Women & Gender

Happy holidays and health on earth!

Envision a 2017 where everyone has the opportunity for a healthy life. Working together for stronger health systems around the world in 2017. Best wishes for the new year!

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{Photo Credit: Adama Sanogo/MSH}Photo Credit: Adama Sanogo/MSH
As we commemorate the international campaign"16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence,"  MSH reflects on our experiences working to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls.

“We remember the hard times the women and girls of Douentza have experienced,” said Animata Bassama, a representative of the women of Douentza, referring to the fighting and ensuing gender-based violence (GBV) that plagued Mali in 2012.

Animata spoke to a crowd of 100 government officials, NGO representatives, health and finance officials, women’s advocates, and community members. A new center for GBV survivors, fortified by concrete and adorned in yellow and pink, was her backdrop. 

“And to the entire population of Douentza, we must unite in peace and understanding to effectively manage this center together,” she continued. 

In May 2016, the FCI Program of MSH, with funding from UN Women, opened a center next to the Douentza Referral Health Center to provide a safe space for GBV survivors to seek medical and psychosocial care, as well as temporary shelter.

{Malagasy CHV from Anjeva presenting family planning options to a young woman. (Photo Credit: Samy Rakotoniaina/MSH)}Malagasy CHV from Anjeva presenting family planning options to a young woman. (Photo Credit: Samy Rakotoniaina/MSH)

When it comes to contraceptives, having choices is key.

More than 220 million women around the world want to avoid pregnancy but are not using modern methods of contraception.

Reasons for this vary, from family disapproval, to fear of side effects, to infrequent sex. Increasing access to multiple contraceptive options can allay some of these barriers.

Without multiple options, a woman who is dissatisfied with her current method may stop using contraception completely. With more choices, she can switch to another method and have the support she needs to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.

Family planning is important not only for women’s health and empowerment, but it also helps reduce pervasive poverty and environmental degradation, and contributes to our goal of an AIDS-free generation. According to the World Health Organization, family planning has the potential to reduce maternal deaths by one-third and reduce newborn, infant, and child deaths by 10 percent.  

 {Photo by the Spanish Cooperation (AECID)}An expert and advocate for persons with disabilities attends a strategy meeting to discuss the new WE DECIDE initiative.Photo by the Spanish Cooperation (AECID)

Violence against women, including forced or coerced sex, is an epidemic that persists all over the world. But women with disabilities, often marginalized and denied their sexual and reproductive health rights, are particularly vulnerable to such abuse.

In June, UNFPA launched WE DECIDE, a global initiative to promote gender equality and social inclusion of young persons with disabilities and advocate for the end of sexual violence.

The FCI Program of MSH worked with UNFPA and a broad range of partners in the field of disabilities to build consensus for the framework of the four-year initiative and to develop communications materials for the initiative, including a video and an infographic that conveys key messages and data on the status of persons with disabilities and gender-based violence.

Saving lives and improving health continues long after diagnosing disease or delivering medicines.

(Watch Faith tell her story)

Faith had been ill for months. She was 31 and had two daughters. She didn’t know what was wrong. A friend urged her to get an HIV test; it came back positive.

Faith started on antiretroviral treatment.

But, in 2013, one of her antiretroviral medicines started to work against her, causing misshapen fat deposits to develop on her body.

When she finally mustered the courage to speak up one year later, her doctor knew just what to do and shifted her to a different medicine.

(Medicine Movers: Kenya from Management Sciences for Health on Vimeo)

Faith didn’t know it, but her report to the doctor became part of a nationwide database that tracks adverse drug reactions, and poor quality or expired medicines.

{Photo credit: MSH staff, South Africa}Photo credit: MSH staff, South Africa

This post, first published on The Huffington Post, is part 5 in the MSH series on improving the health of the poorest and most vulnerable women, children, and communities by prioritizing prevention and preparing health systems for epidemics. Join the conversation online with hashtag .

Struck with a prolonged and worsening illness, Faith, a 37-year-old Nairobi woman raising her two children, sought help from local clinics. She came away each time with no diagnosis and occasionally an absurdly useless packet of antihistamines. Finally, a friend urged her to get an HIV test. When it came back positive, Faith wanted to kill herself, and got hold of a poison.

All epidemics arise from weak health systems, like the one that failed to serve Faith. Where people are poor and health systems are under-resourced, diseases like AIDS, Yellow Fever, Ebola, TB, Zika, Malaria, steadily march the afflicted to an early grave, decimating families, communities and economies along the way.

{Photo: MSH staff/Tanzania}Photo: MSH staff/Tanzania

Invest in teenage girls. Change the world.

Sylvia, age 16, knew little about HIV & AIDS or reproductive health when she started primary school. Now, she says: “I am not scared by the pressure from boys and other girls to engage in early sex, I know my rights and am determined to fulfill my vision of completing my education.” Sylvia is one of 485 girls in 6 eastern Ugandan schools who received integrated sexual and reproductive health and HIV information.

Today, July 11, we commemorate World Population Day 2016 and the midpoint toward reaching the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) goal to ensure the right of 120 million additional women and girls to access contraception. More than half of the 7 billion people on earth are under the age of 30. Most of the FP2020 focus countries are in the very regions of the world where we find (a) the highest population of youth and (b) more marginalized and disenfranchised young people. In many of the world's poorest countries, people aged 15 to 29 will continue to comprise about half of the population for the next four decades.

 {Photo credit: Cindy Shiner/MSH}A mother waits for the nurse to vaccinate her baby during an immunization clinic at Phebe Hospital in central Liberia.Photo credit: Cindy Shiner/MSH

Stronger health systems are critical to preventing outbreaks from becoming epidemics. In fragile states, systems already weakened by conflict, disaster, or instability can crumble under the weight of an outbreak -- devastating access, availability, and quality of basic health for women and their families.

 {Photo credit: MSH staff}Irene Koek of USAID’s Global Health Bureau gives closing remarks at the health security side event in Geneva.Photo credit: MSH staff

This is the second in a new series on improving the health of the poorest and most vulnerable women, girls, families, and communities by prioritizing prevention and preparing health systems for epidemics (read Part 1). Join the conversation online with hashtag .

World Health Assembly and Beyond: Advancing the Global Health Security Agenda

Outbreaks are inevitable. Epidemics are preventable.

Last month, the No More Epidemics campaign convened a high-level, multi-sectoral panel on the Global Health Security Agenda during the 69th World Health Assembly (WHA69) in Geneva, Switzerland.

{Photos: Warren Zelman (left); Associated Press/Aurelie Marrier d’Unienvil (right)}Photos: Warren Zelman (left); Associated Press/Aurelie Marrier d’Unienvil (right)

This is the first in a new series on improving the health of the poorest and most vulnerable women, girls, families, and communities by prioritizing prevention and preparing health systems for epidemics. Join the conversation online with hashtag .

Prioritizing prevention of regional epidemics and global pandemics

{Photo: Warren Zelman}Photo: Warren Zelman

Last month, MSH President & CEO, Jonathan D. Quick, MD, MPH, urged G7 leaders (Huffington Post Impact) meeting in Ise-Shima, Japan, to prioritize pandemic prevention:

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