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R.E.S.P.E.C.T Find Out What It Means To Us

From November 25th (International End Violence Against Women Day) throughDecember 10th (International Human Rights Day), USAID joins the international community for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. During this time IMPACT will highlight USAID’s work to combat gender-based violence.

It is no accident that Aretha Franklin’s rendering of “Respect” rapidly became an anthem for marginalized and disenfranchised individuals and groups. The denial of human rights, particularly the most basic rights, such as respect, touches on a universal chord.

In recent years, global attention has been growing surrounding the horrifying issue of disrespect and abuse of women during childbirth.

Indonesia Maternal Health

USAID’s presence in Indonesia has been vital to the success of various health initiatives. The Blue Circle campaign of the 1980s and the Bidan Delima program in 2005 are just two examples of these initiatives that made it possible for women, like those pictured waiting in line, to receive maternal and child health and family planning services at community health centers. Photo credit: USAID/Indonesia

Think about the treatment you, or your wife, sister or daughter, expect from your maternity care provider. He or she is responsible for helping you (or your partner) give birth safely. Can you imagine a doctor scolding you for not using family planning to control your fertility? Or being separated from your newborn because you don’t have enough money to pay the discharge bill? Or giving birth unclothed while visitors walk by?

In both developing and developed countries around the world, pregnant women experience disrespect that ranges from subtle denial of their autonomy to blatant abuse. Numerous studies (PDF) document physical abuse in childbirth, including slapping, restraining, suturing without pain medication, or forcibly pushing on a woman’s abdomen. For women carrying or at high risk for HIV, the fear of stigma and discrimination from providers is often compounded by stigma from partners and families, especially regarding HIV testing or positive status disclosure.

This lack of respectful care also deters many women from seeking hospital care; instead they choose to give birth at home without the care of a skilled health attendant. This increases the change of complications from childbirth, possibly causing death.

While some may blame healthcare providers, many of these providers are working under suboptimal conditions, with many being overworked, underpaid, and burdened with unmanageable caseloads. The lack of empowerment, dignity, and security for midwives and nurses is driven by deep-rooted attitudes derived from gender, class, caste, race and cultural norms towards women. These problems undermine the resilience of midwives and nurses and negatively impact their capacity to provide quality care.

What does respect for women giving birth mean? The Universal Rights of Childbearing Women Charter (PDF) clearly outlines what respect means; certainly it includes the physical safety of pregnant women, but it also includes the respect for women’s basic human rights, including respect for women’s choices, preferences, feelings, and autonomy. It also means addressing the conditions of healthcare providers.

To eliminate the humiliation and abuse of women in childbirth, USAID supports the White Ribbon Alliance to lead global and country level advocacy and the University Research Corporation TRAction Project (PDF) to carry out implementation research to assess the prevalence of disrespect and abuse and test approaches to decrease these behaviors. With USAID funding, the Jhpiego/MCHIP Project has developed a comprehensive Respectful Maternity Toolkit available throughout the world. Furthermore, USAID is partnering with the World Health Organization to review the evidence on the status and working conditions of midwives and address the disrespect and abuse of women in childbirth.

We see the need for increased awareness and support for civil society engagement and advocacy, and the need to work with all involved in the direction, management and provision of care to women giving birth. Global initiatives, such as the Third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, are key opportunities to realize these basic human rights.

Until recently, this was a problem hidden behind a veil of silence. Now we hear the silence being broken across the globe, but it is just a start.  Women’s voices need to be heard. And all of us need to respond to promote social justice and improve quality of care. Women’s lives depend on it.

Meeting the Needs of Children and Adolescents Who Have Experienced Sexual Violence

From November 25th (International End Violence Against Women Day) through December 10th (International Human Rights Day), USAID joins the international community for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. The blog below highlights USAID’s work to combat gender-based violence and celebrates ten years of our HIV and AIDS work under PEPFAR in advance of World AIDS Day (December 1).

Ruth was doing “okay,” with the help of her HIV medication and the friends she had made in a local support group for people living with HIV. With a shy smile, Ruth told me that she was getting by, but she missed her two young daughters. Her nine-year-old, Sarah, had been raped a year before and was now at a recovery center with her sister, who stayed with her for company. “She still hasn’t spoken, but she is getting better,” Ruth said with a sad smile.

In Swaziland, just before sunset, a young girl tests out a new seesaw on a playground built by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation at the Mkhulamini Clinic. Photo credit: Jon Hrusa, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

In Swaziland, just before sunset, a young girl tests out a new seesaw on a playground built by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation at the Mkhulamini Clinic. Photo credit: Jon Hrusa, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

Like many single mothers, Ruth worked during the day doing laundry and chores for other families. A male neighbor took advantage of her daughter when she was home alone. The attack had been so brutal that her daughter had been in the hospital for over a month. With the help of friends, Ruth made sure the man was arrested and prosecuted. It had been hard. The time spent on the case had left little time to earn income. Ruth’s family was struggling, but people were helping. She had hope that things would get better, and that her daughter would recover.

Ruth’s story and her courage epitomize the struggle to achieve an AIDS-free generation. Treatment is a miracle, but the true test of our resolve to end AIDS lies in our commitment to end the inequities of gender, of rich and poor, of powerful and vulnerable.

Girls, often marginalized by age and social status, are at a particularly high risk. Globally, young women aged 15-24 are the most vulnerable to HIV and account for 22 percent (PDF) of all new HIV infections (twice as high as young men). Furthermore, an estimated 150 million girls have experienced some form of gender-based violence before age 18. But this is not just limited to girls. According to the World Report on Violence Against Children (PDF), an estimated 73 million boys globally have also experienced sexual violence before age 18. Such violence has severe consequences for their immediate and long-term health and well-being, including increased risk for sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, reproductive and sexual health complications, alcohol and drug abuse, and psychosocial health issues. In addition, results from the PEPFAR Sexual Gender Based Violence Initiative showed that when sexual assault services were introduced to primary health centers, a large percentage of patients presenting for care were under 18, but services were not tailored to meet their unique needs.

USAID, as a key implementing agency of PEPFAR, has a strong commitment to addressing the unique needs and vulnerabilities of children and adolescents experiencing sexual violence, including addressing the gender-related factors that underlie such violence. The recently launched guide, Clinical Management of Children and Adolescents Who Have Experienced Sexual Violence: Technical Considerations for PEPFAR Programs, offers step-by-step technical advice for clinicians, social workers, pediatricians, child protection workers, HIV specialists and others on appropriate clinical care and management. These technical considerations are meant to serve as a starting point for national level adaptation and development of comprehensive, integrated services for children.

As we travel down the road to an AIDS-free generation, we hope that stories like that of Ruth’s daughter dwindle into extinction. In the meantime, for those children that are afflicted by such unspeakable sexual violence, we pledge to continue serving their unique needs and vulnerabilities.

USAID in the News

US News and World Report reported on USAID’s contributions to the relief effort in the Philippines following the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan. The article focuses on USAID’s decision to purchase food directly from local Filipino distributors—a choice which will not only ease the logistical complications of getting supplies to the areas where they are needed, but also inject cash into the Philippine economy at a time when it is greatly needed. Jeremy Konyndyk, director of the U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance program at USAID, said, “We’re getting to a point where we can start thinking about recovery aspects, but we don’t want to declare victory prematurely. The destruction in those coastal areas was near total.”

This photo was taken in hard-hit Tacloban, where USAID, working with UNICEF, has helped repair the municipal water system. Photo credit:  IOM/J. Lowry

This photo was taken in hard-hit Tacloban, where USAID, working with UNICEF, has helped repair the municipal water system. Photo credit: IOM/J. Lowry

Thomas Reuters Foundation featured a story that examined the USAID relief efforts in the Philippines in the light of lessons learned from the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The piece quotes USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah saying that the Philippines’ “strong, capable central government” will help avoid problems in the reconstruction process. “To get reconstruction investment back into the (Philippines) economy and rebuild these communities will take a longer amount of time and will have to be very strategic and focused. But it will require very strong leadership from the government of Philippines and we expect we will see that,” said Shah.

GMA News reported on the scale of USAID’s relief operations for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, quoting Al Dwyer, the head of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) at USAID, who said that the current effort in the Philippines “is much greater than what we have ever done in the past.” The U.S. is working with other countries to coordinate the response, and has donated at least $47 million in humanitarian assistance and sent 2.6 million food parcels thus far.

Another piece from GMA News focused on the $10 million that was pledged earlier in the week by the U.S. government to help restore clean water in Tacloban City and provide support to the logistical operations. USAID Assistant Administrator of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy E. Lindborg said that the funding “will allow much-needed relief supplies to reach to hard-hit areas and ensure that 200,000 people in and around Tacloban have clean running water.”

Devex reported on a speech given by Administrator Shah at Brookings Institution, which outlined the agency’s new three-part commitment to helping end extreme poverty. The approach will focus on public-private partnerships, country programs that demand mutual accountability and disaster-prone, fragile areas and communities. In the speech, Shah expressed that a focus on fragile areas must be better informed by an understanding of what results investment in these areas can be expected to produce.

Spy Ghana covered USAID scholarship awards to prospective students through the USAID West Africa Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Program at the University for Development Studies in Tamale. The scholarships will support 30 students at six universities in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Niger who wish to pursue master’s degrees in the fields of soil and water conservation, innovation communications, development studies, and science.

Dhaka Tribune featured a piece on the USAID Bengal Tiger Conservation Activity partnership with WildTeam focused on conserving the rich biodiversity of Bangladesh, particularly the Royal Bengal Tiger. The effort, named the Bagh Project, will devote approximately $13 million to wildlife conservation efforts through reducing illegal trafficking, minimizing human-wildlife conflict, enhancing outreach and engagement, and improving livelihoods for conservation.

Fostering Leadership to Eliminate Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV in Nigeria

USAID is observing World AIDS Day this year by celebrating ten years of ourHIV and AIDS work under PEPFAR.

More than 85,000 infants in Nigeria are at risk of HIV transmission from their mothers every year. While the number of HIV-positive pregnant women who receive antiretroviral treatment (ART) is increasing, robust efforts to improve coverage are needed if national targets (PDF) for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) are to be met in 2015.

Keziah Samaila, coordinator of PMTCT in Township Clinic, Nigeria, training women on Family Planning and HIV. Photo: Lourdes de la Peza

Keziah Samaila, coordinator of PMTCT in Township Clinic, Nigeria, training women on Family Planning and HIV. Photo: Lourdes de la Peza

Over the past year, the Leadership, Management and Governance (LMG) Project helped support the PLAN-Health Nigeria project, funded by PEPFAR through USAID and managed by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), to pilot Leadership Development Program Plus (LDP+), which focuses on empowering teams to improve PMTCT results. The program also emphasizes new approaches tied in to country ownership, national health priorities, and specific health indicators.

LDP+ was piloted in the town of Gwagwalada, Nigeria. The Gwagwalada Council is one of the five Local Government Area Councils of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria. LMG and PLAN-Health worked with the Gwagwalada Council, which selected 20 participants—two from each of the 10 facilities providing PMTCT services in the area—to form 10 teams to participate in the LDP+. Together, the teams decided to address PMTCT and focused on improving some standard indicators such as number of new antenatal care (ANC) clients; number of pregnant women tested for HIV, counseled and received their results; and the number of HIV-positive women. The program ran from October 2012 to May 2013. During this time, the teams worked within their facilities to create a vision of improved results around PMTCT, align stakeholders around this vision, implement their action plans, and share learning with other teams to identify the most useful local interventions and activities. The teams also received coaching in the areas of monitoring, evaluation, and reporting.

Keziah Samaila from Township Clinic, left, and Joy Otuokere, right, from Zuba Health Center, singing during the LDP+ training in Gwagwalada, Nigeria. Photo: Lourdes de la Peza

Keziah Samaila from Township Clinic, left, and Joy Otuokere, right, from Zuba Health Center, singing during the LDP+ training in Gwagwalada, Nigeria. Photo: Lourdes de la Peza

Most of the facilities reported encouraging results for their key indicators after participating in LDP+. For example, the Old Kutunku Health Center reported an increase from 17 to 61 new ANC clients per month. At the Gwako health center, the percentage of ANC clients who delivered in a health facility increased from 18 to 42 percent. Prior to LDP+, the Township clinic counseled and tested the partners of only three percent of pregnant women, compared with 20 percent after the program.

Alfa Ndatsu from Gwako Health Center, presenting his team work on the challenge model during LDP+ training. Photo: Lourdes de la Peza

Alfa Ndatsu from Gwako Health Center, presenting his team work on the challenge model during LDP+ training. Photo: Lourdes de la Peza

The Gwagwalada Council’s oversight committee plans to continue the program with its own resources, expanding it to another eight facilities in the area. Through these efforts, this local government agency is furthering Nigeria’s national efforts to ultimately eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Follow @USAIDGH on Twitter through World AIDS Day, observed on December 2, for key facts, resources, and photos from our programs and partners and join the conversation using the hashtag #WAD2013.

Entrepreneurs Spur Sustainable Growth and Contribute to Development Outcomes

Today, USAID celebrates National Entrepreneurship Day.

Entrepreneurs, both large and small, create jobs and spur sustainable growth that delivers benefits to people in the United States and around the world. Having spent part of my early career working to encourage investment in promising entrepreneurs throughout Africa, I’ve seen firsthand the transformations that can take place in peoples’ lives and communities when we help foster strong cultures of entrepreneurship.

In the lead up to Global Entrepreneurship Week, a worldwide celebration of innovators and job creators, USAID has partnered with other U.S. Government agencies to highlight the ways we can work with entrepreneurs to help them realize success. Every day, entrepreneurs in developing countries drive economic growth, create jobs, and contribute to development outcomes in USAID priority sectors including food security, global health, and access to energy.

Development Innovation Ventures grantee Off-Grid: Electric's entrepreneurs are lighting up Tanzania through more reliable, affordable, and sustainable electrical services. Photo Credit: Matthieu Young

Development Innovation Ventures grantee Off-Grid: Electric’s entrepreneurs are lighting up Tanzania through more reliable, affordable, and sustainable electrical services. Photo Credit: Matthieu Young

USAID recognizes the value in supporting entrepreneurs who advance market-based solutions using sustainable business models. Particularly in this current fiscal climate, enabling entrepreneurs to deliver development results that are sustainable beyond ongoing donor support is one of the best ways to leverage USAID funding. As a donor, our role is to help remove barriers that stand in the way of entrepreneurs starting and scaling their businesses, while also addressing market failures that limit the inclusion of poor and vulnerable populations. Our investments address common challenges facing entrepreneurs such as a lack of access to capital; limited availability of technical assistance, mentoring and peer networks; and a lack of awareness among investors regarding investment-ready enterprises.

Since 2010, the United States has budgeted about $4 billion annually to support programs related to entrepreneurship globally. USAID—particularly the Office of Innovation and Development Alliance, or what we call IDEA—has been proud to be a part of this ongoing commitment.

For instance, USAID is launching the Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) initiative to support entrepreneurial ventures that have the potential to lift some of the poorest communities in the world out of poverty. USAID will direct up to $10 million over the next three years to help develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem and scale enterprises in developing countries that offer market-based solutions in areas like food security, global health, and energy access. Today, USAID launched an open call for partnership concept papers (PDF) , inviting organizations to submit ideas on ways to partner and co-invest with USAID.

USAID also recently announced a new $4.1 million Global Development Alliance with Echoing Green, Newman’s Own Foundation, General Atlantic, Pershing Square Foundation, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Called “Priming the Pump,” the partnership will invest in young social entrepreneurs in developing countries who are pioneering innovative new solutions to major development challenges.

These are just two examples of some of the USAID initiatives designed to harness the power of entrepreneurs to advance global development that we have forthcoming. Additional fantastic entrepreneurship efforts coming out of USAID include:

  • USAID’s forthcoming partnership with Yunus Social Business (YSB) to promote entrepreneurship and the development of “social businesses” in vulnerable and underserved communities around the world and to collaborate on the development of social business incubator funds in a targeted set of developing countries
  • The USAID-Skoll Innovation Investment Alliance, a Global Development Alliance with the Skoll Foundation and Mercy Corps, identifies and invests in innovative social entrepreneurs to enable them to scale up their business models for delivering sustainable impact in areas such as education, climate change, water, and food security.  The first organization supported through the partnership, Imazon, uses the latest mapping technology and satellite imagery to help local governments in Brazil stop illegal deforestation in the Amazon.
  • Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) is an investment platform that finds, tests, and scales new solutions to development challenges around the world.  DIV is currently investing in over 80 entrepreneurial solutions in eight sectors and 27 countries around the world. Many of these solutions are almost elegant in their simplicity. For example, DIV is supporting Georgetown University researchers who are using stickers, like the kind my daughters are always putting on their notebooks, to reduce road deaths in Kenya. DIV is also working with the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID) on a multilateral global investment platform called GDIV that builds on DIV’s success in supporting breakthrough solutions to global development challenges.

As we embark on Global Entrepreneurship Week, I look forward to not only learning about the impactful work of emerging social enterprises, but continuing to develop new ways USAID and the U.S. Government can partner to bring these game changers to scale.

Learn more about USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) initiative.

Visit USAID on LinkedIn to read “My First Job” stories from USAID employees, partners and beneficiaries. Share your story on Twitter using #GEW2013!

10 Years in the Making: Celebrating USAID’s Achievements Under PEPFAR

USAID is observing World AIDS Day this year by celebrating ten years of our HIV and AIDS work under PEPFAR.

In less than two short weeks, the global health community will unite to commemorate the fight against AIDS. The United States, foreign governments, civil society, local communities and many others dedicated to reaching an AIDS-free generation will mobilize around the world to celebrate the incredible achievements that have been made since the epidemic was first identified over 30 years ago.

We’ve come a long way in the last three decades: unexplained immune system failure and a race to identify the cause in the early 1980s; life-sustaining therapy introduced in the mid-1990s; a landmark foreign assistance initiative in 2003 that brought treatment to millions of people who had no access before; and a groundbreaking study in 2011 showing that healthy people living with HIV on antiretrovirals can limit transmission by 96 percent. The worldview of the HIV pandemic has changed dramatically in our lifetime.

The Building Local Capacity Project has reached 57,223 orphans and vulnerable children (OCV) and caregivers with child health services in southern Africa. Photo credit: Management Sciences for Health

The Building Local Capacity Project has reached 57,223 orphans and vulnerable children (OCV) and caregivers with child health services in southern Africa. Photo credit: Management Sciences for Health

Our work is not over. As Secretary of State John Kerry said during a speech earlier this year, “As progress continues, we will gradually evolve as our fight against this disease evolves, and that is going to happen both by necessity and by design. Achieving an AIDS-free generation is a shared responsibility and it is going to be a shared accomplishment.”

Some of the most monumental achievements in combating HIV and AIDS have occurred in the past 10 years with the creation of two unprecedented global health programs – the Global Fund Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). PEPFAR was, and continues to be, ambitious, visionary, and far-reaching. Through access to antiretroviral treatment, it has literally brought people living with HIV back from the brink of death and enabled them to live long and healthy lives.

It’s been ten years since the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 was passed into law, creating PEPFAR. And today, we can confidently say that the program has saved millions of lives and delivered hope to communities where it was so desperately needed.

As a key implementing agency, USAID has contributed significantly to these remarkable achievements. Through programs that prevent mother-to-child transmission, offer voluntary medical male circumcision and improve condom use, to those that reduce gender-based violence and risky behaviors for select populations; through our commitment to deliver effective treatments and care for the most vulnerable – especially orphans and other affected children – to our support for the development of an HIV vaccine, USAID has played a significant role in changing the face of the pandemic around the world.

In the 10 days leading up to World AIDS Day  - through a digital campaign called 10 for 10 (PDF) – USAID will share stories from the last decade that touch on the various ways the agency has contributed to one of the most successful foreign assistance programs ever created. This campaign will culminate in the launch of “Gift’s Last Ten Years” – an animated video that tells the story of our work through the eyes of a fictional 10-year old southern African girl.

AIDS used to be a disease that everyone feared and discussed only in private. Today, there is a global sense of optimism that did not seem possible at the beginning of this century. What a difference a decade makes – we’re proud to have played our part.

Follow @USAIDGH on Twitter through World AIDS Day, observed on December 2, for key facts, resources, and photos from our programs and partners and join the conversation using the hashtag #WAD2013.

A Global Effort to End Extreme Poverty

Alex Thier is Assistant to the Administrator for Policy, Planning, and Learning

Alex Thier is Assistant to the Administrator for Policy, Planning, and Learning

Yesterday, Administrator Shah and I participated in an excellent panel at the Brookings Institution to discuss a bold vision of a world without extreme poverty by 2030 – a commitment outlined by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union Address. At USAID, we recognize that – for the first time in history – a world without extreme poverty is possible.

This is an ambitious challenge: to lift more than 1 billion people out of extreme poverty. But we have built a solid foundation. USAID and the international community have improved economic opportunity, health, food security, education, equality, stability, and accountable governance for millions of people. In fact, nearly 700 million people have moved above the $1.25 per day poverty line since 1990. If we continue on this trajectory, we could reach zero by 2030.

Major initiatives are underway in areas like food security and energy to promote economic growth, and have begun to address the fundamental pathways out of poverty. In Feed the Future countries, extreme poverty rates fell by an average of 5.6 percent from 2005 to 2011. The energy-economic development work of Power Africa aims to reach 20 million new households and commercial entities in power-starved sub-Saharan Africa and expand opportunities for growth for the 85 percent in rural areas lacking any access.  Efforts to promote democracy, human rights, and good governance; accelerate child survival; empower women and girls; create resilient societies; and mitigate climate change are also essential to ending extreme poverty.

But can we accelerate momentum towards ending extreme poverty? To be successful, we need to employ broader, more coordinated efforts and more innovative solutions: we must leverage resources, build high-impact partnerships, harness technology, and prioritize evidence-based analysis.  Throughout the Agency we are adapting a new model for development – incorporating extreme poverty into our strategic planning and programming at the country level and increasing our use of inclusive growth diagnostics, which are rooted in and relevant to specific country contexts.

In addition, new and exciting partnerships are leveraging additional resources. Just this week, USAID, the Swedish International Development Agency, and Volvo forged a partnership to promote sustainable development in Africa through workforce development to include vocational training, traffic and road safety, and workplace health and wellness including HIV/AIDS prevention.

USAID as an Agency is postured to lead the global discussion and elevate the discourse on the challenges we face to continue this momentum. We need to grapple with such questions as: Do we know who poverty is and how they experience it? How inclusive is economic growth and is it effective in fragile states? Can we say with certainty how to accelerate poverty direction and what investments are the most effective?

Our discussion at Brookings was an impressive start to what we hope will be a fruitful, collaborative step forward toward global change. It will only be through continued global partnership and determination that we will be able to truly lift one billion people out of the most abject poverty in the next two decades—and eradicate extreme poverty entirely. But it is possible.

Learn more about how USAID is working to end extreme poverty.

Read Administrator Shah’s remarks at the Brookings Institution event, “Ending Extreme Poverty: Can It Be Done? If So, How?” on November 21, 2013.

Achieving Equity Through Women in Leadership

I’ve just returned from the International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where thousands of leaders and experts came together to discuss how to improve access and choice in family planning services across the globe. One of the highlights of the conference for me was speaking on a panel about the role women leaders can play in this arena.

I don’t think you have to be a woman to be committed to achieving equity in access to family planning services.  There are countless men in leadership roles that are deeply committed to expanding equity across the board, including in access to family planning.  That said, I think having women in leadership positions is incredibly important.

Mother and child at a health clinic in Ethiopia. Photo credit: USAID

Mother and child at a health clinic in Ethiopia. Photo credit: USAID

We often talk about women leaders as role models for girls.  Certainly having women in leadership roles lets girls see someone who looks like them doing things they might dream of doing and helps validate those dreams.  But women in leadership positions are role models for boys too—that women belong in leadership positions, that having women in these roles is normative. Having women in leadership roles in government is an especially public acknowledgement of legitimacy.

Governments have a responsibility to treat their citizens equitably, which means they have a special role to play in addressing disparities, whether that is as a direct provider of health services or by making it attractive for the private sector to serve the underserved or both. When governments prioritize making it possible for poor women, rural families, adolescents, and racial or ethnic minorities to exercise their right to choose the number, timing, and spacing of their children by expanding access to high quality, voluntary family planning information, services, and methods, they send a message about their commitment to equity and rights.

Having women employed in visible roles in government programs, whether they are in formalized leadership positions or not, also sends that message.   And there are great examples all around us:

  • Managing the largest portfolio that USAID has in Asia, female Foreign Service Nationals at USAID’s Bangladesh mission have strengthened the family planning portfolio. Dr. Umme Meena in the mission there—and other men and women like her employed as Foreign Service Nationals by the U.S. government worldwide—demonstrate America’s commitment to equity in family planning every day.
  • In Amhara, Ethiopia, USAID supports activities to prevent child marriage by identifying young female community mentors who can advocate against marriage before the age of 18. These youth leaders are powerful agents of change and gender equity in their communities.
  • Community health workers are some of the most passionate and committed champions for equity in access to family planning and health services. Esther Nyokabi in Kenya is an illiterate woman who overcame significant personal obstacles to become a champion for post-abortion care. She mobilized her community to demand better health infrastructure from the government. She is now a passionate community health worker and part of a government –sponsored training team for post-abortion care. Her efforts have brought life-saving antenatal care, skilled attendance at delivery, and family planning services to a community that did not have health services previously.

It is the commitment, passion, and actions of leaders like these that will achieve full choice in family planning.

Watch a video clip of Ellen Starbird at the International Conference on Family Planning and read news and announcements made by USAID at the conference. 

Photos of the Week: USAID Response to Typhoon Haiyan

Nancy Lindbog greets a woman at the Tacloban Airport

Click on the photo above to view other photos of our assistance in the Philippines (note will direct to USAID Flickr).

Since Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Yolanda, hit the Philippines‘ coasts on November 8, USAID has been working hard with the U.S. Government to provide relief to Filipinos in affected areas. Above is pictured Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg at the Tacloban Airport with a Filipino woman. Photo is from Carol Han, USAID/OFDA.

Yesterday (November 18), Nancy Lindborg announced the provision of an additional $10 million in U.S. Government (USG) humanitarian assistance for those affected byTyphoon Yolanda/Haiyan. The additional funding brings the total USG assistance for the crisis to more than $37 million. The additional $10 million will support the transportation and distribution of relief commodities to typhoon-affected populations, among other life-saving activities.

Learn more about USAID’s relief efforts and response to Typhoon Haiyan

Video of the Week: USAID Announces Additional $10 Million for Philippine Relief Effort

On November 18 at the Tacloban Airport in the Philippines, USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg talks about “steady drumbeat” of aid from the U.S. to help those affected by Typhoon Haiyan. On the trip, Nancy will visit Tacloban and Manila to meet with senior U.S., UN, and Philippine officials. She will observe multilateral, interagency, and USAID relief operations. She will also tour distribution centers to determine additional humanitarian aid relief.

Learn more about USAID’s relief and response efforts to assist those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Follow @NancyLindborg on Twitter for on-the-ground updates!

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