As we mark International Women’s Day this week, let’s not be complacent. Over the past century, we have come a long way in increasing women’s voice, participation, and agency in societies around the world.
In honor of International Women’s Day, March 8, I wanted to mention an interesting film, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last year, called Miss Representation. This documentary challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayal of women and girls, and it focuses on the US media. I found it sobering because it says that, “In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader.” And unfortunately, the statistics it shows are powerful. Yes, in 2012, it looks like we still have a long way to go.
This past Monday, I had the pleasure of hearing Sima Samar speak at the World Bank. Dr. Samar is the Chairperson of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and Former Minister of Women’s Affairs for Afghanistan, and she shared a somber view. She said, “Women’s rights are human rights, yet they are often trampled...”
When I arrived to work for an NGO in Madagascar a few years ago, one of the first things I did was buy a cheap mobile phone and SIM, to connect with family and friends back home. Like many visitors to the developing world, I was struck by how many of the otherwise abjectly poor people I met also owned mobile phones. People who can afford very little nonetheless consider a mobile phone an essential item. And rightly so - I have come to see mobile phones as one of the most powerful tools for development, and in particular furthering development aims for women.
Not everyone agrees. Try fundraising for projects to get more phones in the hands of women of the developing world, and many people will think you’re mad. In this financial climate, individuals and countries have less money than ever to spend on aid – shouldn’t that all be going to things like increasing food production, medical care or skills training? But through a mobile phone, a woman can increase her crop yields, go through childbirth with less danger, or became an entrepreneur, because of her increased ability to access information, services and networks.
Prevention strategies have had limited impact on the trajectory of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. New, innovative approaches to behavioral change are needed to stem the epidemic.
In a joint effort with many colleagues, and in collaboration with the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania and, the University of California at Berkeley, we launched a study with the acronym RESPECT (“Rewarding STI Prevention and Control in Tanzania”).
We started with an observation: Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) have been used successfully to promote activities that are beneficial to the participants such as school attendance and health check-ups for children. The Tanzanian experiment asks whether CCTs can be used to prevent people from engaging in activities that are harmful to themselves and others, such as unsafe sex. This is a controversial idea.
Women in Iraq are making a difference every single day by serving as emergency room workers.
By treating patients, these women are having a positive impact on people’s lives.
“Receiving a simple ‘Thank you’ makes you feel like you are doing the right thing,” said one woman. “It gives you a feeling that you have accomplished something.”
Parvati Pujari, 21, is training to be a football coach. When she is not playing football, Parvati works at Magic Bus as a mentor. She is also completing a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the Mumbai University.
What makes all this special is that Parvati is from one of Mumbai’s 4 million extremely poor families who live on less than INR 592 – (USD 11.9) per person, per month. Her parents were constructions workers in Mumbai, helping build a five star Mall in central Mumbai. After construction finished, they moved into one 8 x 12 foot temporary room which floods every monsoon. “Our living condition is such that we get to see all seasons at close quarters,” says Parvati. Parvati’s family consists of nine people, making it difficult to make sure everyone gets enough to eat. “We mostly make do with a khichdi [rice and lentils],” she says.
What changed for Parvati was her belief in her own power to change her own – and her family’s – future by making sure she used every opportunity that was available in the system, but not used. Parvati completed school even as her girl friends were married off as children. While her peers were struggling with premature pregnancies and its attendant morbidity, Parvati was taking activity-and sport-based coaching classes for younger children, taking a job, working on her football course, and traveling abroad to raise funds for Magic Bus.
In the twelve years she has spent with Magic Bus, Parvati has demonstrated what is possible, even for the very poor to do to break out of poverty.
A small business not only provides income, but it provides security and a better life for Khampane Kousonsavath’s family. In Laos, Khampane’s life is better when she is selling processed food. Owning her own business has been rewarding for her; she is now able to go to school and generate income for her and her family.
Swaziland and Lesotho are among the countries with the highest HIV prevalence in the world.
Recent nationally representative estimates reveal an adult HIV prevalence equal to 26% in Swaziland1 and 23.2% in Lesotho2.
These countries have two other main features in common: they are small countries bordering South Africa and, during the past decades, they were exposed to massive recruitment efforts to work in South African mines. For more than a century, about 60 percent of those employed in the mining sector in the Republic of South Africa were migrant workers from Lesotho and Swaziland3.
In a recent paper4 with Lucia Corno, we started from this set of facts and investigated whether the massive percentage of migrant workers employed in the South Africa’s mining industry for a long period might be one of the main explanations for the high HIV prevalence observed in Swaziland and Lesotho.
Pili Kafue of Tanzania speaks about her challenging role as a wife, mother and business owner.
On Nov. 11, 2011, more than 48 World Bank countries participated in the One Day on Earth campaign and filmed working women across the globe to capture their thoughts on what it means to have a job.The results were extraordinary and all regions around the world were represented.
If you are interested in HIV prevention, at some point you are likely to have heard “transactional sex” discussed as one of the issues. However, I find this discussion to usually be awkward and confused, especially among Western audiences: the user is feeling somewhat uncomfortable using the term and the audience is having trouble understanding what it is she exactly means. The frameworks we have in the U.S. are dating on one end and commercial sex work on the other.