The shooting of Malala Yousufzai by a member of the Taliban captures both the challenges faced by many girls around the world and the spirit to fight for equality. Malala continued to go to school and advocate for girls education in the face of threats from the Taliban. She and another girl were shot this week while traveling to school. The head wound that Malala suffered was severe, but recent reports indicate that she is on the road to recovery.
International Day of the Girl is celebrated for the first time ever to call to attention the challenges that girls face and celebrate the courage of advocates like Malala. One important way to support girls around the world is through health. Thanks to the outstanding research, communication and advocacy efforts by the organizations and campaigns like Girl Effect, Girl Up, 10×10, the Center for Global Development, the World Bank and others, there is clear and demonstrable evidence that good health is the key to unleashing the full potential of girls.
There are no shortages of known interventions that have the potential to expand access to healthcare for girls and women, but there are gaps. The structure of public/private partnerships have evolved to a genuine partnership that is mutually beneficial. Whether an organization’s bottom line is measured in lives saved, revenue, or a combination of the two, everyone wins.
Partnerships between the private sector and NGOs can help establish markets for products and prove new interventions that expand access to girls and women can be taken to scale. By protecting the health of girls and women we can create stronger families and communities; and we can open up economic opportunities that currently halt billions of dollars in lost productivity every year. That capacity can be turned into a market that will drive future growth. Improving girl’s and women’s health will greatly reduce the financial and human resource burden on health systems, global businesses and economies caused by loss in production and the monumental costs of providing treatment.
Private sector partners can help NGOs working in developing countries better understand how to apply sound marketing techniques to develop demand for health services. PSI currently operates 24 franchises around the world – applying the commercial franchising technique used by a company like McDonalds or FedEx to public health. For example, in the Sun Quality Health franchise network in Myanmar, private health providers commit to a brand and a standard level of high-quality, accessible, and equitable health services. In turn, providers receive on-going training and support from PSI and its partners.
One example is the 12+ Program in Rwanda. PSI, the Nike Foundation, the Rwandan Ministry of Health and other partners support meetings for 10 to 12 year old girls that cover topics ranging from financial literacy to the importance of delaying their sexual debuts.