Blog Archives

Child Marriage Call & Response: An Afternoon of Action for Africa

ImageYesterday afternoon, May 21, the Women’s Forum@UNA-GB welcomed many guests to celebrate Africa Day with a delicious lunch and inspiring conversation. 50 community members and leaders joined us to raise awareness about the issue of early child marriage in sub-Saharan Africa. At noon the room was buzzing with lively conversation as guests enjoyed Kenyan dishes from Taste of Kilimanjaro Catering and delicious fresh fruit juices from Teranga Senegalese Restaurant.

UNA-GB Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships & Development, Kaitlin Hasseler, opened up the forum, framing how one goal of the Luncheon was to celebrate how far Africa has come – she shared hopeful statistics including that between 2000 and 2010 six of the ten fastest growing economies were African, the poverty rate has been on the decline by about 1% every year, educational opportunities have expanded and more girls are in school, and in 2010 Africa achieved a major global milestone when South Africa hosted the World Cup.  She then introduced Wamburu Mitaru, a Berklee student originally from Kenya, to start off the celebration with a powerful song dedicated to the children of Africa.

Image

Despite the encouraging progress in Africa, there are also significant challenges the region faces, including the 2nd highest rate of child marriage globally, which the panelists were then tasked with expanding upon.  The focus was not only on engaging in a dialogue about child marriage but also shining a light on those whom have already begun making a difference in their communities to combat the practice.  Blessing Rogers of Hope for Children International, Inc., Josephine Kulea of the Sambura Girls Foundation, and Amanda Grant-Rose of Lift Up Africa, offered different perspectives on the issue of child marriage. Ms. Rogers provided more information about the historical and cultural context surrounding the topic, explaining where the practice originated from and what kept communities tied to the practice.  Josephine spoke more about her organization and shared her personal experiences, including detailing a particular marriage intervention that she led in her home community of Samburu, Kenya.   Amanda Grant-Rose followed by highlighting Lift Up Africa’s work supporting the organization HELGA and their bride rescue project – this work is led by Priscilla, a Maasai woman who has earned the trust of her community and spent the past 2 decades rescuing girls and educating them (when Kaitlin visited this program in November 2011, she had rescued 706 girls at that point!).

Image

Our panelists- Blessing, Josephine, and Amanda

To close, our panelists offered simple action plans encouraging guests to share what they’ve learned and make small steps towards change:

  • Blessing shared that while we can’t all travel to Africa,  we can get engaged in advocacy efforts by voicing our opinions and communicating with state and federal bodies directly.  She  specifically mentioned organizations such as USAID.
  • Josephine asked for support to build a dorm/rescue center for her girls, underscoring the importance of concrete solutions that directly help the community (you can learn how to support these efforts here). She also invited attendees to sponsor a girl. 
  • Amanda encouraged everyone to go home and share what they learned with least 5 people about the broader issue of child marriage and what they can do, again stressing the importance of the impact that education and small actions can make.
  • Kaitlin emphasized the importance of educating the next generation, sharing information about UNA-GB’s partner, UN Foundation’s Girl Up Campaign, geared towards adolescent American girls, as well as UNA-GB’s Model UN program, which educates 6th-12th graders in Boston about critical global issues including child marriage.

Wamburu Mitaru ended the luncheon with another beautiful song that was a call and response with the audience – a fitting end to an event focused on how we as a community can answer the call to action on ending child marriage!

Thank you to everyone who attended and helped to make it a wonderful afternoon!  See more photos here from the Luncheon and stay tuned for upcoming events with our Women’s Forum on our event calendar.

-Jessica Pires

Creating A Road To Democracy

Happy 4th  of July to all! As we celebrate the independence of our country on this day and the freedoms we are thankful for, we would like to take a closer look at the road towards independence for other countries around the world.  News headlines the past few months have been dominated by the strive for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa.  Here’s our second blog post from our newest blog seriesGet Educated, One Topic At A Time featured every Monday, whose focus today is on this year’s “Arab Spring” from start to present!  And speaking of emerging democracies, stay tuned for a blog post later on this week in honor of Southern Sudan’s official independence on July 9th!

While the term, “Arab Spring” is one of some contention, there can be no denying that there is a major change happening in the Middle East and North Africa.  Said by some to be as important, if not moreso to world history than the fall of the Berlin Wall, the “Arab Spring” has significantly changed the political atmosphere both within the region and around the world.  Beginning when Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian college graduate who was selling vegetables from a cart because of the high rates of unemployment there, set himself on fire on the steps of parliament after corrupt police confiscated his wares, the resulting protests soon spread from Morocco to Iran.  On January 14, 2011, President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali fled Tunisia, becoming the first dictator to be ousted as a result of the “Arab Spring.”

Protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square

Protests soon spread to Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak was the next to step down after three decades in power.  The demonstrations were centered in Tahrir (Liberation) Square in Cairo, Egypt’s capital city.  Thousands of people stayed in the square for eighteen days amid attempts by the government to placate the crowd with small concessions and violent attacks by forces loyal to Mubarak.  The Egyptian people persevered, however, and are now, hopefully, on their way to free and fair democracy.

Today, movements have sprung up in almost every country in the Middle East and North Africa, from small scale peaceful demonstrations for social and political reforms like in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to outright bloody conflict and civil war like in Syria and Libya.

Protesters in Sana'a, Yemen

The United Nations has not become directly involved in any country yet, though it has issued several statements expressing deep concern over the human rights abuses that are taking place.  The UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said that “resort[ing] to lethal or excessive force against peaceful demonstrators not only violates fundamental rights, including the right to life, but serves to exacerbate tensions and tends to breed a culture of violence.”  The UN Security Council has also given its support to the NATO mission in Libya, and we will likely see further discussion in other UN bodies as the “Arab Spring” continues.

As the rest of the world scrambles to adjust to the rapidly changing political climate, the people of the Middle East and North Africa continue to stand up for their rights in a region that previously represented the only part of the world virtually devoid of democratic governments.  There is still a lot of hard work ahead for the reformers and nation builders of the “Arab Spring,” but they have taken a revolutionary first step on the road to democracy and freedom.

To keep up with the journey as it continues, follow the Guardian’s “Path of Protest”.

-Chris

Celebrate Mothers Worldwide

Tomorrow people all over the world will celebrate Mother’s Day with gifts, namely roses, fine chocolates and lavish dinners.  But Mother’s Day does not just have to be about honoring your mother with presents or participating in the commercial aspect of this holiday – it can be so much richer than that; it can be about making the world a healthier and safer place for all mothers.  It’s makes a world of difference of us all!

Some Americans, for example, are going beyond the traditional Mother’s Day celebrations and commemorating motherhood by saving the lives of mothers around the world.  Alongside an inspirational woman named Edna Adan, they are changing the lives of women in an impoverished nook of Somaliland in the horn of Africa by making childbirth safer there, offering family planning services and trying to put an end to female genital mutilation.

Another group of women took up the challenge of helping to save mothers’ lives around the world by starting their own “Mothers’ Day Campaign.”   They hope that Americans will consecrate the mother in their lives not only with presents, but also by helping impoverished women and girls through a particular charity.

Furthermore, you can take action this Mother’s Day by supporting the efforts of Every Mother Counts, an advocacy and mobilization campaign to increase education and support for maternal and child health.  Consider hosting a watch party with friends and loved ones for their documentary film, “No Woman, No Cry,” which is premiering on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) on Saturday, May 7 at 9:30pm and 12:30am EST & PST and 8:30pm & 11:30pm CST; and on Sunday, May 8 at 1pm EST & PST and noon CST.  In her documentary, Christy Turlington Burns shares the powerful stories of at-risk pregnant women in four parts of the world, including a remote Maasai tribe in Tanzania, a slum of Bangladesh, a post-abortion care ward in Guatemala, and a prenatal clinic in the United States.  Check out the trailer here!

So this Sunday, make Mother’s Day more meaningful than ever before and consider not only honoring your own mom, but someone else’s mom as well!

-Hanna

Malaria No More Today (and every day after)!

If you have not been aware, now you know that April 25th is World Malaria Day! It is a day to commemorate global efforts to control malaria, examining the progress that has been made toward malaria elimination and to renew efforts toward achieving the target of zero malaria deaths by 2015.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease widespread in tropical and subtropical regions including much of Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Americas. The disease causes symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases progressing to coma, and even death.

Malaria transmission can be reduced by preventing mosquito bites by distribution of inexpensive mosquito nets and insect repellents, or by mosquito-control measures such as spraying insecticides inside houses and draining standing water where mosquitoes lay their eggs.

However, hundreds of thousands of people are still contracting malaria and many of these people are unable to access appropriate and timely, treatment.

All over sub-Saharan Africa, already struggling economies are being battered by the economic burden of the disease, which is estimated to cost Africa $12 billion a year. Malaria remains a leading cause of preventing children to attend schools and work absence putting tremendous pressure on household incomes. In addition, weak health systems are over-burdened by the relentless demand for care and medication.

Reducing the impact of malaria is key to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, which are geared towards not only combating the disease itself, but the improvement of women’s and children’s rights to health, access to education and the reduction of extreme poverty.


Photo by Maggie Hallahan/Sumitomo Chemical

World Malaria Day gives us a chance to make a difference.

Help end malaria by 2015! There are many ways you can help to reduce deaths caused by malaria. Donate mosquito nets by visiting NothingButNets.net or find out other ways to get involved at worldmalariaday.org.

Also, check out couple of events hosted by Harvard about Malaria:

Rethinking Malaria: From the Gene to the Globe

A Seminar in Recognition of World Malaria Day 2011

  • When: Tuesday, April 26, 12:00 – 2:00pm
  • Where: Harvard School of Public Health, Francois Xavier Bagnoud Building, Room 301
  • Talks by
    • Sangeeta Bhatia, PhD,Professor of Health Sciences & Technology and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT
    • Caroline Buckee, PhD,Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health
    • Günther Fink, PhD, Assistant Professor of International Health Economics, Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health
  • Sponsored by the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Department of Epidemiology and Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health
  • Lunch will be served – Space is limited – Open to the Harvard community

Malaria Bytes

A Harvard Student Benefit Concert in Commemoration of World Malaria Day

  • When: Wednesday, May 4, 8:00 – 10:30pm
  • Where: Oberon, 2 Arrow Street, Cambridge
  • Sponsored by the Harvard Malaria Initiative
  • For tickets visit www.cluboberon.com

Help us work today to achieve a malaria-free world tomorrow!

-NaEun