Standing with Women and Girls to End AIDS

By Sarah Konopka

Sarah Konopka, MA, is Principal Technical Advisor for HIV & AIDS Management Sciences for Health’s (MSH) Global HIV & AIDS Program. Follow Sarah on Twitter . This article originally appeared on MSH’s Global Health Impact blog. 

Photo Credit: Mark Tuschman

There was an awkward silence and then soft giggling as the girls looked at each other. I had just finished talking about strategies for persuading sexual partners to use a condom. Laughter during these skills-building and girls empowerment sessions with 30+ secondary school students in Morogoro, Tanzania was not uncommon, particularly given the sometimes sensitive topics of discussion, but this time, the joke was lost on me. Continue reading “Standing with Women and Girls to End AIDS”

Ending gender-based violence and FGM in Mali, village by village

Martha Murdock is Technical Strategy Lead for regional programs at the FCI Program of Management Sciences for Health.

Communities in the Mopti region of central Mali—which is home to several ethnic groups and to many people displaced by 2012 violence in the country’s northern region—continue to grapple with widespread sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), including forced and early marriage and other harmful practices. A majority of Malian girls are married by the time they reach 18, and 15% before the age of 15.  About 91% of women between 15 and 49 years old, as well as 69% of girls under 15, have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). And, as is true in so many conflict-affected areas, widespread sexual violence has been a tragic and infuriating effect of war, dislocation, and migration.

After many years of work in Mali, both in the Mopti region and nationally, the FCI Program of Management Sciences for Health is committed both to reducing the incidence of SGBV and to mitigating its devastating effects on survivors. Because harmful practices are deeply rooted in the region’s cultural, religious, economic, and social heritage, ending them requires strong and concerted community engagement and action. But the impact of this work could not be any more powerful, as we learn again and again from the women whose strength, resolve, and resilience continue to inspire us.

An SGBV survivor arriving for medical and psychosocial care
Photo: Adama Sanogo/ Management Sciences for Health

Continue reading “Ending gender-based violence and FGM in Mali, village by village”

Top tips for advocates working on emergency contraception

By Melissa Garcia and Cristina Puig Borrás

Melissa Garcia is Technical Adviser for the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ICEC), hosted by MSH. Cristina Puig Borrás is the Coordinator for the European Consortium for Emergency Contraception. This article orginally appeared on ICEC’s website

Photo: Susana Galdos/MSH

With the current largest generation of young people, there is much to celebrate on August 12, International Youth Day. In particular, there is the growing recognition that as agents of change, adolescents and young people and their organisations are essential stakeholders who contribute to inclusive, just, sustainable and peaceful societies. Crucially, advocates working on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and reproductive rights (RR) advance access for young people in meaningful ways. Continue reading “Top tips for advocates working on emergency contraception”

For the first time, communes in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region add family planning to their budgets

By Nongma Sawadogo

Version française

Nongma Sawadogo leads work on women’s and children’s health for the FCI Program of Management Sciences for Health (MSH) in Burkina Faso. This article originally appeared on the K4Health Blog.  

A family planning booth at a health fair in Burkina Faso. Photo: Center for Communication Programs, Courtesy of Photoshare

When I was in training to become a midwife, a flight attendant, with no money and in critical condition, arrived at the maternity ward of Yalgado Ouédraogo hospital in Ouagadougou after getting a botched abortion. My colleagues and I put money together to buy her essential medicines, but she eventually died–even after we administered the medicines. We were shocked. And I thought, we must do something to improve women’s reproductive health. When I think that this woman could have been saved if she’d had access to family planning earlier, I’m reminded of my reason for becoming a midwife–to save human beings.

But family planning doesn’t start with midwives or doctors. It starts with political will and with money. If political leaders want to  improve women’s access to contraception and reproductive health services in their communities, they can act on this commitment by making a line item for these services in their local budgets, the local government’s plan for how it will spend public money. Continue reading “For the first time, communes in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region add family planning to their budgets”

An ounce of (after-sex) prevention: At the Family Planning Summit, let’s talk about emergency contraception

By Elizabeth Westley

Elizabeth Westley is the director of the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception, where this article first appeared. 

To meet the global Family Planning 2020 goals, a full range of family planning methods must be available, including user-controlled, short-acting methods. The Guttmacher Institute’s analysis , Adding it Up, estimates that 214 million women of reproductive age in developing regions want to avoid pregnancy but are not using a modern contraceptive method.  Half of unmarried women with an unmet need for family planning report infrequent sex as the reason that they do not use a family planning method. A quarter of married women not using contraception fall into the same category.  Not feeling themselves at high levels of risk, these women may wish to avoid the appointments and waiting times, dependence on providers, side effects, discomforts, and other commitments that long-acting contraceptive methods sometimes entail. Other women may not be using modern contraception because they are unaware of their options or are faced with inaccessibility due to distance barriers, poor health infrastructures, stock outs, or high prices. As well, many women are located in humanitarian and fragile settings where contraceptive access can be challenging.  For many women and girls not currently using a long-acting contraceptive method, a simple, discreet, user-controlled, low-commitment, one-time “on demand” form of contraception that can be accessed easily and quickly is a critically important option. This method already exists: emergency contraception. Continue reading “An ounce of (after-sex) prevention: At the Family Planning Summit, let’s talk about emergency contraception”

Building Health Systems that Work for Mothers, Newborns and Midwives

By Catharine Taylor

Catharine Taylor, a former practicing midwife, is the Vice President of the Health Programs Group at Management Sciences for Health (MSH). This post originally appeared on MSH’s Global Health Impact Blog

A midwife leads a pregnancy club in eastern Uganda. (Photo: Kate Ramsey/MSH)

For many people living in poor and underserved regions – whether rural communities or growing cities – midwives are the health system. Continue reading “Building Health Systems that Work for Mothers, Newborns and Midwives”

Femmes saines, nations en santé

Par Fatimata Kané

Fatimata Kané est directrice  du programme FCI de MSH au Mali.

Photo: Catherine Lalonde

Mettre un enfant au monde est tout un travail différent. Tout le monde peut aider quelqu’un qui est malade, mais tout le monde ne peut pas faire le travail d’une sage-femme–guider une femme et son bébé en toute sécurité pendant la grossesse et l’accouchement. Je sais ce que signifie garder les femmes et les bébés vivants et en bonne santé parce que je suis une sage-femme. Continue reading “Femmes saines, nations en santé”

Beyond reproductive and maternal health: Non-communicable diseases and women’s health

On March 15, 2017, Management Sciences for Health (MSH), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Women Deliver, Novo Nordisk, and the NCD Alliance, of which MSH is a steering committee member, hosted a panel discussion during the Commission on the Status of Women to call for the integration of the prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) into the reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health continuum of care. The following post summarizes the key messages from the side event and offers recommendations for further action.

Photo by Kristina Sperkova (via Twitter)

Women are essential to a vibrant, healthy economy. Women are producers, caretakers, and consumers–and when they are oppressed and devalued, the economy stalls. Women’s full participation in the workforce is contingent on their ability to realize their fundamental human rights, including the right to health. Continue reading “Beyond reproductive and maternal health: Non-communicable diseases and women’s health”

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”