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Archives for Women

Mujeres Adelante: Leading Change Against Violence

This originally appeared on DipNote

“¡Eres maravillosa!” (You’re wonderful!)

Repeating this mantra in unison as they received their certificates, each of the 14 women civil society leaders – lawyers, social workers and psychologists, academics and student leaders – from Central America and the Dominican Republic, affirmed one other’s work to eliminate gender-based violence (GBV) in the region. For the participants of Mujeres Adelante (Women Moving Forward), the past two weeks had been a whirlwind of meetings with local, state, and federal government officials, coalitions and advocacy organizations, as well as NGO service providers. This final affirmation was a reminder of how important the issue and each participant’s individual contribution to its elimination truly is.

“Mujeres Adelante” participants. Photo credit: State Department

The 2013 class of Mujeres Adelante included participants from El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, and the Dominican Republic. For each of them, the two weeks in the United States — first in Seattle, and then in Washington, DC. — were both a respite from the daily and very real threat of working on GBV and an occasion to strengthen the women’s ongoing commitment to the issue. Approximately 30 percent of women in the Americas have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse at the hands of a partner, or sexual abuse by a non-partner. Strikingly, and unique to Central America, two out of three women murdered are killed for a gender-related reason. This program provided the participants an opportunity to highlight the scourge of GBV in their home countries, and access new tools they could use upon their return home.

“Working [on GBV] is incredibly difficult,” one participant said. “Sometimes, we don’t get to the victim in time to help her. Sometimes, there is a lack of will [by authorities] to respond, and always, there is a lack of resources.  That is why alliances like these are so important, so we can work together better.”

Launched in October 2012 by the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, in collaboration with the Seattle International Foundation and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Mujeres Adelante is a network of Central American and Dominican women leaders who work to:

  1. Raise awareness of the pervasiveness of GBV as well as awareness of women’s rights and available resources;
  2. Increase governments’ accountability for preventing, responding to and addressing GBV;
  3. Share best practices on service provision and advocacy efforts; and
  4. Facilitate ongoing networking, skills and capacity-building of women in their home countries.

The United States has made preventing and responding to gender-based violence a cornerstone of our commitment to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment. The United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally and the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security recognize that gender-based violence is a human rights abuse and a manifestation of the low status of women and girls around the world. Working together, we can ensure that women and girls live up to their true potential and live lives free of violence – and are able to contribute fully to their families, communities, and economies.

Learn more about USAID’s Mission of the Month: Guatemala and our work in eliminating gender-based violence

A Bright Future for Agriculture in Africa

As my final tour with USAID winds down in the coming months, I can step aside with pride and confidence in the work we’re doing on the African continent to increase food security and nutrition. Having worked in Africa for much of the past 30 years, I am firmly convinced that the Agency’s new focus on modernizing and improving agricultural technologies through Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative, is having a demonstrable impact.

Here in Senegal, recent statistics indicate a near-doubling of yields in rain-fed rice, from about 1 ton per hectare to 1.82 tons. In some of the country’s most vulnerable areas, undernutrition has been reduced by a large margin in the last year.

What makes these and other statistics really exciting is an opportunity some USAID Mission Directors don’t get in their entire career: a chance to exhibit some of our major successes to the President of the United States himself, who made Senegal the first stop on his second trip to Africa last week.

While here, President Obama toured the Feed the Future Agricultural Technology Marketplace, where at each stop he was able to see how agricultural research and innovation are helping West African farmers to increase incomes and nutrition for their families.

At one booth, Anna Gaye, an entrepreneur, demonstrated how switching to a small-scale, efficient rice mill and an improved rice variety has tripled yields in her region and freed up her time for alternative activities.

At a Feed the Future agricultural technology marketplace in Senegal last week, President Obama met with farmers, innovators and entrepreneurs whose new methods and technologies are improving the lives of smallholder farmers throughout West Africa. Photo credit: Kate Gage, USAID

At another booth, Pierre Ndiaye, the owner and operator of a factory producing a popular nutritious yogurt-and-millet porridge, explained how USAID helps smallholder producers create his product. We support women’s producer groups around the country to grow quality millet, providing employment to hundreds of women who produce the porridge for local schoolchildren to get a nutritious meal every day.

We were also excited to demonstrate how nutrient fortification of Senegal’s staple foods can result in a radical decrease in undernutrition. Nutrition plays a critically important role in the Feed the Future approach, and fortified food can have a profound effect on the health of children in Senegal and all over Africa.

Yet another stop showed how the technology of today can help farmers as businessmen and women.  A young woman president of a 3,000-strong maize farmers’ union explained how they use the internet and mobile devices to control product quality and organize the marketing of their crops, which allows them to collectively compete with large industrial farms across the globe.

What makes these innovations yet more exciting is the potential for scaling them up and sharing them with other nations. New technology is only as good as our ability to get it into the hands of the millions of smallholder farmers who are the foundation for agriculture-led economic growth. Through Feed the Future, we are working to make successful technologies more and more accessible to the farmers who need them the most.

Looking back on the visit and on our tremendous successes in agriculture thus far, I can’t think of a more exciting, rewarding way to end a career with USAID.

Resources:

Equipping Women Teachers in South Sudan with the Skills to Succeed

Traditional gender roles in South Sudan have hindered women from improving their professional skills and limited their contributions as teachers and leaders of parent-teacher associations, school management committees and boards of governors. As a result, children lack female role models and South Sudan has a shortage of teachers.

Most of South Sudan’s teachers lack professional training, a legacy of decades of conflict. Women constitute only 12.3 percent of the teaching force in South Sudan’s primary schools and 10.5 percent of teachers in secondary schools.

USAID is helping to improve female teachers’ professional skills and retain female teachers in South Sudan’s workforce through training and providing working mothers with childcare so that they are able to focus on their professional development.

Teacher Samna Basha (middle) with colleagues. The women are benefiting from USAID-supported child care services that enable them to improve their professional development as teachers. Photo credit: Creative Associates International

Samna Basha, a third grade teacher enrolled in USAID-funded training, said that childcare helped her to concentrate and avoid inconveniencing colleagues in the classroom. “I did not expect to complete the training because I am a nursing mother and therefore unable to focus my undivided attention on the training material,” said Basha, who teaches at the Lokoloko Primary School in Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal state. “I was pleased when a … staff member [told] us that child care services would be provided by a caretaker of our choice at a venue provided by the school and that the service would be paid for by the project. It was a great relief for all the mothers … this is the first time in my experience that working mothers have been supported to fulfill their professional duties while caring for their children.”

Pasqulina Jackino is a mother of six and has been a teacher of mathematics, science, and religion in Primary 1, 2, and 3 at Ezo Community Girls School in Western Equatoria State for nearly seven years. She had received no formal teacher training until she was offered the opportunity to participate in a USAID-funded in-service training course. “I quickly packed a bag for me and my baby and set out to attend the training because I knew this was an opportunity to make me a better teacher,” she said.  ”I am now able to plan my lessons and make them more lively and interesting. Through interactions with fellow teachers and tutors from other counties, my English has improved. I am now able to explain the subject matter of the lesson to my pupils in English.”

Pasqulina can now effectively manage her classroom and encourage pupils to learn. As she explains, “to be a mother and teacher at the same time is a challenge but I am ready to take it up. This is the only way I can come out as a better person and contribute to the growth and development of my community and the entire nation.”

USAID’s Investment in Africa

As President Obama embarks on his trip to Africa, USAID is proud to take this opportunity to highlight the important work we are doing to partner with Africans in new and innovative ways to build a peaceful and prosperous future. For the first time in over a generation, sub-Saharan Africa is seeing steady progress toward ending extreme poverty, fueled by robust economic growth and better governance and service delivery in many countries. These gains have been supported by USAID’s investments in improved agriculture, health care, and democratic institutions, and our increased focus on women and a new generation of African thinkers, entrepreneurs, and innovators, each of which are delivering transformational results. In concert with partners throughout Africa, we are working toward ending poverty and providing millions a foothold in the global economy—and helping to realize the promise of the world’s most youthful region.

Women in Senegal. Photo credit: USAID

The President will visit Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania–some of USAID’s most important development partners–but his messages are relevant for the entire continent. USAID with thousands of grassroots organizations, communities and local businesses in 42 African countries to achieve these shared goals. Some examples of these partnerships are featured in this collection of stories about our work in Africa.

Throughout the President’s trip, our teams on the ground will provide regular social media updates. Be sure to follow Administrator Shah on Twitter (@rajshah) as he accompanies the President and join the conversation using #USAIDAfrica! Follow us also on Facebook and our Impact Blog for real-time stories from our missions in Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. We look forward to continuing the conversation with you throughout this trip and beyond.

On the Front Lines in Africa

Nowhere is development such an important part of U.S. engagement as it is in Africa. In anticipation of the President’s trip next week, we thought we’d share some of our favorite FrontLines stories about our work in Africa. President Obama’s strategies on global development and Africa have laid the foundation for a new approach that focus on sustainable development and a new operational model for assistance. We look forward to the opportunities that this visit will bring.

Our Favorites include:

Food Security

Child Survival

Innovation

Women and Development

Conflict Mitigation and Prevention

  • Ethiopia: Peace Brokers: USAID-sponsored reconciliation efforts usher in historic truce accord in Ethiopia’s pastoral south.

Democracy, Human Rights, and Government

Humanitarian Assistance

Resilience

  • Niger: Niger’s Tree of Life: In the face of recurring food insecurity and acute malnutrition, USAID is promoting the cultivation of hardy, vitamin-packed moringa as one way to build resilience in communities in the drought-prone Sahel.

Follow @USAID and @rajshah on Twitter for updates on the trip and to learn more about our work in Africa. Join the conversation using #USAIDAfrica.

Introducing SILCS: It’s Not Your Mother’s Diaphragm

In the early 20th century,  distribution of and education about contraceptives were illegal in the United States, leading to the widespread use of ineffective contraceptive methods. This continued until Margaret Sanger visited a Dutch birth control clinic where she learned about diaphragms and thus began a revolution in the United States. The diaphragm was the first safe and effective woman-initiated contraception in much of the world and was widely used in the United States and other countries until the introduction of the birth control pill. While use of the device has decreased over the past 50 years, a comeback may be in the wings.

The SILCS Diaphragm, set to officially launch in Europe this June, is the first new cervical barrier method that will enter the market in more than a decade.

The SILCS Diaphragm is the first new cervical barrier method that will enter the market in more than a decade. Photo credit: Kessel Marketing

PATH, in collaboration with CONRAD and funded by USAID, designed the one-size-fits-most SILCS Diaphragm to increase access to nonhormonal barrier contraception for women in low-resource settings, as well as developed countries. PATH led a user-centered design process involving input from women, their partners, and providers. The design was then verified in clinical studies by couples in the Dominican Republic, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States. The single size should remove the need for a pelvic exam and fit assessment which are obstacles to both providers and women in many settings.   PATH licensed the SILCS design to Kessel Marketing & Vertriebs GmbH of Frankfurt, Germany, who will introduce the device as the Caya™ contoured diaphragm.

While SILCS was developed to expand women’s options for nonhormonal barrier contraception, SILCS has added value due to its potential to be used as a multipurpose prevention technology when paired with tenofovir gel—a product currently in Phase III clinical testing—which is designed to protect women from acquiring HIV.

CONRAD, which owns a license for tenofovir gel, is working on a protocol for a study that will assess the safety, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics of the SILCS plus tenofovir gel. Another study will evaluate the potential of a modified tenofovir gel as a contraceptive by pairing it with the SILCS to assess their ability to prevent sperm from penetrating cervical mucus.

PATH is working with research partners in India, South Africa, and Uganda to identify opportunities and challenges for future introduction of the single-size diaphragm in developing countries. There are 222 million women worldwide who would like to avoid pregnancy but aren’t using a modern method of contraception. Some women are either unable or unwilling to use hormonal contraceptives, and many also have infrequent sex and prefer to use a product that is on demand and woman initiated.

Imagine a world where every child born is planned and their mothers are free of HIV infection. As Louis Armstrong sang, what a wonderful world this could be.

Visit Medintim to learn more.

Follow @USAIDGH on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues.

It’s The Silent Killer: Undernutrition

Shivani Cotter is a member of Mom Bloggers for Social Good. Photo credit: Shivani Cotter

This morning, my daughters ate a hearty breakfast. They had eggs, toast and a yogurt each. What do you think women and children in poverty-stricken regions throughout the world ate (or did they)?

I remember reading an article by Anap Shah a few years ago that I have never been able to get out of my head. The heading read, “Today, around 21,000 children died around the world.”

I was shocked! Living in a bubble, I rarely paid attention to how devastating the numbers were (about 1 child dying every 4 seconds)! Although written a few years ago, that article was the catalyst for my quest to learn more about global nutrition and it’s effect on women and children.

Anap Shah caused two conflicting emotions: First, relief that my children didn’t fall into one of those statistics. Second, sick to my stomach that I even felt that way!

Did you know that nearly 165 million children under 5-years-old suffer from undernutrition today? According to the Lancet medical journal, malnutrition contributes to 3.1 million under-five child deaths annually. The numbers are stunning but don’t have to be. The U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is dedicated to reducing them. It’s working towards building a better future for mothers and children.

Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, has already improved nutrition and helped people lead healthier lives in Zambia, Guatemala, Tanzania and more. Through Feed the Future in the past year alone, 12 million children have been positively affected — and that is just the beginning. Feed the Future shares their knowledge with the people in poverty-stricken locations and support country-owned programs addressing undernutrition. Their monthly newsletter is filled with information regarding their latest goals and progress.

USAID believes in integrating their approach on dealing with global health and nutrition by forging the right partnerships through initiatives like Feed the Future. USAID, on behalf of the U.S. Government, signed on to the global Nutrition for Growth Compact, and supports the Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition, which is chock filled with information about the importance of improving nutrition globally. Their goal is to ensure every child is given the best start possible in life.

The first 1,000 days from a woman’s pregnancy to a child’s second birthday are the most critical for a child’s development. By focusing on maternal health and young children, the U.S. Government through USAID and the Feed the Future initiative are striving to cut the death toll for children under 5 years old. Find out more about their goal and ways to help here.

Shivani Cotter is a writer, blogger and social media activist. Through her blog, TrendingMom.com, Shivani is dedicated to teaching others how to live positive and fulfilling lives as well as leaving a lovely legacy for her daughters. Shivani is part of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, a global coalition of 1000+ mom bloggers, in seventeen countries, who spread good news about the amazing work non-profit organizations and NGOs are doing around the world.

Follow @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

SPRING to Better Nutrition Across the Globe

Amanda Pomeroy is a Research & Evaluation Advisor for the SPRING Project. Photo credit: SPRING

Evidence has been mounting to support the hypothesis that maternal undernutrition, as well as in-utero infant and young child undernutrition, are correlated with the risk of developing nutrition related non-communicable diseases (N-RNCDs) later in life. Since 2012, the Strengthening Partnerships, Results, Innovations around Nutrition Globally (SPRING) Project has been mining this evidence base for information that can help program planners and policy makers better conceptualize what this correlation could mean in practical terms for maternal and child nutrition interventions.

SPRING has completed several activities that contribute to this effort. As a first step, we conducted descriptive analyses of secondary data in selected regions and countries to explore where future N-RNCD risks may lie, and to identify how undernutrition programs may need to be tailored to reduce health problems as children and adolescents reach adulthood. Currently SPRING has ten country profiles across Africa and Southeast Asia, and two regional profiles that summarize trends across countries for these two regions.

Based on these descriptive analyses for our selected countries, we found that most nutritionally at-risk countries had several sub-populations with overlapping nutritional burdens (where both under- and over-nutrition were present at the same time within the same household or same individual). While one would expect this to consistently happen in the wealthier, more educated households, this pattern was not uniform across countries, and several countries such as Zambia and Malawi, the less wealthy, rural, and the less educated also saw significant overlap.

While sub-national analyses could not be conducted for pre-NCD and N-RNCD conditions, in the regional profiles we were able to examine trends and prevalence across nations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) type II diabetes mellitus (diabetes) and cardiovascular disease (CVD), along with cancer and other NCDs, account for around one-quarter to one-third of all deaths in SSE Asia (calculated from WHO 2011) and around one-third of all deaths in Africa (calculated from WHO 2011). The data that have been estimated for prevalence of diabetes, show that while growth of diabetes in SSE Asian countries has not been remarkable, it does in fact have one of the highest average prevalence rates of diabetes among adult women, only recently overtaken by the Americas region in 2007. While Africa overall does not have a particularly high rate of diabetes, there has been a steady increase over the ten most recent years of data. The range of diabetes prevalence is quite wide for this region, with the lowest figure being 5.9% in Burundi, and the highest being 14.7% in Cape Verde (2008 estimates). Southern Africa seems to have the highest sub-region burden, with Swaziland and Lesotho both coming in at around 12%. For comparison, the United States had an average prevalence for adult women of 9.1% that year.

The regional profiles also discuss the national trends in calorie availability and child nutritional status, to highlight where future risk may be building. For copies of the regional and country briefs, and to learn more about SPRING, please go visit their website. SPRING will be adding new country profiles as needed, so check back for additional countries.

The country and regional profiles are a useful first step in operationalizing research into usable information for program planning and policy advocacy. As a second step, SPRING completed the first phase of a cost effectiveness simulation model looking at the short and long term effects of undernutrition interventions that are conducted in the first 1,000 days. The goal is to produce a more inclusive understanding of the relative value of nutrition interventions by extending the time frame for estimating benefits, specifically in terms of quantifying the ‘value added’ by their impact on early life genetic programming and any resulting later life course N-RNCD risk. For more information on our simulation model, please see our activities.

Going forward, SPRING will actively work with USAID to identify innovative applications of these resources to country programs. Via improved planning, advocacy, and targeting, this information can contribute to reducing the impacts of NCDs via better nutrition across the globe. 

Follow @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

Keeping Global Nutrition on the Table

Jennifer Barbour is a member of Mom Bloggers for Social Good. Photo credit: Jennifer Barbour

This originally appeared on the Feed the Future Blog.

When I was pregnant with my sons, I paid close attention to my diet. I cut out caffeine and the occasional alcoholic drink. I ate more spinach when my body needed more iron.

I continued to make adjustments to my diet when I breastfed my boys for the first several months of their lives. I thought about the food I put in my body for the health of my babies and for me.

I knew the importance of nutrition in those early stages of childhood, even before my kids were born. What I didn’t realize is that if a child isn’t given the proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life, from pregnancy to age 2, his growth could be stunted and his performance in school could be affected.

To think that pregnant women and children are lucky to even have a daily meal, let alone a nutritious one, never even crossed my mind when I was pregnant.

I was lucky to have the means to eat a healthy diet and access to the food my body needed.

I’m much more aware of what it means to be food insecure these days. My nonprofit work in Maine has opened my eyes to child poverty that I didn’t know existed in my own back yard. Nearly 1 in 4 children in Maine are food insecure.

I’ve written blog posts on food insecurity, hunger and global nutrition. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how my audience would react to such subjects. Hearing about 165 million malnourished children in the world isn’t exactly uplifting.

But I always try to show the good that can come out of such knowledge, whether it’s a local restaurant giving a meal to needy families for every meal sold or employees tending a garden to stock a food pantry. Telling the stories of those who are helping to solve these problems inspires action in others.

On a global level, there is much to be done. An initiative like the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future, led by USAID, is leading the way by showing how nutrition, poverty and food insecurity are all related.

Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, Feed the Future is addressing undernutrition through country-owned programs. They are looking at agricultural development and addressing the most at-risk population, women and children. The investment in food security is seen as an investment in our own economy. I am elated to see that almost 12 million children under 5 have been reached by Feed the Future nutrition programs.

It’s encouraging to see our world leaders take on global malnutrition.

Together, we can keep them accountable.

About the author: Jennifer Barbour is a copywriter, blogger, aspiring author and new media consultant. She aims to inspire, to entertain and to make you think. Her passions are writing, philanthropy, her awesome family and bacon, though not necessarily in that order. You can find out more at anotherjennifer.com.

Follow @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

SMART Training Enables Egyptian Woman to Educate Community on Nutrition, Healthy Behaviors

Gaz Mohamed Mohamed Hussein Al Masarah comes from Masrah, a small village on the Nile about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the governorate capital of Asyut, Upper Egypt. She is 25-years-old and delighted to be included in a group of 20 young women selected by the SMART Project (Community-based Initiatives for a Better Life, funded by USAID) to work as Community Health Workers (CHWs) in their own communities. This class of 20 future CHWs is part of a total cadre of 1,200 women who have been trained.

The SMART project—a USAID-funded MCHIP project that focuses on improving maternal and neonatal health and nutrition—works through community development associations in Upper and Lower Egypt to train physicians and CHWs to improve newborn care, nutrition, and the use of modern family planning methods. Providers and CHWs are trained to focus on the nutritional habits of pregnant and lactating women, implement perinatal practices (such as intensive care for preterm or low birth weight babies), and encourage exclusive breastfeeding for six months.

Gaz Mohamed, third from the left (in red scarf), attending the CHW training. Photo credit: MCHIP.

During a break in the training on infant nutrition, Gaz recounts how, as one of six children, her family was never able to afford to send her to school. Her older sister married young and her brothers attended primary school, but Gaz was kept at home to help her mother. However, when she was 10-years-old, a relative started a literacy class in the village, and persuaded Gaz’s father to allow her to attend.

Gaz laughs when she tells how happy she was to carry her books around like the other students she had seen. She worked hard at the literacy classes and was soon able to join Year 5 in Primary School. She finished with good results and, with the support of her father, went on to secondary school, where at graduation her marks were good enough for her to have entered the faculty of agriculture, education, or commerce. However, her father did not want her to move into Asyut to continue her studies.

Not wanting to stay in the house all day, Gaz began to look for something she could do in her village. At the beginning of 2012, she was nominated by a local community development association to participate in the SMART training course for CHWs. The Smart Project selects CHWs in every community in the targeted governorates to visit pregnant and breastfeeding women in order to disseminate messages about healthy nutritional habits and infant care. Gaz’s best friend from school, Manal, was also nominated, and they were very excited to join the training together.

Gaz excitedly shares her knowledge from the training. She says she has learned about the benefits of breastfeeding and is convinced it will help mothers who traditionally start feeding their children different drinks and soup after only 40 days. She speaks confidently and enthusiastically about her new role in the community, saying how happy she is to be able to help her neighbors and friends in the village. Thankfully, her father has also accepted the idea that his daughter is working.

Gaz’s mother is proud of her daughter, too, especially for choosing to help other women. As the first woman in the family to have received an education and worked outside the home, Gaz contributes some of her monthly salary toward the family food bill. The rest she is saving for her marriage expenses. Although she is engaged, she is in no hurry to marry and insists she will continue working after she marries. She recognizes that the knowledge she has gained during the CHW training will be very useful for her when she has children of her own.

And reflecting back on her childhood desire to go to school, Gaz says she never would have imagined that she would one day have the information and confidence to go into women’s homes to discuss health and nutrition issues. “I just wanted to be educated like my brothers,” she says. “And that gave me the chance to be working and helping people. I wish that all the girls in Masrah could have an education. With education we could chase the ghost of malnutrition from Asyut!”

Learn more about USAID’s work on improving nutrition

Follow @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

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