Women & Gender

Over the course of the past ten days, I have been fortunate to visit the Central, Eastern, and Western Regions of Uganda.  As part of these visits, I have traveled through and spent time in many of the districts in these regions. It is during these drives through the countryside that I have noticed the campaigns for family planning services over and over again. Though it is possible my eye is fine tuned to notice these signs, as I am here supporting STRIDES for Family Health (a MSH-led, USAID funded family planning, reproductive health, and child and maternal health project), it would be hard for anyone to miss the cheerful rainbows that are posted on signs outside many of the health centers and hospitals indicating that family planning services are provided in that facility.

Signs promoting available family planning services in Uganda, March 2011.

 

The First Lady Michelle Obama said “Courage is Contagious” as she and Secretary Clinton honored women from around the world at the 2011 International Women of Courage Awards. This year’s event was notable because it was held on the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day.

From speaking out against "so called honor crimes" to fighting for the rights of minority people, these diverse women from Afghanistan, Belarus, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Hungary, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, and Pakistan share a special quality: courage. They are making changes in their own countries to improve the lives of women and girls. Ms. Maria Bashir from Afghanistan risks her life daily to ensure that girls can live free from violence as the Prosecutor General of the Attorney General’s Office in Herate Province. She fights against gender norms, putting her own life at risk, by jailing abusive husbands. Her counterpart in Mexico, Ms. Marisela Morales Ibanez, is fighting dangerous criminals who traffic humans and corrupt the judicial system in Mexico.

 

[Dr. Karima, General Directorate of Pharmaceutical Affairs, Ministry of Public Health, speaks at the opening ceremony of the Drug and Therapeutics Committee training course for provincial hospitals]Dr. Karima, General Directorate of Pharmaceutical Affairs, Ministry of Public Health, speaks at the opening ceremony of the Drug and Therapeutics Committee training course for provincial hospitals

 

 

Dr. Belkis Giorgis, MSH's Gender Expert 

One hundred years ago on March 8, a handful of countries celebrated the first International Women’s Day. Today it is celebrated around the world as an opportunity to look back on women’s accomplishments and look forward to the realization of their full economic, political, and social rights. The United Nations theme for International Women’s Day 2011 is centered on women’s access to education, technology, and decent work.

For 40 years, MSH has promoted equal access to health care for women by strengthening health systems and building the capacity of women as leaders and managers, technical experts, clinicians, and community health workers. We interviewed Dr. Belkis Giorgis, our NGO Capacity Building/Gender Advisor in Ethiopia about women and development.

Why is International Women’s Day important?

For 40 years, MSH has promoted equal access to health care for women by strengthening health systems and building the capacity of women as leaders and managers, technical experts, clinicians, and community health workers. Management Sciences for Health celebrates International Women's Day, March 8, 2011. Meet the women who inspire us.

The Global Health Initiative (GHI) and its approach of integrating health programs with HIV & AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, maternal, newborn, and child health, nutrition, and family planning and reproductive health is in line with the current approaches and health priorities of the Government of Malawi.

Malawi, with a population of slightly over 13 million people, has 83% of its people living in the rural hard to reach, underserved areas. The biggest health challenge facing the country is access to basic health services by the rural population. The problem of access to health services is multifaceted. For instance, family planning services are mostly facility-based, contributing to a low Contraceptive Prevalence Rate of 28% and high unmet family planning need of 28% (Malawi Demographic and Health Survey, 2004).

However, there is also a critical shortage of trained health service providers and availability of contraceptives is a logistical nightmare in Malawi. Making a routine mix of all contraceptives accessible to women of reproductive age regularly in rural communities can avert unwanted pregnancies and maternal deaths, and reduce high total fertility rate and infant mortality rate. Rural people walk long distances to seek health services, sometimes only to return without a service due to shortage of health personnel and stock-out of supplies.

Women Nurses at Results Presentation in Aswan, Egypt

In Aswan, Egypt’s sunniest southern city located about one and a half hours by plane from Cairo, the Nile is at its most striking. Tropical plants grow along the edges of the flowing river, and the amber desert and granite rocks surround orchards of palm trees.

I was honored to be present in Aswan during one of Management Sciences for Health’s most important events; the results presentation of the Leadership Development Program (LDP), funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of the Improving the Performance of Nurses in Upper Egypt (IPN) project in the Aswan governorate.

Kitchen Garden Produce & Afghan Boy

The carefully irrigated and shaded kitchen garden provided welcome splashes of different shades of green against the surrounding dry brown soil and rocks. We congratulated Shukria, a community health worker (CHW), on the lush vegetables and ripening fruits as we entered her home.

Shukria explained that the gardens that she and other women were growing started with the community-based growth monitoring program through the Family Health Action Groups. The growth monitoring is successfully identifying children under two who were not gaining enough weight or were undernourished. She and other mothers spent time counseling the mothers of the identified underweight children.

Halida Akhter receiving the United Nations Population Award in 2006.

Bangladesh, which is situated in a resource poor setting with a population of over 150 million, faces the major health challenge of a high maternal mortality rate. In the 1970s, the maternal mortality rate was 700 deaths per 100,000, and now it is still at 320 per 100,000. Although Bangladesh has made progress in reducing its infant mortality, much progress needs to be made to reach the Millennium Development Goals for maternal mortality. Bangladesh will need more than five years to achieve the goals. The Global Health Initiative (GHI) will help address the major health challenges women face in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has successful models of collaboration and public-private partnerships to share with other countries.

There have been a collection of high-profile and well attended mobile health (mHealth) “summits” held around the world in the past few years, including last month’s second annual mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C. (headlined by Bill Gates and Ted Turner), but the really interesting conversations are happening on the African continent. While large providers in the “developed world” are talking about the need for business plans and analysis, the debate in Kenya and Nigeria and Ghana is on how country-based leadership can scale up proven programs, develop sustainability, and provide practical and integrated models for cooperation between the government, mobile service providers, the medical community and the private sector.

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