‘Half the Sky’ Shows Women Overcoming Oppression and Building a Better World

The two part special Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide premiered on PBS earlier this week. America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union and Olivia Wilde join New York Times journalists Nick Kristof to meet some of of the women that are profiled the book of the same name co-authored by his wife Sheryl WuDunn.

A post in the Huffington Post by Dr. Jamela Saleh Alraiby, Deputy Minister of Public Health and Population, Yemen and member of the White Ribbon Alliance Board of Directors, tells of the importance of women and girls. She explains her hopes for ending the suffering of girls in her home country.

Fighting to ban child marriage in Yemen is so difficult as it has religious, cultural and tribal roots, but this challenge gives us more strength to save our girls and to stop the violence they are exposed to, to assure that they have the means and tools to make their own decisions, and to ensure their participation in sustainable development.

Melinda Gates On Global Health Spending

Melinda Gates and New York Times journalist Nick Kristof allowed readers to submit questions about international development and global health.   The first part of the conversation was published yesterday; this question and answer caught the eye of us at Healthy Lives:

Question: I attended a talk once with the British economist Benny Dembitzer. He thinks that too much money is spent on the fight against malaria and other diseases, believing that a child may be saved from malaria today but could die from diptheria tomorrow. Instead, he’d rather see that money spend on primary education. As a molecular biologist, I think that the fight against insect transmitted diseases can be won, but I can understand the argument. Do you think that a point might be reached at which we have to say: Enough’s enough. Let’s give everyone bed nets and we can fight malaria through bringing people out of poverty? –ROBERT JONES

MELINDA: I hear that question a lot, and I don’t think it is either or. We have to do both. It is incredibly important not only to invest in health, but also to invest in efforts that stimulate economic growth, expand access to opportunity, and help the poor raise themselves out of poverty. Take agriculture, for example. We invest in agriculture because we believe that if smallholder farmers, the majority of whom are women, had access to better information and higher yielding and more resilient crops, they could better feed their families, earn higher incomes, and become self-sufficient.

Family Planning with IUDs

In Sunday's New York Times, Nick Kristof shares the experiences of taking two contest winners to see various countries in Africa. In the article, Kristof discusses how the continent has been improving over the past few years. In one section he mentions the challenge that family planning continues to pose. Only 23 percent of women in sub-Saharan Africa use contraceptives, and we talked to some women who had never even heard of family planning. “I don’t want any more babies,” Hawa Samaila told us in one village in Niger. “If I can get something to stop getting pregnant, I’d like that.” She had had 12 babies, of whom 6 had died. If African women (who now average more than five children each) had only 2.7 births on average (the rate now in India), Africa would benefit enormously. Yet family planning remains under-financed, and in a clinic we visited in Mauritania the head nurse, Ould Yatma, said that to receive contraceptives a woman must prove that her husband has consented. “She must bring her husband, or at least bring her husband’s ID card to prove that he agrees.” Saumya talked to the women about that and this is what she found out: "While there are women ... Read more

Why ‘Smart Aid’ Means Stopping ‘Sugar Daddies’ from Spreading HIV

If you haven't read it already, don't miss Nicholas Kristof's column today on "Smart Aid" in which he  discusses the contributions that economists are making to aid effectiveness.  Kristof points to information campaigns against 'Sugar Daddies' as a particularly cost-effective way to combat HIV:  What’s the most cost-effective way to prevent H.I.V. transmission in Africa? Most liberals focus on condoms and conservatives on abstinence-only programs. But one program that proved particularly cost-effective in randomized testing in Kenya was simply an initiative to warn teenage girls against “sugar daddies.” This cost less than $1 per girl reached. The result was not that the girls engaged in less sex, but that they slept with boys their age rather than with older men (who, according to prevalence surveys, were more likely to have H.I.V.). If we may toot our own horns for a minute, education programs against "sugar daddies" (or in public health parlance "cross generational sex")  is something that PSI has been working on for several years. The poster above, for example, was developed by PSI/Rwanda as part of PSI/Rwanda's SINIGURISHA! I am not for sale!  campaign. From PSI/Rwanda: The SINIGURISHA campaign fights a key driver in HIV infection among youth: cross-generational sex. Cross-generational sex increases the ... Read more

Ashley Judd and Nicholas Kristof Discuss Maternal Health

Ed note: George Clooney and Nicholas Kristof's Q and A about Malaria inspired us to post this article from the July 2010 issue of Impact Magazine, in which PSI Board Member Ashley Judd interviews Nicholas Kristof about maternal health and the challenges facing women in the developing world.    Ms. Judd: You’ve drawn global attention to the unique needs and challenges of women in the developing world. Is the battle to bring attention to this issue being won or lost? And how do you feel about your contribution, both through your columns and the extraordinary book, Half the Sky, you and your wife Sheryl have written? Mr. Kristof: Oh, the battle is definitely being won. There’s no question that “international women’s issues” are going from a fringe concern and a “soft” issue to a serious topic in the spotlight. Partly that’s because women’s rights are increasingly recognized not only as a justice issue but also as a way to fight poverty and reduce civil conflict. When you have American generals in Afghanistan trying to get more girls in school, because they recognize that that’s an effective strategy to undercut the Taliban, you know things have changed. And the Council on Foreign Relations used to ... Read more

George Clooney Discusses Anti-Malaria Bednets

George Clooney contracted Malaria on a visit to Sudan last month.  To his great credit, he is using that experience (and his celebrity) to draw attention to the disease.  On Nicholas Kristof's blog today, he and Kristof answer readers' questions about Malaria.   Here's what they have to say about bed nets:  Q.  How helpful are those mosquito net programs? — Jeremy Kareken A. They are extremely effective…they save countless lives. — George Clooney A. Bed net programs seem very effective, especially when the nets are treated with insecticide. The problem tends to be getting the nets to rural areas, and then getting people to use them. The kind of mosquito that carries malaria is normally active only in the evening, when people are in bed, and that’s why the nets work so well. But ideally the nets are accompanied by vigorous treatment of suspected cases and also indoor spraying with small amounts of an insecticide like DDT: that keeps the mosquitoes out. That combination seems to work very, very effectively, but even net programs alone have resulted in plummeting rates of malaria in some countries recently. One of the saddest things I’ve seen was a family in Cambodia years ago. The mother had died of malaria, and ... Read more

Healthy Dose February 9, 2011

Top Story New Study: Infants Exposed to HIV at Birth, But Not Infected May Have Lower Anti-body Levels.  New research in the Journal of the American Medical Association breaks new ground on the study of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission. From Xinhua: In a study that included infants from South Africa, those who were exposed to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) at birth but did not become infected were found to have lower levels of antibodies, compared to infants of non-HIV infected mothers... Infectious diseases account for nearly six million deaths worldwide annually in children younger than five years. Immunization against vaccine-preventable infections is essential to reducing childhood mortality. "The high prevalence of maternal HIV in many parts of the resource-poor world, coupled with successful programs to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, has led to increasing numbers of HIV-exposed infants who are not HIV-infected themselves. These infants and children represent a vulnerable group with increased rates of lower respiratory tract infection and meningitis and up to 4-fold higher mortality in the first year of life," the authors write. "Altered immune responses might contribute to the high morbidity and mortality observed in HIV-exposed uninfected infants. " ---------------------------------------------------------------------- The Global Health and Development Beat H1N1 - Twelve countries and a recent Finnish study ... Read more