PROGRES requires a keen gender perspective

By Alanna Savage and Andrew Gaydos

Alanna Savage is a Senior Communications Specialist for the FCI Program of Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and Andrew Gaydos is a Project Support Associate at MSH.

In our ambitious vision to reach all people, everywhere, it is ever more necessary to examine the varying life experiences–the actual realities–of the people whose health we work to improve. Part of this examination requires a critical look at how gender plays out in the power structures of society, the daily lives of people, and more concretely, in the “who, what, where, when, and how” of health-seeking behavior and access to essential reproductive and maternal health care.

Maternal mortality in Mali remains high–587 women die for every 100,000 live births–but only 28 percent of sexually active women of reproductive have satisfied their demand for family planning.  Women and girls continue to confront widespread sexual and gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); in 2015, about 126,000 women and girls received prevention services, protection, and care related to FGM/C. And thanks to the work of the FCI Program of MSH, traditional and faith leaders are advocating for family planning and coming together to provide support to survivors of gender-based violence and to identify early warning signs of imminent violence.

Gender inequality undoubtedly plays a role in high maternal mortality and unmet need for family planning and the continuance of sexual and gender-based violence. As long as women and girls must continue to fight for equal voice and an equal share of opportunity and power, their lives and health will remain under threat. Gender influences health outcomes, access to care, providers’ treatment of patients, relationships among health workers and supervisors, and health career barriers and opportunities.

Photo by Catherine Lalonde

Continue reading “PROGRES requires a keen gender perspective”

We are fearless. #FearlessFeb

Photo by Joey O’Loughlin

We are celebrating Fearless February to rally the global community around advocacy for reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health!

This month, the FCI Program of MSH will feature stories about fearless champions, powerful evidence, and advocacy wins from the Rights & Realities archive. Follow #FearlessFeb on Twitter and Facebook to read the story of the day.

Join us on Twitter and Facebook, and tell us:
What makes you fearless? What does “fearless” mean to you?
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Trump’s global gag rule silences doctors and midwives and harms their patients

By Catharine Taylor

Catharine Taylor is Vice President for health programs at Management Sciences for Health. This post originally appeared on STAT News

Midwifery students in Sierra Leone, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Funding for safe pregnancy and delivery worldwide is threatened by President Trump’s reinstatement of the global gag rule. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump’s reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, better known as the global gag rule, came as no surprise to anyone working in the field of global health. We have been through this before — in 1984, when the policy was first put into effect by President Reagan, and then in 1993, 2001, and 2009, when it was repealed, reinstated, and repealed again.

The Mexico City Policy is called a gag rule because it limits not just what organizations and health providers do but what they are permitted to say. It prevents foreign organizations that receive US government funding from performing abortions — even if they are using funds from non-US government sources and even if abortion is completely legal in their countries.

The global gag rule also steps right between a woman and her doctor, nurse, or midwife, preventing these frontline health providers from telling their patients about the full, legal range of health options available to them. It forbids trusted advisers from giving honest, comprehensive health advice and information. I started my career as a nurse-midwife, and then worked in maternal and newborn health programs in Africa and Asia, so I know what this will mean for the lives and health of women and their families. Continue reading “Trump’s global gag rule silences doctors and midwives and harms their patients”

Emergency contraception is a simple part of post-rape care: Why is it not routinely provided?

By Melissa Garcia and Sarah Rich

Melissa Garcia is Senior Technical Officer for the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception and Sarah Rich is Senior Program Officer at Women’s Refugee Commission. This post originally appeared on the blog for the Sexual Violence Research Initiative

Emergency contraception (EC) can reduce the risk of pregnancy after unprotected sex, including in cases of sexual violence. Global guidance is clear that EC should be offered to women and girls within 120 hours of sexual violence to prevent the traumatic consequences of pregnancy resulting from rape.

Yet women and girls who have experienced unprotected sex, including through sexual violence, do not routinely have access to EC. The global aid communities must work together to increase access to EC for sexual violence survivors around the world, including for women and girls who are the most marginalized, like those living in crisis-affected settings. A range of strategies can be implemented to improve access to EC. Further research is also needed to identify, evaluate, and invest in new and innovative solutions. Continue reading “Emergency contraception is a simple part of post-rape care: Why is it not routinely provided?”

Youth advocates share challenges with health ministers at UNGA

Anoyara Khatun speaks about working in her community to end human trafficking and child marriage. Also pictured (left to right): Patrick Mwesigye, Yemurai Nyoni, and Michalina Drejza Photo credit: J. Cook Photography
Anoyara Khatun speaks about working in her community to end human trafficking and child marriage. Also pictured (left to right): Patrick Mwesigye, Yemurai Nyoni, and Michalina Drejza (Photo by J. Cook Photography)

Youth advocates and representatives from health ministries around the world  came together September 18 to share achievements, challenges, and innovative strategies to improve the health and well-being of women, newborns, children, and adolescents. Continue reading “Youth advocates share challenges with health ministers at UNGA”

Keeping it real: Accountability for women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health during the SDG era

“It’s important we ask women what’s actually happening on the ground. After all these strategies and initiatives, women are still giving birth on the floor. And they have to get their own water!” said Caroline Maposhere, a Zimbabwean nurse-midwife and civil society advocate, from the floor of the 5th Annual Breakfast for Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health, September 18.

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Caroline Maposhere shares her experience working as a midwife in Zimbabwe. (Photo by J. Cook Photography)

Continue reading “Keeping it real: Accountability for women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health during the SDG era”

Emergency contraception: The reproductive health innovation everyone should know about

By Elizabeth Westley and Monica Kerrigan

Elizabeth Westley leads the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception. Monica Kerrigan is a global leader in family planning and previously served at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and as a senior adviser to Family Planning 2020.

This article originally appeared on Devex.

Unintended pregnancies take a harrowing toll on women, young people, families and nations. When women are unable to decide whether and when to have children, maternal and newborn deaths rise, educational and economic opportunities are lost, families, communities and countries suffer greatly.

Global data highlights the tremendous challenge we face: 213 million pregnancies occur annually and an astonishing 40 percent — about 85 million — of these are unintended. In the United States alone, there are approximately 3 million unintended pregnancies each year, and in India, a staggering 18 million. A woman’s ability to make informed decisions about her reproductive health is one of the most basic human rights. It is a decision that can determine what kind of future she will have — and whether she will have one at all.

Emergency contraception is a unique tool for women to space and time their pregnancies. It is grossly underutilized, underfunded, and not fully optimized globally. It is the only contraceptive method that can be taken after unprotected sex and is effective for several days to prevent pregnancy. It is especially needed by women who have been sexually assaulted, who are often desperate to avoid becoming pregnant by their rapist. Continue reading “Emergency contraception: The reproductive health innovation everyone should know about”

Global Leaders in Maternal and Newborn Health: Patrick Mwesigye (Uganda)

By Sarah Hodin, Project Coordinator II, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

This article originally appeared on the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) blog.

In July 2016, global leaders gathered for the second annual Safe Mothers and Newborns Leadership Workshop hosted by the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) in partnership with the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) and The Aga Kahn University and sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The participants represented 26 countries from five continents.
Patrick

SMNLW participant Patrick Mwesigye is from Kampala, Uganda. He is the Founder/CEO of the Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum, a community-based organization that aims to empower young women and support youth engagement. He is also the Vice President of the Africa Youth and Adolescents Network on Population and Development and the Chair of the PMNCH advisory group for the adolescent health knowledge summary. Continue reading “Global Leaders in Maternal and Newborn Health: Patrick Mwesigye (Uganda)”

A script-writer walks into a pharmacy…

By Melissa Garcia and Elizabeth Westley

Melissa Garcia is senior technical officer and Elizabeth Westley is the director of the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ICEC), hosted by Management Sciences for Health.

“What happened when you went to the pharmacy and asked for emergency contraception?” Melissa surveyed a room full of television and radio writers attending a workshop in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The participants looked around, waiting for someone to speak up first.

“The pharmacist gave me a look, so I had to show him my PMC badge to prove I was there for research, not for myself!” said a woman from Population Media Center, an organization that produces educational soap operas to improve the health and well-being of people around the world. Writers in Nigeria had similar stories to tell. An older man in flowing traditional robes confessed “I walked up and down the street three times before I summoned the courage to enter the store.” A young family planning (FP) advocate joined the media training in Senegal, and wearing her hijab, reported that the pharmacist demanded to know who the pill was meant for.

Melissa visits actors and writers on the set of C'est la vie in Senegal.
Melissa visits actors and writers on the set of C’est la vie in Senegal.

Continue reading “A script-writer walks into a pharmacy…”