News & Views

Council Commentary

Population Council Mourns the Loss of Family Planning Champion Valerie DeFillipo

Over a career that spanned decades, Valerie was a true leader and champion for women’s and girls’ reproductive health and rights. As founding executive director of Family Planning 2020 and throughout her career, she worked to ensure that the initiative has flourished and grown into a dynamic global movement. The Population Council extends its condolences to Valerie’s family, friends, and colleagues. She will be greatly missed.

“Valerie’s energy, style, and willingness to engage made all the difference in many people’s lives, particularly those who found themselves most vulnerable and forgotten,” said John Townsend, vice president and director of the Population Council’s Reproductive Health program. “She will be remembered and celebrated.”   

More from FP2020: Family Planning 2020 Saddened by the Loss of Founding Executive Director Valerie DeFillipo  

Council Commentary

Multipurpose Prevention Technologies: The Future of HIV and STI Protection

Every day, more than 1 million people are newly infected with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can lead to morbidity, mortality, and an increased risk of HIV acquisition. Strategies including behavior change, condom promotion, and therapy have not reduced STIs worldwide, pointing to the need for novel approaches that prevent both HIV and STIs.

In a new paper published in Trends in Microbiology, the Population Council and partners explore the role of key STIs in increasing susceptibility to HIV; new biomedical prevention approaches including topical microbicides and multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs); and the scientific and regulatory hurdles that must be overcome to make combination HIV/STI prevention a reality.

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Council Commentary

New DHS Reports from Kenya and Zambia Point to Improving Maternal and Child Health

The most recent Demographic and Health Surveys from Kenya and Zambia show progress in health indicators—particularly in the areas of maternal and child health—and also suggest where more work is needed to ensure people can achieve their full potential.

In Kenya, more and more women are giving birth in health facilities (40% in 2003, 43% in 2008-09, 61% in 2014), and the percentage of women getting postnatal care in the first two days after birth has increased substantially (10% in 2003, 42% in 2008-09, 51% in 2014). In both Kenya and Zambia, increasing numbers of women are using contraception (Kenya: 39% in 2003, 46% in 2008-09, 58% in 2014; Zambia: 34% in 2001-02, 41% in 2007, 49% in 2013-14), indicating the prioritization of women’s health in these countries.

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Council Commentary

Invest in Girls, Change the World

Martha Brady and Nicole Haberland are directors of RISING and Population Council senior associates.

There is widespread recognition that investing in adolescent girls in the developing world not only improves their lives, but is critical to the success of key development goals, like reducing poverty and improving global health and education. Studies also show that excluding adolescent girls from school, community participation, and meaningful livelihoods has a substantial negative impact on the health of girls and their families, and on the economic prosperity of their families and communities.

However, key questions about programs for adolescent girls remain unanswered. For example:

  • Do multi-component programs lead to better outcomes for girls than single-component programs?
  • Do multi-level interventions (those directed at girls but also at gatekeepers, boys/men, or community institutions/systems) lead to better outcomes for girls?
  • Can “boosters”—supplemental, short interventions provided to participating girls sometime well after the end of the main program—help sustain the effects of a program? If so, what, when and how should they be administered?
  • How do the effects of an intervention vary depending on the “saturation” of the program in the community? Is there a threshold proportion of girls that must be involved? 
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Council Commentary

Does Pregnancy Really Cause Girls to Drop Out of School?

Does Pregnancy Really Cause Girls to Drop Out of School?

Globally, “schoolgirl pregnancy” is cited as one of the primary barriers to girls’ education. But the story may not be as simple as it seems. Today on Devex, Population Council researcher Stephanie Psaki makes the case that investing the time and resources to understand the true causes of schoolgirl dropout will pay off with more effective interventions.

Council Commentary

BALIKA: Building Assets for Bangladeshi Girls

Two out of three girls in Bangladesh are married as children. Through the BALIKA (Bangladeshi Association for Life Skills, Income, and Knowledge for Adolescents) project, the Population Council and partners are evaluating approaches—including building skills for modern livelihoods—to prevent child marriage and improve life opportunities for girls in rural Bangladesh.

A new report outlines baseline findings on the lives of girls in the BALIKA study areas. Drawings by girls in BALIKA illustrate the real-life challenges they face and the opportunities the program provides them.

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Council Commentary

Investing in the Poorest Girls in the Poorest Communities Early Enough to Make a Difference

Investing in the Poorest Girls in the Poorest Communities Early Enough to Make a Difference

For decades, the Population Council has generated the evidence to demonstrate that adolescent girls are a neglected population with great potential for galvanizing global development and implemented successful programs to build girls’ assets. Read a new commentary from Council senior associate and policy analyst Judith Bruce on the Council’s evidence and approach.

Council Commentary

What Are Assets?

An asset is a store of value—a valuable thing—that adolescent girls can use to reduce vulnerabilities and make the most of opportunities. Once a girl gains basic assets such as financial literacy, self-esteem, and a network of reliable friends, she is better able to achieve her full potential.

Download an infographic describing different types of assets from a new Population Council report, Building the Assets to Thrive: Addressing the HIV-related Vulnerabilities of Adolescent Girls in Ethiopia.

Council Commentary

Population Council Hosts Archbishop Desmond Tutu, HRH Princess Mabel van Oranje in Zambia

Population Council Hosts Archbishop Desmond Tutu, HRH Princess Mabel van Oranje in Zambia
Photo credit: Fran├žois D'Elbee/Girls Not Brides

On Tuesday, September 16th, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and HRH Princess Mabel van Oranje, Chair of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage, visited with girls participating in the Population Council’s Adolescent Girls Empowerment Program (AGEP). AGEP is designed to find the best ways to improve girls’ social, health, and economic resources so that they can stay in school longer, avoid early marriage, delay sexual activity, and prevent unintended pregnancy and HIV and other STIs. The project is led and being evaluated by the Population Council. The Population Council is at the forefront of directing policy attention to child marriage and in developing and testing effective methods of reducing the practice. Check out a slideshow of their visit at Girls Not Brides.

In a statement released after the visit, Tutu said, “It is encouraging to see that the government, civil society, traditional leaders and others in Zambia have recognised that child marriage has a devastating impact on girls and the nation as a whole. I am impressed by the determination of all those we have met who are working to bring an end to this scourge. . . . We have seen how empowerment programmes can transform a girl’s life, increasing her confidence and her ability to make choices about her own future. We also need to make sure that education, health and other services are accessible and affordable especially for adolescent girls—married and unmarried.”