Key to Kenya’s Economic Transformation and Prosperityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/adolescent-girl-holds-key-kenyas-economic-transformation-prosperity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=adolescent-girl-holds-key-kenyas-economic-transformation-prosperity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/adolescent-girl-holds-key-kenyas-economic-transformation-prosperity/#respond Mon, 31 Dec 2018 12:58:09 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159448
Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Dr Natalia Kanem, Chief of UNFPA, “We are steadfastly committed to our three goals: Zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and the elimination of harmful practices including violence that affect women and girls”. Credit: UNFPA Tanzania

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 31 2018 (IPS)

Teenage pregnancy in Kenya is a crisis of hope, education and opportunity.

The countdown to a New Year has begun. Can 2019 be a year of affirmative action to ensure hope and opportunity for Kenya’s adolescent girl?

Consider this. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says that when a young adolescent girl is not married during her childhood, is not forced to leave school nor exposed to pregnancies, when she is not high risk of illness and death nor suffering maternal morbidities, when she is not exposed to informal work, insecurity and displacement; and is not drawn into an insecure old age-she becomes an asset for a country’s potential to seize the demographic dividend.

So what is the demographic dividend?

It means when a household has fewer children that they need to take care of, and a larger number of people have decent jobs, the household can save and invest more money. Better nutrition, education and opportunities and more disposable income at the household level. When this happens on a large scale, economies can benefit from a boost of economic growth.

One of the goals of development policies is to create an environment for rapid economic growth. The economic successes of the “Asian Tigers” during the 1960s and 1970s have led to a comprehensive way of thinking about how different sectors can work together to make this growth a reality. This helps explain the experience of some countries in Asia, and later successes in Latin America, and optimism for improving the economic well-being of countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Republic of Korea is the classic example of how its gross domestic product (GDP) grew over 2,000 percent by investing in voluntary family planning coupled with educating the population and preparing them for the types of jobs that were going to be available.

With over 70% of Kenya’s population less than 30 years of age, the country’s favorable demographic ratios could unlock a potential source of demand and growth, Kenya is currently in a “sweet spot”. Fertility levels are declining gradually and Kenyans are living longer. There is reason for optimism that Kenya can benefit from a demographic dividend within 15 to 20 years. It is estimated that its working age population will grow to 73 per cent by 2050, bolstering the country’s GDP per capita 12 times higher than the present, with nearly 90 percent of the working age in employment.

The key to harnessing the demographic dividend is enabling young people and adolescent girls in particular, to enjoy their human rights and achieve their full human potential. Every girl must be empowered, educated and given opportunities for employment, and above all is able to plan her future family, this is the very essence of reaping a demographic dividend.

Each extra year a girl stays in high school, for example, delivers an 11.6 per cent increase in her average annual wage for the rest of her life.

The UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem has said: “We are steadfastly committed to our three goals: Zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and the elimination of harmful practices including violence that affect women and girls”.

So what can be done?

First, end all practices that harm girls. This means, for example, enforcing laws that end female genital mutilations and child marriage.

Second, enable girls to stay in school, at least through high school. Studies have shown the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to become pregnant as an adolescent and the more likely to grow up healthy and join the paid labour force.

Third, reach the marginalized and impoverished girls who have traditionally been left behind.

Forth, make sure girls, before they reach puberty, have access to information about their bodies. Later in adolescence, they need information and services to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Finally, take steps to protect girls’ – and everyone’s – rights.

As we countdown to 2019, let us prioritize the development of every girl’s full human potential. Our collective future depends on it. We must do everything in our power to ignite that potential-for her sake and for the sake of human development and humanity.

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Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Global Anti-Human Trafficking Coalitionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-anti-human-trafficking-coalition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-anti-human-trafficking-coalition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-anti-human-trafficking-coalition/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 18:27:12 +0000 Vladimir Bozovic http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159316 Vladimir Bozovic is Advisor of Government of the Republic of Serbia

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Child labourers rescued in Delhi waiting to be sent back to their villages. Credit: Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

By Vladimir Bozovic
BELGRADE, Serbia, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

Entire human history is one great struggle for freedom. To many, slavery is a synonym for something in the past, for transatlantic slave trade, but, unfortunately, slavery still exists in many different forms.

Records show that over twenty seven million men, women and children still live today in conditions that characterized social form of the slave ownership. They are trapped in forced labor and debt bondage, in domicile work and forced marriages, or they are being exploited by the human traffickers. We can easily speak of slavery as of great tragedy, and the fact that in this day and age still exists, is a downfall of human kind.

Modern slavery is a challenge for every democratic country. Suffering is the same as in the past, but methods are more sophisticated and perfidious, and most of those who suffer are the ones that should be protected the most – poor and socially excluded groups, who often live on the margins of our society, and young women and children. This is not an imaginary problem, it does not happen only to someone else and somewhere else; rather, it is a real threat and anyone can fall victim to.

The very first challenge in fight against slavery must be a cognizance: we must confess a bitter truth that slavery has been weakened, but still exists. Human trafficking is one of the growing forms of transnational crime, characterized by high profit and low risk, and it is followed by a grave statistics. It is crime of economic nature, and most efficiently organized, and we are currently fighting it on inconsistent and fragmented way. That is the dark side of globalization.

The issue of modern slavery is globally recognized by the UN in its millennium goals. Goal 8 is dedicated to increasing labor productivity, reducing the unemployment rate, especially for young people, improving access to financial services and benefits, fight against modern slavery and child labor. So many activities around this particular global goal prove that we don’t live anymore in a selfish world where we don’t consider other nations and their problems. No, the world of todays opens up to the misery of others, and everybody everywhere has to be good, for us to feel good. Employed, productive populations, sustainable economic growth, decent jobs with equal opportunities for fair salaries, safe working environments, social protection, these are all values that will ensure the progress of the entire world, and the whole world will benefit from the creativity, business and innovation of the free people.

Plenty has been done in delivering the Goal 8. UN reports that the average annual growth rate of real GDP per capita worldwide increased, the number of children from 5 to 17 years of age who are working has declined, access to financial services through automated teller machines increased… Plenty has been done, but also plenty has to be done. Child labor remains a serious concern with more than half of child laborers participate in dangerous work and 59% of them work in the agricultural sector; labor productivity has slowed down, the global unemployment rate hasn’t changed from 2016, with women more likely to be unemployed than men across all age groups. Youth were almost three times as likely as adults to be unemployed… It is clear that efforts provide results, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

There was a time we thought that the slavery is forever beaten, only to come back to us in new forms and shapes. That is why the solution must be fresh and brave. The only final answer to this problem is for every country, every government, every agency to work together, to unite and create an Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition that will engage entire society in fight against this crime, and combine all our efforts in protecting our citizens. It should be understood that eradicating the human trafficking is not solely a mission for the police or law enforcement agencies, this is a fight at all levels of society. We should campaign through media with the message that will define the problem, and develop the clear strategy that will unite countries and governments, churches and religious organizations, NGOs, youth, academic communities, media and all other important representatives of the society in one efficient and effective action with clear mechanisms of measuring the results. Everything should be designed in the way that those results are realistic and visible to the present victims, and to provide prevention and protection for potential victims. Time has clearly shown us, that this is one thing we can’t beat alone, nationally, rather, it’s a nick of time to do it globally.

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Vladimir Bozovic is Advisor of Government of the Republic of Serbia

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United Towards Achieving Health For All in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/united-towards-achieving-health-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-towards-achieving-health-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/united-towards-achieving-health-kenya/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 08:45:34 +0000 Sicily Kariuki3 and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159303 Sicily Kariuki is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health in Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta signs the Universal Health Coverage charter during the launch of the UHC pilot programme in Kisumu on 13 December 2018. Photo courtesy: PSCU

By Sicily Kariuki and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

According to Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the implementation of UHC is “more a political than an economic challenge”.

Of all the Sustainable Development Goals, few would rival good health as the definition of a country that has a sustainable, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous future, and the launch this week of the pilot phase of Kenya’s journey towards Universal Health Coverage heralds a major step towards that future.

It was a fitting statement of national intent and unity to make UHC a success in Kenya to see President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto preside over the launch of the pilot programme in Kisumu county. They were joined by erstwhile political contenders, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, united by a shared vision to improve health coverage in Kenya.

Ensuring that the pursuit of good health leaves no one in financial dire straits is a task that requires much more than good intentions. WHO estimates that to achieve SDG target 3.8 requires one billion more people to have universal health coverage by 2023.

In Kenya, health-related expenses are driving about one million into poverty every year, and health care is second only to food in family budgets. These are families that wake up every day to the reality that they could be within just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy and penury.

In demonstration of his commitment to keep health front and centre of the development agenda, President Kenyatta has identified health as one of the key pillars of his legacy.

The promise of UHC is based on real-life experiences of countries with whom we have much in common. The transformation of countries now known as Asian Tigers was largely driven by investments in the health of the citizens, with special focus on sexual and reproductive health.

When the health of the mother is provided for, the cyclical benefits in terms of physical and cognitive development of the subsequent generations is assured.

The Ministry of Health has been working with the United Nations (UN) in Kenya & various stakeholders to identify what interventions represent the most effective pathways for attaining UHC in Kenya. These partners include civil society and the private sector.

Our vision is for approaches that are not just affordable, but those that promote equity and effectiveness, ensuring that the rights of the most vulnerable are not forgotten, as the central tenet of universality.

Kenya also announced that UHC will involve scaling up immunization, prevention of water borne, vector borne, TB, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, improving maternal and child health as well as nutrition of women who conceive. Kenya will also focus on prevention of non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

Our mission is to deliver a robust system that will reach out to those who have been left behind. Through community health workers and volunteers, we know that a few more vaccines will be delivered to children in a remote village; there might be new case of an infectious outbreak detected, reported and averted.

It is because of the primacy of these community volunteers as frontline workers and their role in the achievement of UHC that the Government has established a fund to provide a stipend as an incentive for the workers.

The partnership between the Ministry and the UN system in Kenya is steadily building the foundations for a responsive health system for communities, for whom health was inaccessible, unaffordable or altogether unavailable.

In the frontier counties of North-eastern Kenya, flagship programmes such as the Area-based joint programme with the county of Turkana are steadily delivering results. We are targeting not just dramatic, overnight success, but the incremental changes that for instance involve building the capacity of community health workers to deliver primary health care.

Investing in making progress towards universal health coverage, they lay the foundation for making progress towards all the other health targets and other goals – like ending poverty, improving gender equality, decent work and economic growth, and more.

With Kenya’s Vision 2030 ambition of providing a high quality of life to all its citizens, the most urgent need is to ensure that everyone stays healthy to participate in economic development.

The Government of Kenya and UN partnership is committed to make Kenya the blueprint for the rest of Africa on how Universal Health Coverage can be attained.

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Excerpt:

Sicily Kariuki is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health in Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Political Commitment Key to Health for Allhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/political-commitment-key-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=political-commitment-key-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/political-commitment-key-health/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 13:46:45 +0000 Ban Ki-moon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159198 One of my proudest accomplishments as the former UN secretary-general was playing a part in the ambitious global agenda for sustainable development (SDGs), including the goal of universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030. Kenya’s leadership was key. To give momentum to the SDGs an Open Working Group was established in 2013. One of the co-chairs […]

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Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations Offices in Nairobi, October 30, 2014. Credit: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

By Ban Ki-moon
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 12 2018 (IPS)

One of my proudest accomplishments as the former UN secretary-general was playing a part in the ambitious global agenda for sustainable development (SDGs), including the goal of universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030.

Kenya’s leadership was key. To give momentum to the SDGs an Open Working Group was established in 2013. One of the co-chairs of the working group was Ambassador Macharia Kamau, who was the Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN.

As the world celebrates UHC Day on 12 December 2018, more and more countries across Africa, including Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal, are taking up the mantle of health for all and providing strong leadership to make the vision a reality.

Health is a fundamental human right. Good health helps people escape poverty, and provides the basis for long-term economic development.

The UN Secretary General Mr Antonio Guterres has said, “When we invest in health – particularly of women and adolescents – we build more inclusive and resilient societies.”

With 11 million Africans being pushed into extreme poverty each year because of high out-of-pocket expenses on health, there is an urgent need to explore innovative models that provide adequate care alongside financial protection.

One country which could provide a blueprint for others to follow is Kenya, where the president is personally invested in delivering UHC.

I forged a strong connection with President Uhuru Kenyatta over our shared commitment to maternal and child health. In 2015, at the UN General Assembly in our presence, a public-private partnership to improve the health of over 3.5 million women, newborns and children in Kenya was announced. Led by the Government of Kenya, it brought together the UN, the private sector and civil society to leapfrog improvements in maternal and child health.

We found a strong advocate in First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, whose Beyond Zero Campaign ensured the scale-up of proven interventions to improve maternal and child health. The government also moved to eliminate payments for primary and maternal health services in public facilities.

These were important first steps.

Now I am heartened by Kenya’s remarkable political commitment to expand UHC to include every man, women and child. Affordable health care is one of the top priorities of President Kenyatta’s “Big Four” development agenda for his second term in office.

To achieve progress at such a rapid pace, Kenya plans to increase health spending by nearly 20% between 2018 and 2021 and strengthen primary health care. The country has set out to design a model that provides quality health care while ensuring it remains affordable.

Approaches are being tested over one year in four counties – each with its particular health challenges. These pilots aim to identify gaps in delivering UHC before nationwide rollout so that lessons can be learned. The acid test will be how quickly the country can go to scale and ensure no one is left behind.

Big data, technology and innovation will be critical to achieve progress at scale. Eight countries in Africa, including Kenya, have committed to use data to identify priority areas for health systems improvement, track and trend progress over time, and enhance accountability by using a new Primary Health Care Performance Initiative tool.

According to a forthcoming analysis by McKinsey, Kenya will need an investment of US$6 billion over and above government resources and individual subscriptions in the next decade to reach government targets for primary health care.

The Government of Kenya and the UN family in Kenya have come together to form the Kenya Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Partnership Platform, which is bringing together civil society and the private sector to catalyze new models for quality, affordable health care delivery. They are seeking new ways to unlock health care financing, which has been identified by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation as a best practice.

The reforms Kenya is pursuing will have a major impact on people’s lives and livelihoods and help stem poverty. Nearly 1 million Kenyans are being pushed below the poverty line every year as a result of catastrophic out-of-pocket expenses.

With such high-level political commitment, I am confident that Kenya will forge its own way with courage and resolve by ensuring the health and well-being of all its citizens.

Ban Ki-moon is a former UN Secretary General, and former South Korean Foreign Minister. He is the co-chair of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens. The Centre was founded in 2017 and is co-chaired by Ban Ki-moon and by Heinz Fischer, President of the Republic of Austria from 2004 – 2016.

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Asia-Pacific Takes Stock of Ambitious Development Targetshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/asia-pacific-takes-stock-ambitious-development-targets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asia-pacific-takes-stock-ambitious-development-targets http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/asia-pacific-takes-stock-ambitious-development-targets/#respond Wed, 28 Nov 2018 05:16:58 +0000 Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana and Natalia Kanem 2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158909 Ministers and senior policymakers across Asia and the Pacific are gathered in Bangkok this week to focus on population dynamics at a crucial time for the region. Their goal: to keep people and rights at the heart of the region’s push for sustainable development. They will be considering how successful we have been in balancing […]

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By Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana and Natalia Kanem
BANGKOK, Thailand, Nov 28 2018 (IPS)

Ministers and senior policymakers across Asia and the Pacific are gathered in Bangkok this week to focus on population dynamics at a crucial time for the region. Their goal: to keep people and rights at the heart of the region’s push for sustainable development. They will be considering how successful we have been in balancing economic growth with social imperatives, underpinned by rights and choices for all as enshrined in the landmark Programme of Action stemming from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, or ICPD.

In the Programme of Action, diverse views on population, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, and sustainable development merged into a remarkable global consensus that placed individual dignity and human rights at the heart of development.

Truly revolutionary at the time, ICPD remains all the more urgent and relevant a quarter-century later, in this era of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its Sustainable Development Goals. Without ICPD we would not have the SDGs, and indeed they go hand in hand. The ICPD is a dedicated vehicle through which we can – and will – address, achieve and fulfill the SDGs.

How well have we responded to trends such as population ageing and international migration? How successful have we been in ensuring optimal sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights for all, including the right to choose when or whether to get married and when or whether to have children, and how many? How well have we done in strengthening gender equality and women’s empowerment, and upholding the rights of the most vulnerable among us? Where should our efforts be refocused to leave no one behind?

Asia and the Pacific has much to celebrate. The region remains the engine of global growth and at the forefront of the global fight against poverty. It is now home to half the world’s middle class. The share of the population living in poverty has dropped considerably although it is still unacceptably high. People are living, longer healthier lives. Rights-based family planning has contributed to considerable economic success and women’s empowerment. And we are on track to achieve universal education by 2030.

Yet for all this growth, considerable injustices remain. On its current trajectory, the region will fall short of achieving the 2030 Agenda. In several areas we are heading in altogether the wrong direction. Inequalities within and between countries are widening. Some 1.2 billion people live in poverty of which 400 million live in extreme poverty. Lack of decent job opportunities and access to essential services are perpetuating injustice across generations.

At the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), we are keen to shine the spotlight on three key issues where regional commitment is vital.

First, we need to respond to the unprecedented population changes unfolding across the Asia-Pacific region. Many countries are facing a rapidly ageing population. The proportion of people above the age of sixty is expected to more than double by 2050. Effectively meeting the needs of an ageing society and ensuring healthy and productive lives must be a priority. This requires a life cycle approach – from pregnancy and childbirth, through adolescence and adulthood, to old age – ensuring that all people are allowed to fulfil their socioeconomic potential, underpinned by individual rights and choices.

Equally, there is a strong case for strengthening Asia-Pacific’s response to international migration. Migrants can, when allowed, contribute significantly to development. However, we know that migrants are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. So, our ambition is for discussions this week to build further momentum in support of safe, orderly and regular migration to fully harness its development benefits.

Second, there is clear evidence the region must spend more on social protection, as well as on health care and education. Today, social protection is the preserve of a few, rather than a right for all. As a result, 60 per cent of our population are at risk of being trapped in vulnerability or pushed into poverty by sickness, disability, unemployment or old age, often underpinned by gender inequality. The “Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific: Poorly Protected”, which ESCAP will publish later this week, sets out why expanding social protection is the most effective means of reducing poverty, strengthening rights and making vulnerable groups less exposed. Many women, migrants, older persons and rural communities would also benefit. Our evidence suggests it could even end extreme poverty in several countries by 2030.

Third, we need to invest in generating disaggregated data to tell us who is being left behind to ensure our response to population dynamics is targeted and credible. Availability of data on social and demographic issues lag far behind anything related to the economy. Millions of births remain unregistered, leading to the denial of many basic rights, particularly to women and girls. Of the 43 countries which conducted a census between 2005 and 2014, only 16 have reliable data on international migration. With the 2020 round of censuses upon us, we will be redoubling our efforts to close these data gaps by strengthening new partnerships for data capacity and working with governments and other partners to translate data into policy and action.

The Midterm Review of the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development as well as the Committee on Social Development provide the region with an opportunity to speak with one voice on population and development issues. ESCAP and UNFPA stand united in their commitment to supporting their Member States to build and strengthen a regional response to issues that will shape the future for generations to come.

We look to this week’s discussions to galvanize countries behind the ambition and vision that link ICPD and the SDGs and accelerate work to leave no one behind in Asia and the Pacific.

Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

Dr. Natalia Kanem is United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

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Teenage Pregnancy in Kenya: A Crisis of Health, Education and Opportunityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 10:50:36 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158723 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Education CS Amina Mohamed chats with form four candidates of Mama Ngina Secondary School a few minutes before KCSE exams. Credit: Standard

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

That almost one in five Kenyan teenage girls is a mother represents not only a huge cost to the health sector, but also a betrayal of potential on a shocking scale.

November 20, 2018 marks International Children’s Day. Perhaps a day we should use to reflect on a national crisis of underage pregnancies that confronts us.

Recent media reports of the high number of girls failing to sit their final secondary school examinations (KSCE) only reveal the extent to which we have continued to sweep under the carpet candid discussions about adolescent sexuality.

Kenya’s Education Cabinet Secretary, Amina Mohamed said that the country must confront this worrying trend. “We must have this conversation. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. It is happening to our children, our sisters, and even our young brothers. We will deal with it or it will not go away”. No doubt CS Mohamed has a tough job ahead.

Consider this. Statistics from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) indicate that between June 2016 and July 2017, 378,397 adolescents in Kenya aged 10 to 19 got pregnant.

The carpet’s edges are now too frayed to conceal our failure to act; we no longer can afford the blissful pretence about sexual activity among our teenagers. Nor can the responsibility for decisive solutions be shunted around.

Numerous studies have documented the fact that a high number of teens are already sexually active. These young girls are part of the four in ten women in Kenya aged between 15 and 49 who have unintended pregnancies. There can be no illusions about what they need: accurate, up-to-date information and access to effective contraception.

It is time to take a wholesome picture of the social and economic price society is paying when 15 percent of its teenage girls become pregnant. For virtually all of them – and statistics say majority are from poor families – it means an end to any dreams of coming out of poverty because they cannot continue with education.

Complications during pregnancy are the second cause of death for 15 to 19-year-old girls, therefore it means their already poor families have additional health care costs to meet. Children born to such young mothers are more prone to physical and cognitive development.

The overall effect is a perpetuation of the cycle of poverty that brings personal catastrophe while weakening social and economic development and adding strain to already stretched medical services.

In reproductive health, as in most things, knowledge is power. But across sub-Saharan Africa too many teenage girls lack knowledge of their bodies, their contraceptive options, and their rights. The notion of rights is central.

As the UNFPA report The Power of Choice states, in countries where rights to health, education and opportunity prevail, fertility rates tend to be lower. Through exercising their wider rights, people exercise choice about the timing and number of their children.

The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of 2014 that shows girls who have completed secondary education have an average of three children in their lifetimes compared to an average 6.5 for those with no education. Additionally, around 60% of girls who have completed primary and secondary school use some form of modern contraception compared to only 15% of those with no education.

That almost one in five Kenyan teenage girls is a mother represents not only a huge cost to the health sector, but also a betrayal of potential on a shocking scale.

“The girl child in this country is under threat from all manner of vices, including early pregnancy and female genital mutilation and many other kinds of nonsense that affect our communities. These things have no basis for the development of our country” said the Deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto.

The underlying drivers of teenage pregnancy are complex and include gender inequality, child marriage, poverty, sexual violence, and poor education and job opportunities. To be successful, efforts to reduce the incidence of teenage pregnancy must address all these elements through comprehensive programmes of behaviour change, social and economic development, health and sex education, reproductive rights, and gender equality.

Crucially, such efforts must also include boys and men, whose attitude to girls and women underpin many pervasive social problems in Kenya and across the world.

Reproductive rights and health are also central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 3 on ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all ages.

As the UN family in Kenya we are working in partnership with government, civil society, religious and youth groups to extend access to sexual and reproductive health information, counselling and services for young people. We intend to step this up.

Three years ago, Kenya launched the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy. Unless bold decisions are made to implement that policy, pregnancies among our youth will continue to be a wrecking ball to the national development agenda particularly the Big Four and the SDGs.

In order for every girl to achieve her full human potential, how can the entire country be engaged to initiate a change in mindset in Kenya? How can a national conversation on this subject be leveraged into national action?

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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The value of a health schemehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/value-health-scheme/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=value-health-scheme http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/value-health-scheme/#respond Fri, 26 Oct 2018 06:28:32 +0000 Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158372   The challenges for the success of Ayushman Bharat are more than just at the financial and infrastructural level On September 24, the government launched the grand government-funded healthcare scheme, the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY). While some see its ambitious goals as its main strength, others are sceptical given the inadequate funding […]

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By Vani S. Kulkarni
PHILADELPHIA, Oct 26 2018 (IPS)

 

The challenges for the success of Ayushman Bharat are more than just at the financial and infrastructural level

On September 24, the government launched the grand government-funded healthcare scheme, the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY). While some see its ambitious goals as its main strength, others are sceptical given the inadequate funding for the scheme, the weak infrastructure of primary health care centres, and the time required for the goals to be accomplished. However, nobody disputes the imperative of an insurance scheme as vast as the PMJAY, since every year about 36 million families, or 14% of households, face a medical bill that is equal to the entire annual living expenses of one member of the family. This frequently pushes many families into penury.

Two schemes, one focus

The euphoria over this scheme is reminiscent of the excitement over the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), launched in 2008. Although the PMJAY is much wider in its reach than the RSBY (it covers 50 crore beneficiaries with ₹3,500 crore of government spending and provides benefits up to ₹5 lakh per eligible family), the central framework is the same: universal health care and health rights. The emerging discourse surrounding the PMJAY scheme resonates with those of RSBY. The focus continues to be on the top-down, deductive reasoning of the scheme, including issues such as allocation of funds for each illness, the types of care provided, financial considerations for empanelment of hospitals, types of illnesses covered, and transaction costs. These considerations matter. However, there are important missing links.

Vani S. Kulkarni

My recent study of RSBY in Karnataka yielded important insights that are pertinent here. Given that RSBY was embedded within the framework of universal health care and health rights, it is appropriate to pay attention to the existence of health rights in a local set-up. I discovered that the way beneficiaries of RSBY (Below Poverty Line households) perceived the scheme was not as a health right but in terms of the value it imparted, which was measured along multiple dimensions.

Households initially measured the value of the RSBY in terms of its material benefit and measurable impact. This included the financial ease it provided in taking care of illnesses, the expense and types of illnesses that the card covered, and the transaction costs it entailed — how easy it would be to use the card in terms of bureaucratic paperwork and formal procedures.

Beyond the visible impact

However, households also valued the RSBY beyond its visible impact. They had little value for the RSBY because of many reasons. One, officials who distributed the RSBY smart card did not provide information on how to use the card. Two, hospitals did not respect patients with the card, believing that they were availing medical care free of cost. Sometimes they did not honour the card either due to inaccuracy of fingerprints or lack of money on the card. Three, neighbours and family members did not discuss the utilisation of the card, making households perceive the card as just a showpiece: important to possess but not useful. Four, the lack of involvement and endorsement by local leaders further diminished the value of the card for the households.

The value of the RSBY was also derived in relation to the value of health itself. The difficulty in understanding the basic facts of the card and using it led households to opt for seeking medical care without the card. The value for one’s health undermined the value for the RSBY. As one household subsequent to repeated failed attempts to use the card lamented: “We lost time and money, and our illness got worse all because we wanted to use the card. I tell you, if you want to get well, if you really value your health, you cannot rely on this health card.” Next, the value of the RSBY card was derived in relation to the cultural ethos of health insurance. For a significant number of households, health insurance was perceived as a “bad omen” indicating the arrival of sickness and disease.

As the delivery of universal health care and health rights find yet another expression in India through the PMJAY scheme, it is more important than ever before to explore how citizens exercise their right to health and understand how it could be better practised. The biggest challenges for the success of the PMJAY scheme are not just financial and infrastructural at the local level, but how its value is perceived by the community.

Vani S. Kulkarni teaches sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, U.S. Views are personal

This article was first published in The Hindu.

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The Fight for the Right to Abortion Spreads in Latin America Despite Politicianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians/#comments Thu, 23 Aug 2018 22:41:33 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157331 The Argentine Senate’s rejection of a bill to legalise abortion did not stop a Latin American movement, which is on the streets and is expanding in an increasingly coordinated manner among women’s organisations in the region with the most restrictive laws and policies against pregnant women’s right to choose. Approved in Argentina by the Chamber […]

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The Legalization of Abortion in Argentina will Benefit Thousands of Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/legalization-abortion-will-benefit-thousands-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=legalization-abortion-will-benefit-thousands-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/legalization-abortion-will-benefit-thousands-women/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 09:19:39 +0000 Nelly Minyersky http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157123 The author of this oped, Nelly Minyersky, is a lawyer and family law specialist, writing for Amnesty International

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A demonstration in support of legal abortion in Argentina. Credit: Demian Marchi/Amnesty International

A demonstration in support of legal abortion in Argentina. Credit: Demian Marchi/Amnesty International

By Nelly Minyersky
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

We are at an historic moment in Argentina, a turning point in the path of women’s rights.

Although women in Argentina enjoy a regulatory framework that can be considered progressive in Latin America (regardless of its efficiency and/or effectiveness), it is clear that criminalization of abortion (Art. 86 of the Criminal Code of the Nation) constitutes a flagrant violation of a plethora of rights that are legitimately ours and which are enshrined in the National Constitution and Human Rights Treaties. These texts form a body of constitutional rules and regulations that include the right to freedom, equality, autonomy, to freedom from discrimination, to public health, family planning, etc.

For decades, Argentine women have been fighting to break the iron fist that attempts to decide our destiny and our life choices for us. One sector of society and the state exercise power over the lives and autonomy of women without mentioning the illegitimacy and immorality of their position, turning legitimate behaviour (such as sexual relations) into potentially criminal action.

These people do not understand that when the human rights platform is expanded (such as through the decriminalization and legalization of abortion), no-one is forced to exercise those rights. The beliefs and conscience of each individual empowers them to invoke such rights or not, as they see fit. Maintaining the current situation therefore involves imposing beliefs on a wide sector of society, with the state interfering in the private lives of pregnant women.

Through their action, the anti-rights or “pro-life” sector, as they call themselves, imposes authoritarian restrictions on the life and destiny of a majority of women in our country. They prevent women from enjoying human rights that relate fundamentally to the most intimate, private and deep aspects of their personality: their sexual freedom, family planning, when, how and with whom to have children.

The tragedy is that these positions are held without any minimum or essential basis in the biological or legal sciences. They have tried, vexatiously, to place the embryo and/or fetus on an equal footing with women in all rights and aspects, and to give equal weight to the embryo and to the life of the woman, even though this latter physically exists and is a legal and moral person. In their presentations, they show videos which, in reality, are premature births and not abortions, they falsify statistics and refer to techniques that neither exist nor are practised in this country, with the sole aim of deceiving society.

Nelly Minyersky

They also incorrectly refer to Human Rights Treaties, particularly the Pact of San José, with regard to references to the right of a person as from the moment of conception. The proper interpretation of this article, as noted in the Pact itself and in the way in which the Convention was approved, makes it clear that this wording was intended to protect norms that already respected terminations taking place in Latin America.

We must also not forget that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the CEDAW Committee have both repeatedly called on the Argentine State to protect women and adolescents of all ages by making available to them the legal and other means that will help to prevent forced pregnancies and by amending abortion laws.

The draft Law on Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy is an enormous step forward in the recognition of women’s autonomy. It accepts the principles of bioethics, which are based on express recognition of human dignity as a founding principle. It completely decriminalizes consensual abortion up to and including week 14.

It maintains that women should not be penalized when they have been the victim of rape or where there is a risk to the mother’s life, and includes norms such as informed consent and the right of adolescents to seek medical care even without the presence of an adult (on the understanding that it is a bioethical duty to treat any person within the health system who, when faced with rejection, would clearly opt for the worst solution). It also includes a duty on the part of the health service to prevent, inform and support. In the context of a plural society, neither bioethics nor the law can be subordinate to “a moral duty”.

After decades of fighting for the decriminalization and legalization of abortion, spearheaded by members of the “National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion” (Campaña Nacional por el Derecho al Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito) which, in recent years, has been calling for laws to be passed in this regard and has submitted draft bills on seven opportunities,  a debate and preliminary approval have finally been achieved in Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies, with more than a million people of different genders and ages protesting in the streets of the city.

In accordance with our legislative procedure, the draft is now therefore being considered in the Senate, with a vote due on the 8th of this month. On that day, there will be two million people on the streets of Buenos Aires to support and demand approval of a law that the women of Argentina deserve.

Approval of this law, which already has preliminary legislative approval, will offer health and quality of life benefits to thousands upon thousands of girls, teenagers and women. We must not be afraid when debates result in an extension of rights, and in full equality before the law and in life.

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Excerpt:

The author of this oped, Nelly Minyersky, is a lawyer and family law specialist, writing for Amnesty International

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No Time to Slow Down While HIV/AIDS is Threatening a New Generationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/no-time-slow-hivaids-threatening-new-generation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-time-slow-hivaids-threatening-new-generation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/no-time-slow-hivaids-threatening-new-generation/#respond Fri, 27 Jul 2018 11:49:12 +0000 Dr Chewe Luo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156916 Dr Chewe Luo is Global Chief of HIV/AIDS for UNICEF

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Credit: UNICEF

By Dr Chewe Luo
AMSTERDAM, Jul 27 2018 (IPS)

As the 22nd International AIDS Conference wraps up in Amsterdam, I can’t help but reflect on how far we have come on this journey with the AIDS epidemic.

When I first qualified as a pediatrician in Zambia some 30 years ago, Southern Africa was only just awakening to the magnitude of the AIDS crisis starting to play out in the region. Some governments famously refused to acknowledge the severity of the epidemic and questioned even the existence of HIV and its connection to AIDS.

Zambia had its moment of shocked awareness when the 30 year-old son of President Kenneth Kaunda died, and his father announced that the cause had been AIDS.

Around us, the epidemic was taking its toll on the able-bodied as mothers and fathers fell ill and died, leaving their children – sometimes infected, sometimes not – in the care of grandmothers, or aunts, or orphanages, or to fend for themselves any way they could.

We are a long way from that place now. What has made the difference? Availability and accessibility of treatment, of course, but perhaps even more importantly, concerted action from entire segments of society focused on bringing the epidemic under control.

Among the heroes in the fight against the epidemic, I would single out:

• Activists like ActUp, GMHC, South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign, and others, who galvanized global outrage at the glaring disparities between global North and the global South.

• The Governments of Brazil, South Africa, and India, which asserted the right to access for medicines by all, persisting in the face of implacable corporate resistance, till the pharmaceutical industry allowed generic versions of the treatments which inhibit HIV.

• The numerous researchers who tested combinations of drugs, and adapted them for different populations, such as young children and lactating mothers.

• The generic manufacturers who were able to combine drugs into fixed dose combinations that were affordable and accessible to poor countries.

• And ordinary health workers, intergovernmental and to civil society organizations who believed that the epidemic could be defeated.

 

Where are we now? UNICEF’s latest report, Women: At the heart of the HIV response for children allows optimism. Take Southern Africa as an example. Some 57,000 babies became newly infected with HIV in 2017 in the region. This is still far too many, but infections in the region peaked in 2002 at 170,000, so this is a massive decrease in 15 years. Deaths in the region are also coming down, from a peak of 110,000 in 2004 to 33,000 last year.

However, if there is one thing that came across very clearly in Amsterdam this week, it is that we cannot afford to let up. This is especially crucial for the children and young people who are now face to face with the virus.

The child population is set to rise in sub-Saharan Africa, from 560 million in 2018 to 710 million by 2030. The region still has the overwhelming share of HIV/AIDS cases, and it is not coming down in key groups such as adolescents. So ‘youth bulge’ is about to meet HIV/AIDS – and that could be a cataclysmic crash.

HIV/AIDS is not under control in West and Central Africa, which we project will overtake Eastern and Southern Africa by 2050 as the region with the highest number of new HIV infections – without urgent action now.

What we know is that despite the progress, what has brought us here is not enough to take us all the way. We need passion and leadership, which served us well in the past, but we also need innovative technology – like the promising HIV self-testing which removes some of the barriers for adolescents.

We need advances in treatment and prevention. We need to strengthen the human rights approach to HIV. All people, whatever their age, should have the right to the service that will keep them free of HIV or keep them healthy if they get it. And we need continued investment in programmes and people.

Finally, we need bold and inspired leadership, infused with creativity, energy and optimism — a new generation of activist leaders, to tackle these challenges directly.

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Excerpt:

Dr Chewe Luo is Global Chief of HIV/AIDS for UNICEF

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Family Planning Is A Human Righthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/family-planning-human-right/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=family-planning-human-right http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/family-planning-human-right/#comments Wed, 11 Jul 2018 07:32:15 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156639 It has been five decades since the international community affirmed the right to family planning but women still remain unable to enjoy this right, which is increasingly under attack around the world. For World Population Day, held annually on Jul. 11, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has focused its attention on “Family Planning is […]

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A basket of condoms passed around during International Women’s Day in Manila. Without publicly funded family planning services or information, we can only expect to see higher rates of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and infant mortality in the U.S. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

It has been five decades since the international community affirmed the right to family planning but women still remain unable to enjoy this right, which is increasingly under attack around the world.

For World Population Day, held annually on Jul. 11, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has focused its attention on “Family Planning is a Human Right,” and aptly so.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights where family planning was, for the first time, understood to be a human right.“Chipping away at women’s access to information is a direct attack on their access to healthcare, and the right to make informed autonomous decisions about their lives and their bodies,” said Human Rights Watch’s Senior Researcher Amanda Klasing.

“Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children,” the Tehran Proclamation from the conference states.

The historic meeting also linked the right to the “dignity and worth of the human person.”

“Family planning is not only a matter of human rights; it is also central to women’s empowerment, reducing poverty, and achieving sustainable development,” said UNFPA’s Executive Director Natalia Kanem.

However, in developing countries, more than 200 million women still lack safe and effective family planning methods largely due to the lack of information or services.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently found that clinical guidelines are followed in less than 50 percent of cases in poorer nations, resulting in “deficient” family planning.

In such circumstances and without access to contraception, women and girls often turn to dangerous methods such as ingesting or inserting vinegar, which can cause bodily damage.

UNFPA found that in one country, the stiff plastic wrapper of an ice popsicle is used as a replacement for condoms which could result in genital lacerations.

While such practices have generally decreased, countries like Yemen where conflict has restricted access to family planning are seeing more women using unsafe, traditional methods of contraception.

In other places such as the United States, family planning is deliberately under attack.

Just a year after implementing the global gag rule, which cuts off international family planning funds to any foreign nongovernmental organization who advocate or even give information about abortion, the Trump administration is now turning inwards and targeting its own.

Title X is a USD300 million government programme dedicated to helping the four million low-income women who wish to access birth control and other family planning services

However, new proposed regulations echo a sense of a “domestic gag rule” by restricting people’s access to family planning care. One such proposal forbids doctors from counselling patients with unplanned pregnancies about their reproductive options and instead advocates coercing pregnant patients towards having children regardless of their own wishes.

The scenario can already be seen playing out across the country.

Recently in California, the Supreme Court reversed a law that required crisis pregnancy centres, which often trick women into believing they provide family planning services, to provide full disclosure.

The Supreme Court found that it “imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill their protected speech.”

“It’s clear the U.S. government is taking more and more swipes at a fundamental aspect of the right to health—the right to information,” said Human Rights Watch’s Senior Researcher Amanda Klasing.

“Chipping away at women’s access to information is a direct attack on their access to healthcare, and the right to make informed autonomous decisions about their lives and their bodies,” she continued.

Withholding such essential resources and information from women also heightens the risk of ill-health or even death for newborns.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, women with unintended pregnancies, which is often higher among the poor, often receive worse prenatal care and poor birth outcomes. When women are able to decide when to have children and space out their pregnancies, their children are less likely to be born prematurely or have low birth weights.

Already, a study found that U.S. babies are three times more likely to die compared to 19 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development largely due to high poverty rates and a weak social safety net.

Without publicly funded family planning services or information, we can only expect to see higher rates of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and infant mortality in the U.S.

And now with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has a history of undermining women’s reproductive freedom, we may even see worse including the dismantling of the historic Roe v. Wade case which legalised abortions.

If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care and meeting all family planning needs, the international community should not forget its affirmation at the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights.

“Investments in family planning today are investments in the health and well-being of women for generations to come,” Kanem concluded.

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Age Appropriate Sexuality Education for Youth Key to National Progresshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2018 05:52:36 +0000 Josephine Kibaru and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156636 Fifty years ago at the International Conference on Human Rights, family planning was affirmed to be a human right. It is therefore apt that the theme for this year’s World Population Day is a loud reminder of this fundamental right. It is a right that communities especially in Africa have for long held from its […]

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A community health volunteer informs community members about various methods of family planning. Photo Credit: UNFPA Kenya

By Dr. Josephine Kibaru-Mbae and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

Fifty years ago at the International Conference on Human Rights, family planning was affirmed to be a human right. It is therefore apt that the theme for this year’s World Population Day is a loud reminder of this fundamental right.

It is a right that communities especially in Africa have for long held from its youth, with parents shying off from the subject and policymakers largely equivocal. The result is that the continent has the highest numbers of teenagers joining the ranks of parenthood through unintended pregnancies.

The statistics are disquieting: as per the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS 2014), one in every five adolescent girls has either had a live birth, or is pregnant with her first child. Among the 19-year olds, this doubles to two out of ten. In a recent study, six out of ten girls surveyed in two Nairobi slums reported having had an unintended pregnancy.

Among sexually active unmarried adolescents, only about half use any form of contraceptives, yet only one in three women and one in four men, per the same study, knew the correct timing regarding when a woman is likely to get pregnant.

The World Population Day should awaken us all to the critical role of those in authority in ensuring children grow up not only in an atmosphere of love and understanding, but also that they live to their full potential.

Young mothers are four times more likely than those over 20, to die in pregnancy or childbirth, according to the World Health Organization. If they live, they are more likely to drop out of school and to be poor than if they didn’t get pregnant. And their children are more prone to have behavioral problems as adolescents, which means they are also more likely to stay poor. This cycle of poverty has to be stopped.

Unfortunately, ideological and cultural fault lines appear every time discussions about teaching the youth about taking responsibility for their sexual and reproductive health.

As debates continue, the toll is unrelenting, with complications in pregnancy and childbirth being the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries. The rate of new HIV infections among adolescents is rising, from 29% in 2013 to 51% in 2015.

The traditional role of families and communities as primary sources of reproductive health information and support has dissipated, replaced by peers and social media. Though the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy of 2015 aims to address young people’s health and well-being, help realise gender equality and reduce inequalities, much remains to be done to implement the good intentions of the policy.

Yet evidence from many countries has shown that structured, age appropriate sexuality education provides a platform for providing information about sexuality and relationships, based on evidence and facts, in a manner that is positive, that builds their skills.

Scientific evidence shows that when young people are empowered with correct information they are less likely to engage in early or in unprotected sex. This is attributable to the fact that they can undertake risk analysis and make informed decisions.

The ultimate goal for Kenya’s population programmes should be anchored on the demographic dividend paradigm. In short, in which areas should we invest our resources so that we can achieve the rapid fertility decline that can change the age structure to one dominated by working-age adults?

Countries such as the Asian Tigers, that have achieved rapid economic growth have strong family planning programmes that help women to avoid unplanned pregnancies and have the smaller families. Family planning is a key tool for reducing poverty since it frees up women to work and leads to smaller families, allowing parents to devote more resources to each child’s health and education.

First, we must make the obvious investments in reproductive health information and services for all who need them. The other key enablers for the demographic dividend window of opportunity include quality education to match economic opportunities, investing in the creation of new jobs in growing economic sectors and good governance

Second, education, especially for girls, increases the average age at marriage and lowers family size preferences. However, it must also be education that aims to promote the supply of a large and highly educated labour force, which can be easily integrated into economic sectors.

Third, Kenya must therefore identify the skills that are specific to the country’s strongest growing economic sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing.

Finally, combining sound health and education policies with an economic and governance environment that favours capital accumulation and investment will move Kenya closer towards experiencing the economic spur of the demographic dividend.

As the country takes strides towards the achievement of Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals targets, all stakeholders including the United Nations, the government of Kenya, faith based communities, parents and others should all work together to empower adolescents and young people for positive health outcomes.

Young people are the backbone of this country and we owe them the best investment for the future through a multi-sectoral approach. Failure to do that means any national transformative agenda, including the SDGs and the Big Four, will be difficult to achieve.

Josephine Kibaru-Mbae
(@NCPDKenya) is the Director-General, National Council for Population and Development, Govt of Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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Declining Birth Rates Not Exclusive to Wealthy Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/declining-birth-rates-not-exclusive-wealthy-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=declining-birth-rates-not-exclusive-wealthy-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/declining-birth-rates-not-exclusive-wealthy-nations/#comments Mon, 02 Jul 2018 20:15:42 +0000 Ranjit Devraj http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156508 Countries do not have to be economically prosperous to move from a situation of high birth and death rates to low fertility and mortality rates. Education, social security, environments conducive to economic development and good value systems are what promote this, as evidenced by the recorded experiences of Asian countries as far apart as Japan […]

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Countries do not have to be economically prosperous to move from high birth and death rates to low fertility and mortality rates. In India as the female literacy rate increased from 39 percent to 65 percent, the fertility rate dropped. These women pictured are studying an IT short course. Credit: Ranjita Biswas/IPS

By Ranjit Devraj
NEW DELHI, Jul 2 2018 (IPS)

Countries do not have to be economically prosperous to move from a situation of high birth and death rates to low fertility and mortality rates.

Education, social security, environments conducive to economic development and good value systems are what promote this, as evidenced by the recorded experiences of Asian countries as far apart as Japan and India.

According to Dr. Osamu Kusumoto, Secretary-General of the Asian Population Development Association, the economy and demographic transition or DT are indirectly rather than directly correlated.

Demographic transition is the theory that holds that countries move from a situation of high birth and death rates to low fertility and low mortality rates as they industrialise. However, in more recent times, the theory has been hit by contradictions and there are debates over whether industrialisation leads to declining population or whether lower populations lead to industrialisation and higher incomes.“At the same time the spread of healthcare and public health services promote mortality transition or lowered death rates. But, with real prosperity there is potential for fertility to rise again.”

Thus, according to Kusumoto, in high-income oil-producing countries, DT is unlikely to advance unless the countries also implement modern economic systems.

There are also debates around such inter-related DT issues as higher female incomes, old-age security and the demand for human capital with experiences differing across countries and regions.

As a country transitions, the cost of education rises creating relative poverty and promoting fertility transition, or a lowered birth rate, says Kusumoto. “At the same time the spread of healthcare and public health services promote mortality transition or lowered death rates. But with real prosperity there is potential for fertility to rise again.”

Kusumoto cites the example of Japan where, even with high per-capita incomes, people live in relative poverty and find unaffordable the high cost of educating children. “It is possible to say that fertility declines, even when social security systems are in place and old-age pensions are provided for, because people will make the rational choice of avoiding the cost of having children through marriage and childbirth.”

Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 per woman, which has caused the population to decline by one million in the last five years.

What people in Japan fail to realise, adds Kusumoto, is that without children the social security system becomes unsustainable and cannot support them in old age.

Meanwhile India, a developing country that is home to the world’s second-largest population, the total fertility rate has shown a steady decline from 3.6 per woman in 1991 to 2.4 per woman by 2011. Over that 20-year period per capita incomes rose from 1,221 dollars to 3,755 dollars, going by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) figures.

During the same period the female literacy rate increased from 39 percent to 65 percent. Also the composite human development index score of the UNDP, which combines education, health and income, rose from 0.428 in 1990 to 0.609 in 2014.

A closer look at the statistics at the district levels shows curious results such as that in eight Indian states, where there was a drop in the use of modern contraceptive methods, fertility had decreased, according to studies by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) in Mumbai.

Professor Sanjay Kumar Mohanty at the IIPS says that disaggregated analyses at the district level are important since the districts are the focus of planning and programme implementation in India, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “Such analyses may throw light on the unexplained decrease in fertility levels.”

According to an IIPS study published in 2016, while most of India’s 640 districts experience substantial declines over the 1991-2011 period, no clear relationship between initial levels and subsequent changes was discernible.

In the Indian experience, says Mohanty, female education and literacy have been associated with the use of modern contraceptives, higher age at marriage and birth spacing.

According to Kusumoto, in order to achieve the SDGs, what is needed is mortality transition as well as fertility transition. “We need to design a system where young people can have children if they wish to do so.”

Advances in medicine and public health and the availability of healthcare services will inevitably lead to mortality transition, says Kusumoto. “But unless there is also fertility transition, the population will continue to increase beyond the Earth’s carrying capacity.” 

While fertility control was successfully promoted using healthcare-based family planning and services, as in the case of India, from the 1960s onwards Western Europe and more recently East Asia began to see fertility rates falling below mortality rates in a “second demographic transition,” Kusumoto says, adding that research is still lacking on why exactly low fertility occurs. 

A notable example of the unpredictability showed up in the rapid DT in China’s Sichuan province during a study carried out in the 1980s by Toshio Kuroda, a winner of the U.N. Population Award. Kuroda noticed that DT happened despite the province’s low gross national product, making it an exceptional case of the economic DT theory.   

While there is a correlation between the economy and DT there are clear cases where it is not the economy but changes in people’s norms and values that bring about positive transition.

The exceptional changes that took place in the former Soviet countries may be attributed to a shift from communism to a market economy, which people accepted as rational. A World Bank report shows that Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan all had birth rates of 6 children per woman in 1950-55, but this declined by almost half by 2000. It was a decline also experienced by other former Soviet countries that previously had high birth rates. All former Soviet countries also showed increased life expectancy.

In the end, says Kusumoto, what is important is policies that promote “appropriate fertility transition” and are aimed at building a society in which “human dignity is maintained as envisioned in the SDGs.”

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Savagery of Rapes of Minorshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/savagery-rapes-minors/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=savagery-rapes-minors http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/savagery-rapes-minors/#comments Fri, 22 Jun 2018 21:56:03 +0000 Geetika 3 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156382 Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England, and Visiting Scholar, Population Studies Centre, University of Pnnsylvania, USA).

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Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England, and Visiting Scholar, Population Studies Centre, University of Pnnsylvania, USA).

By Geetika Dang, Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
NEW DELHI, Jun 22 2018 (IPS)

Rapes of minors surged from 16 per day in 2001 to 46 per day in 2016. As if this was not horrendous enough, their savagery adds to it.

In 2016, 43.3% of the total female rape victims were minors. Around 13% of the minor female victims were of age 11 and below. The deceased victim in the Kathua rape case from a nomadic Muslim community was barely eight years old. Her crumpled body was found in a blood-smeared dress in January, 2018. A group of Hindu men lured her into a forest, kidnapped her, drugged her, locked her in a Hindu temple, gang-raped her and then strangled her.

Geetika Dang

In another depraved and cruel assault, an eight-month-old baby girl was raped in New Delhi in January, 2018, by her 28-year-old cousin. As reported, the baby was on life support as her internal organs were damaged during the assault. In yet another case in Hisar’s Uklana town in December 2017, a 6-year old Dalit girl was brutally raped and murdered. The post-mortem revealed that the murderer had inserted a wooden stick in her body. Her body parts were badly brutalized, bore multiple injuries and scratch marks, and blood was spilt all over her body.

In April 2018, a four-month-old baby was raped and murdered in the historic Rajwada area in Madhya Pradesh. The infant’s body was found in the basement area of the heritage Shiv Vilas Palace, with blood smears on the stairs telling a barbaric tale. The ravaged body was carried away in a bundle. Many more gruesome cases could be cited but are omitted as they differ in location but not in the brutality. At the risk of overstating it, the surge in the frequency of rapes of minors has been inextricably linked to their brutality in recent years. Why bestial masculinity has risen in recent years is unclear.

Our analysis with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data and from other sources over 2001-16 yields useful insights into changes in incidence of rapes of minors (per lakh minors) across different states and over time.

Rapes of minors spiked between 2010-14, dropped sharply in 2015, and then spiked again in 2016. Surprisingly, after enactment of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) in 2012, the incidence of rapes of minors surged. It covers crimes such as child rape, sexual assault and harassment and using children for pornography. However, NCRB began collecting data under POCSO in 2014. This may be partly linked to the spike in 2014.

Vani S. Kulkarni

There are some striking variations across the states (including Delhi as a sole union territory because of its infamous characterisation as the ‘rape capital’ of India). In 2001, the top three states (with lowest incidence of rapes of minors per 1,000,00 minors) were West Bengal (0.03), Jharkhand (0.12) and Arunachal Pradesh (0.19). In 2016, the top two states changed, with Bihar as the best (0.33), followed by Jammu and Kashmir (0.35) and Jharkhand (1.24) slipping from the second to the third best. So not just the states changed but the incidence was much higher among them.

In 2001, the three worst states/union territory were Delhi (4.44), followed by Chattisgarh (4.16) and Madhya Pradesh (3.24). In 2016, the three worst were Delhi (8.32), followed by Arunachal Pradesh (7.97) and Chattisgargh (7.58). Thus, while two out of the three worst states remained unchanged, the incidence of rapes rose.

At the regional level, the central was the worst in 2001 (33.53% of total rapes of minors), followed by a considerably lower share of the northern (19.01), and a slightly lower share of the southern (16.90%). In 2016, the central contributed the largest share (33.62%), followed by the southern (18.41 %), overtaking the northern region (16.10 %).

Raghav Gaiha

Using the NCRB and other data sets for the period 2001-16, we conducted an econometric panel analysis of rapes of minors during 2001-16, designed to isolate the contribution of each of the several factors associated with the surge in rapes of minors. Specifically, the panel model allows for individual state heterogeneity The larger the pool of minor girls (<17 years relative to men), the higher is the incidence of rapes of minors (hereafter just rapes). The greater the affluence of a state (measured in terms of state per capita income), the lower is the incidence of rape. The effect, however, is small. The lower the ratio of rural to urban population, the lower is the incidence of rapes, implying higher incidence in the latter. Congress and its coalition- ruled states lowered the rapes while President- ruled states saw a rise, presumably because the latter resulted from a breakdown of law and order. There are two surprising findings. One is that after the enactment of POCSO in 2012, the rapes increased. This is contrary to the spirit and intent of POCSO which was enacted as part of an initiative to make anti-rape laws more stringent. As convictions for rapes of minors are not available for the entire period of our analysis, we have used convictions for rapes as a proxy. This has a positive effect on rapes albeit small. This is not surprising as in 2016, out of 64,138 cases of child rapes for trials in courts, trials were completed only in 6626 cases and 57,454 (89.6%) cases are still pending. Of the cases in which trials were completed, offenders were convicted only in 28.2% of the cases.The problem is not just underreporting of rapes of minors for familiar reasons such as incest and fear of retaliation but also the incompetence and corruption of the police and judicial systems. So the recent legislation of capital punishment for rapists of girls below 12 years is a mere distraction from the imperative of systemic reforms. Worse, the capital punishment could add to the butchery of rapes of minors.

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Excerpt:

Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England, and Visiting Scholar, Population Studies Centre, University of Pnnsylvania, USA).

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EU Urged to Ban Early & Forced Child Marriageshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/eu-urged-ban-early-forced-child-marriages/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eu-urged-ban-early-forced-child-marriages http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/eu-urged-ban-early-forced-child-marriages/#respond Fri, 22 Jun 2018 06:39:14 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156352 Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & Advisor, UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund

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Rashmi Hamal is a local heroine who helped to save her friend from an early marriage. She campaigns actively against child marriages in the Far Western Region of Nepal. Credit: Naresh Newar/IPS

Rashmi Hamal is a local heroine who helped to save her friend from an early marriage. She campaigns actively against child marriages in the Far Western Region of Nepal. Credit: Naresh Newar/IPS

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 22 2018 (IPS)

Something historic was initiated at the European Development Days (EDD) in early June: the EDD placed women and girls at the forefront of Sustainable Development. Since its inception in 2006, EDD has become a barometer for ideas in global development.

Ever since then, the EDDs have developed into the Davos of Development and shapes how the European Union constructs its development policies. In 2018, the EU development agenda was transformed and shaped by a gender equality agenda.

This year’s speakers included the Norwegian Prime Minister, the director-general of the World Health Organization, the Crown Princess of Denmark, and Head of UN Women and Under Secretary General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Along with H.R.H Princess Mabel of Oranje-Nassau of Netherlands, the chair of Girls not Brides; Aichatou Boulama Kane, the Minister of Planning of the Republic of Niger; and Linda McAvan,Labour MEP for Yorkshire & The Humber, Chair of European Parliament Committee on Development, I served on the panel on child marriage to examine closely the Draft Resolution “Toward an EU external strategy against early and forced marriage” introduced before the European parliament by Member of the EU Parliament, Charles Goerens who moderated the panel at EDD on June 6.

The Resolution was unique in the way in which it called on European Union, in the context of its foreign policy and its development cooperation policy, to offer a strategic pact to its partners and to that end require that all its partner countries prohibit early and forced marriage in law and practice.

The Resolution points out that in order to comprehensively tackle early and forced marriage, the European Union, as a major actor in global development, must play a leading role.

The Resolution was drafted at an important political moment and captured the extraordinary global shifts and crises as a stated goal: “…whereas during the recent migrant crises, many parents, seeking to protect their daughters from sexual aggression, chose to have them marry before the age of 18.”

The Resolution also took into consideration of girls all over the world, including Yazidi girls and Chibok girls who are forced into marriage: “…calls for the act of forcing a child to enter into a marriage and that of luring a child abroad with the purpose of forcing her or him to enter into a marriage to be criminalized.”

The bedrock of the Resolution is that it calls upon all Member States to include a ban on early and forced marriage in their legislation. In a remarkable use of development cooperation, the Resolution sets out that: “The level of public development aid is made dependent on the recipient country’s commitment to complying with the requirements in the fight against early and forced marriage.”

My recommendation addressed the fact that around the world, even when the law is changed, the loopholes in the law remain. For example, I cited the recent Bangladesh Child Marriage Restraint Act of 2017 signed into law by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last year. The law significantly increased the punishment for contracting or conducting child marriage.

However, it includes a provision in Section 2(10) of the law that undermines the spirit of the law reform: “Within the definition of the law will not be considered an offense if the marriage takes place in special circumstances in the best interest of the underage woman in question.”

Co-opting the primacy of the best interest of the child principle as set out in the Convention of the Rights of the Child helps the government to legitimize child marriage in a way that the principle was never envisioned.

General Comment 14 issued by the Committee of the Rights of the Child recognizes that the best interest standard is vulnerable to manipulation of governments and obliges states parties to ensure the full rights recognized by the Convention.

“The best interest of the standard is rendered meaningless if not seen in the context of all the rights in the Convention. The right to education, access to health care services and protection from physical, and mental violence are in no way promoted and are in fact impeded by child marriage. ”

The EU has a critical role to play in influencing policy reform both in the EU member states and outside. The EU and many of its member states contribute significant amounts of development cooperation to countries with high rates of child marriage. However, it is important for the EU to acknowledge that law reform itself can be complicit in undermining the prevention of child or forced marriage.

Development cooperation must be aimed not only at addressing legislative reform but also on closing the loopholes in the law that render law reform meaningless. This calls for aligning development cooperation not only with changes in law and practice but with the transformation of political will.

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Excerpt:

Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & Advisor, UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund

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Kenya Can End the Moral Indignity of Child Labourhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/#respond Tue, 12 Jun 2018 13:20:44 +0000 Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156175 Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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12 June is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world's poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health

Although child abuse and exploitation is prohibited by the Kenyan constitution, some children are still engaged in manual labour. XINHUA PHOTO: SAM NDIRANGU

By Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

On 12 June every year is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world’s poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest proportion of child labourers (29 per cent of children aged 5 to 17 years) and is considered detrimental to their health and development.

Many children not yet in their teens, are sent out to work in farms, as sand harvesters, street hawkers, domestic workers, drug peddling and most piteously, as sex workers and child soldiers.

Of all child labourers in these and similar industries around the world, half are in Africa, indicating that the continent’s conscience must urgently be pricked into action.

Jacqueline Mogeni

Kenya has made some commendable moves towards eliminating child labour, primarily through the National Policy on the Elimination of Child Labour, and most recently the Computer and Cybercrime Bill with its provisions on child sexual exploitation. And worth mentioning is the Children’s Act which domesticated most international and continental conventions to enhance child rights and protection.

Kenya has ratified most key international conventions concerning child labour including Minimum Age, Worst Forms of Child Labour, Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict, Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons.

The country must now also ratify the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

Among the steps that will reduce the number of children ending up as workers is the policy on compulsory secondary education. Currently, only the primary level schooling is mandatory, which leaves an almost five-year gap between completion and the minimum working age of 18 years.

Officially, primary and secondary schools are prohibited from charging tuition fees, but unofficial school levies, books and uniforms still make it difficult for families to send their children to school. Partly because of that, transition to secondary school is at about 60%, leaving many children prone to exploitation.

While engaging children has been considered as more income, new analysis by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) indicates child labour is economically unjustified.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Sending such children out to work rather than to school means they miss out on education and the skills that might have landed them better jobs in the future. It means we are not investing in human capital, but rather ensuring the youth will remain mired in low-skilled jobs, thus jeopardising any hopes for reaping a demographic dividend. Efforts to empower, educate and employ young people will have a cascading effect on the rest of society.

Estimates indicate that in sub-Saharan Africa, the last few years have witnessed a rise in child labour, where other major regions recorded declines. It is conceivable that the retrogression was driven largely by economic slow-down, but clearly, child labour is likely a cause rather than cure for poverty for families and for entire nations. “Child labor perpetuates poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, population growth, and other social problems”, says Nobel Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi.

A particularly obdurate form of child labour is early marriage, with statistics indicating that one in five girls under 15 years is married, invariably to a much older man. The cycle of abuse sets off immediately, with most of these ‘child brides’ being overworked in the home; often made to walk many kilometres to fetch water, sweep the house, prepare meals and give birth to many children while their peers are in school.

Childbirth is a deadly hit-or-miss proposition for them. Young mothers are four times likelier than those over 20 to die in pregnancy or childbirth, even without considering other perils such as fistula that are hazards for child mothers.

Even where such births are uneventful, it means that such children will most likely never go back to school, dashing any hopes of decent employment in future.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders in 2015, include a renewed global commitment to ending child labour.

With its current momentum including moves to clamp down on exploitation of children and increasing secondary school transition rates, Kenya can be a model for Africa in the global commitment.

The post Kenya Can End the Moral Indignity of Child Labour appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Hunger and Food Insecurity Plague the Lives of Millions in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/hunger-food-insecurity-plague-lives-millions-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hunger-food-insecurity-plague-lives-millions-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/hunger-food-insecurity-plague-lives-millions-africa/#respond Mon, 28 May 2018 14:48:38 +0000 Moody Awori and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155949 Honourable Mr. Moody Awori, is the former Vice President of the Republic of Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Hunger and Food Insecurity Plague the Lives of Millions in Africa

President Kenyatta is shown an artistic view of the layout of the multibillion food security project in Galana and Kulalu ranch. Credit: Alphonce Gari

By Moody Awori and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 28 2018 (IPS)

Africa is rising. But at the same time, Africa is the continent with the largest number of people, (390 million) living in extreme poverty.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture organization states in a new report that 124 million people in 51 countries experienced high levels of food insecurity. “Hunger and food insecurity plague the lives of millions worldwide” said EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Mr. Christos Stylianides.

At the core of Kenya’s new and ambitious Big Four Agenda (Food Security, Universal Health Coverage, Affordable Housing and increase to 15% the contribution of Manufacturing to GDP), is a reduction in the number of people living in poverty.

Data from a recent World Bank survey indicates that about 36 % of Kenyans live below the poverty line.

The Big Four Agenda correctly identifies food security as a major pathway for improving the conditions of a majority, of Kenyans.

Moody Awori

As is the case across virtually the entire continent, Kenya is one of the countries where economic prosperity has been accompanied by a rise in the absolute number of poor people. This emerging trend means that the majority of the 1 million youth who enter the job market every year end up in jobs that cannot lift them out of poverty.

A World Bank report indicates about 1% reduction in poverty over the last ten years. The key point is not that the absolute numbers have increased but rather that the pace of poverty reduction is too slow to achieve the 2030 SDG goal on poverty reduction

As the country rolls out the Big Four Agenda, we must reflect on those sectors that offer the best pathways for quick wins and determine how the anticipated prosperity can be shared equitably.

Global surveys have unequivocally shown that the agriculture sector provides the best opportunities to create employment and lift people out of poverty.

In Kenya the agriculture sector accounted for the largest share of poverty reduction.

With a growing population and continued land degradation due to overgrazing, poor farming practices, deforestation and climate change, Africa must look to new ways to make farming more productive and profitable.

Akinwunmi Adesina, the President, African Development Bank (AfDB) says agriculture will be a one trillion dollar business in Africa by 2030.

Siddharth Chatterjee

However, a disturbing characteristic of recent growth in African economies is that the rate at which poverty is reducing is lower than the rate at which the population is rising.

Even as Kenya seeks to implement poverty reduction strategies, it should fix a keen eye on the rapid population growth.

Consider this. In 1956, Kenya’s population was the same as Sweden – 7 million. Today Sweden is around 10 million people and Kenya is around 46 million people. By 2030 Kenya’s population is expected to reach 65 million and by 2050 around 90 million. Kenya’s total fertility rate stands at around 4.

The Asian Tigers were able to bring down their total fertility rates, and this allowed them to reap a demographic dividend. Gross domestic product increased sevenfold, an economic boom described as the “Asian economic miracle” followed.

Every girl and woman must be supported and allowed to achieve her full human potential, and be educated and empowered and able to join the work force as well as to plan her family. They are the engines of economic growth.

President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the UNDP’s Africa Human Development Report in August 2016. The report shows that Sub-Saharan Africa loses US$ 95 billion annually due to gender inequality and lack of women’s empowerment.

The place to start is with the youth, with the twin goal of getting young people into agriculture-related jobs as well as providing them with reproductive health services and information.

Lack of information and services – and the often-perilous consequences –leads to mistakes that impact the education and employment opportunities for many.

Kenya must create one million new jobs every year for the next 10 years to cater for the rapidly expanding youth bulge.

With agriculture as the country’s economic base, this is the one sector that can absorb most of the unemployed young people in Kenya, both as semi-skilled and highly skilled labour.

The country’s leadership has clearly put in place the right growth momentum with reduction of poverty as the centre of focus. We must all come together to make that growth inclusive, and to leave no one behind.

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Excerpt:

Honourable Mr. Moody Awori, is the former Vice President of the Republic of Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 14:27:23 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155759 Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Boko Haram has killed over 5,000 and displaced more than 300,000 people, according to US-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations. Credit: Stephane Yas / AFP

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Consider this. Boko Haram, the ISIS-affiliated insurgent group has sent 80 women to their deaths in 2017 alone.

The majority of suicide bombers used by terror group Boko Haram to kill innocent victims are women and children, US study reveals.

The incident only highlighted a growing trend of young girls joining extremist groups and carrying out violent acts of terrorism globally.

In a recent survey conducted on suicide bomb attacks in Western Africa, UNICEF found that close to one in five attacks were carried out by women, and among child suicide bombers, three in four were girls.

May 15 marks the International Day of Families, and this year’s theme focuses on the role of families and family policies in advancing SDG 16 in terms of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.

With terrorism posing a clear and present threat to peace today, and the recent trend where terrorists are using female recruits for increasingly chilling perpetrator roles, it is a good time to examine the various ways in which we are pushing our daughters towards the perilous guile of terror groups.

Amb. Amina Mohamed

Online and offline, terror groups are deliberately seeking to attract women, especially those who harbour feelings of social and/or cultural exclusion and marginalization.

The Government of Kenya has focused on the often-overlooked promise of girls’ education. The young girl of today has higher ambition and a more competitive spirit. She no longer wants to go to school and only proceed to either the submissive housekeeper role, or token employment opportunities like her mother very likely did.

She wants a secure, equal-wage job like her male classmates, to have an equal opportunity to making it to management positions, and access to economic assets such as land and loans. Like her male counterparts, she wants equal participation in shaping economic and social policies in the country.

This is why education is a prime pillar in Kenya’s National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism, which was launched in September 2016. The strategy aims to work with communities to build their resilience to respond to violent extremism and to address structural issues that drive feelings of exclusion.

Kenya has done relatively well in balancing school enrolment among genders. What young women now need is to feel that they have a future when they come out of the educational process. According to a recent survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), only about a third of Kenyans in formal employment, are women.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Although Kenya does not have a separate policy for girls’ education, the country has put in place certain mechanisms to guarantee 100% transition from primary to secondary education. This policy will address the existing hindrances to girls’ education and particularly, transition from the primary to secondary level where Kenya has a 10% enrollment gender gap.

Globally, it is estimated that if women in every country were to play an identical role to men in markets, as much as US$28 trillion (equal to 26 percent) would be added to the global economy by 2025.

Quality education for the youth must not only incorporate relevant skills development for employability, but for girls we must go further to provide psychosocial support. Already, girls and women bear the greater burden of poverty, a fact that can only provide more tinder if they are then exposed to radicalization.

According to estimates, the return on one year of secondary education for a girl correlates with as high as a 25% increase in wages, ensuring that all girls get at least secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa, would reduce child marriages by more than half.

All these demonstrate the cyclical benefits, from one generation to the next, of education as an intervention strategy. The Kenyatta Trust for example, a non-profit organization, has beneficiaries who are students who have come from disadvantaged family backgrounds. President Kenyatta the founder of the Trust says, “my pledge is to continuously support and uplift the lives of all our beneficiaries, one family at a time.”

For success a convergence of partners is crucial, spanning foundations, trusts, faith based organizations, civil society, media and to work with the Government to advance this critical agenda.

The UN in Kenya is working with the government to understand the push and pull factors that lure our youth to radicalization. One such initiative is the Conflict Management and Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) programme in Marsabit and Mandera counties, supported by the Japanese Government.

The project, being implemented in collaboration with the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the two County Governments, is part of the larger Kenya-Ethiopia Cross-border Programme for Sustainable Peace and Socio-economic transformation.

UN Women and UNDP in Kenya are also working with relevant agencies to establish dynamic, action-ready and research-informed knowledge of current extremist ideologies and organisational models.

To nip extremism before it sprouts, we must start within our families, to address the feelings of exclusion and lack of engagement among girls who are clearly the new frontier for recruitment by terror groups.

The post We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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To Have Children or Not: The Importance of Finding a Balancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/children-not-importance-finding-balance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-not-importance-finding-balance http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/children-not-importance-finding-balance/#comments Fri, 11 May 2018 18:48:35 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155735 While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it. Over the last half a century, the global fertility rate has halved, reaching a level of 2.5 births per woman. At the same time, the UN estimates that there will be […]

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While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it.

Credit: Bigstock

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 11 2018 (IPS)

While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it.

Over the last half a century, the global fertility rate has halved, reaching a level of 2.5 births per woman.

At the same time, the UN estimates that there will be 11 billion people in the world by 2100.

Given such trends, more needs to be understood about the factors that influence fertility rates, but not enough is known about it, Secretary-General of the Asian Population Development Association (APDA) Dr. Osamu Kusumoto told IPS.

“In general, fertility transition is not properly examined yet. Demographers usually analyze statistics over the cause of statistics,” he said.

But what exactly is fertility transition?

The phenomenon refers to the shift from high fertility to low fertility which first began in North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century. A similar process was then seen across developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

While some believe that the shift was a response to declining mortality rates, others have looked to culture and socioeconomic factors as driving fertility transition.

“Value determines the behavior,” Dr. Kusumoto told IPS, pointing to Mongolia as an example.

In the 1950s, Mongolia accelerated its social development with help from the Soviet Union.

Following socialist economic models, significant progress was also made in education and health and pro-natalist policies were implemented, leading to an unprecedented rise in fertility rates.

Between the late 1950s to the 1980s alone, Mongolia’s population doubled from 780,000 to 2 million.

But what exactly is fertility transition?

The phenomenon refers to the shift from high fertility to low fertility which first began in North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century. A similar process was then seen across developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.


However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia’s birth rates plummeted—a rare occurrence for a country in poverty and seemingly a response to the country’s poor socioeconomic conditions.

Many researchers including Dr. Kusumoto also believe the Central Asian nation’s transition to democracy and a market economy have also influenced fertility rates.

For instance, with more freedoms and improved access to education, women have become more empowered.

Unlike many developing countries, Mongolian women are better educated than men, comprising 62 percent of higher education graduates in 2015. They also have lower rates of unemployment than their male counterparts.

While Mongolians postponed childbearing during the chaos of the 1990s, the rise in female education has led to delays in marriage along with delays in having children.

With the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), future demographic trends may be affected around the world.

The SDGs include specific targets on mortality, health, and education, and researchers believe that its implementation can help reduce population growth.

However, in order to achieve the SDGs, fertility research is needed.

“To achieve the SDGs, an understanding of fertility transition is essential. Proper social policies on fertility to mitigate rapid changes have to be considered,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

“Proper fertility is essential, high fertility and extremely low fertility may harm the society,” he added.

Though they are one of the most prosperous nations in Asia, Japan has seen its fertility rate decline to unsustainable levels and has sparked concerns over the social and economic impact of extremely low fertility.

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 children per woman which has caused the population to decline by one million in the past five years alone.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.

With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: spending decreases which weakens the economy, which discourages families from having children, which then weakens the economy further.

At the same time, with a higher life expectancy and a larger ageing population, there are less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, less funds for pensions and social security, and an even weaker economy.

“In Japan, to have children is not rational choice for young individuals because we have social security to support old age…without the younger generation, this system will not be able to maintain…in the future social security that is the supportive condition for their rational choice will be missing,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

At the other end of the scale, African countries such as Nigeria are experiencing the fastest population increases.

By 2050, Nigeria will become the world’s third largest country by population.

The UN predicts that one-third of all people—almost 4 billion—will be African by 2100.

This could hamper efforts to achieve key SDGs such as ending poverty and ensuring peace and prosperity.

“From this point of view, the fertility issue is an equally essential requirement for achieving SDGs,” Dr. Kusumoto reiterated.

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