In a new commentary for Devex, Council expert Stephanie Psaki calls for rigorous evidence on the best ways to improve schooling to keep girls safe, healthy, and learning so that they thrive over the long term.
Today in London, the UK government and UNICEF hosted Girl Summit 2014 to rally global efforts to end child, early, and forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) within a generation. Council experts Annabel Erulkar and Karen Austrian presented findings from Council research and programs in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia.
The largest-ever generation of young people aged 15–24 is now making the transition from childhood to adulthood. Most of them—around 90%—live in developing countries, mostly in Asia and Africa. Achieving urgent global health and development goals will be impossible without determining their needs—particularly those of girls—and setting them on the path to a successful, productive adulthood.
On Wednesday, July 9th, the Right Honorable Justine Greening, UK Secretary of State for International Development, 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, HIV, and other STIs. The project is led and being evaluated by the Population Council.
Later in the day, the Secretary of State delivered the keynote speech at Zambia’s regional symposium on ending child marriage. In her speech, she pledged UK support to lead international efforts to end child marriage within a generation.
On Mother’s Day, I think about the profound bond that’s formed between mothers and their infants. It begins in pregnancy (or even before) as a woman dreams about the baby she will have. At the time of birth, especially in the first hour and through the next weeks and months, the attachment takes hold as the new mother welcomes her baby and responds to his or her needs. It is a bond for life.
Throughout this process, a mother’s health influences her baby’s health, and optimizing a mother’s health begins before pregnancy. When planning her family, a woman may need to consider many factors, including whether she is emotionally, physically, and financially ready for a pregnancy. Being able to access a variety of safe and effective contraceptives and information about family planning is the first step toward safeguarding a woman’s health and that of her future baby.
The collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh a year ago killed more than 1,000 people and injured more than 2,500. Many of those injured and killed were migrant adolescent girls who were employed in a garment factory in the building. The tragedy drew attention to safety issues at Bangladesh garment factories and led some to call for boycotts of clothing made in Bangladesh.
Council researcher Sajeda Amin argues against a boycott, calling it a significant step back for the rights and livelihoods of girls and women, whose lives have been transformed by the opportunity to work. “Earning a wage helps young women prepare for a variety of life scenarios, balancing long-term and short-term goals,” Amin says in a blog on The Guardian’s adolescent girls hub. “Rather than risk the gains made by young women in Bangladesh, which were facilitated in large part by the garment industry, I recommend supporting initiatives that build upon these gains and expand opportunities for girls and young women.”
Through PEPFAR and other US Government funding, significant progress has been made in slowing the spread of HIV and AIDS throughout Africa. However, US progress toward creating an AIDS-free future may be compromised by anti-LGBT laws recently passed in Uganda and Nigeria. These laws further marginalize populations at the highest risk of HIV infection rendering them even harder to reach with prevention, care, and treatment services. The potential impact on the HIV epidemic is considerable.
In 2003, Population Council and Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals teamed up to create the International Contraceptive Access (ICA) Foundation—a collaboration working to meet the reproductive needs of women in resource-poor settings, primarily in developing countries. Working with local service-delivery organizations, the Foundation provides the Council-developed LNG IUS (levonorgestrel releasing intrauterine system)—a long-acting reversible hormonal contraceptive method—on a not-for-profit basis to selected public-sector organizations. Since December 2012, nearly 50,000 LNG IUS have been delivered.
A recent analysis by Andrea Nove and colleagues in Lancet Global Health is consistent with an analysis by Population Council vice president Ann Blanc and colleagues, both of which found that the excess mortality risk faced by mothers aged 15–19 years might be “less than previously believed.” In a letter to the editor of Lancet Global Health, Blanc reminds the maternal health community that “the evidence for evidence-based policymaking should hold up under scrutiny and that facts are not facts by virtue of frequent repetition.”