Blog Archives

Africa Day Luncheon: Celebrate Africa & Combat Child Marriage!

Africa Day is observed throughout the world on May 25th. The aim of this day is to celebrate the diversity and successes of Africa, and to highlight the cultural and economic potential of the continent. Africa Day is the annual commemoration of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963. On July 9, 2002, the OAU was succeeded by the African Union (AU), whose aim is to promote economic, social, and political integration, and democracy on the continent. This year will mark the 49th anniversary of the founding of the OAU.

This year, United Nations Association of Greater Boston will honor Africa Day by spreading awareness about the prevalence of early child marriage in sub-Saharan Africa. Child marriage has been a common practice in many parts of the world since very early times. Even though child marriage affects both young boys and girls, girls under the age of eighteen constitute the population that is most adversely affected by it. According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), girls who get married as children are frequently prone to diseases such as HIV and obstetric fistula. Once married, the girls’ lives become limited to performing childcare and other household chores. Due to their relative lack of social power, girls often are subjected to domestic violence. Furthermore, once child brides get pregnant, their dreams of going to school and having bright futures frequently end.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the second highest rate of early and forced marriage in the world. According to Plan UK, approximately 14.3 million girls in this region are married before they reach the age of 18. Child marriage is associated with significant health risks and consequences. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in sub-Saharan Africa, girls ages 15-19 years old are 2-8 times more likely than boys of the same age to become infected with HIV. Similarly, child marriage has played a critical role in the spread of cervical cancer among sub-Saharan Africans as HPV infection has become endemic in this region. Pregnancy suppresses the immune system, thus contributing to many girls in this part of the world becoming infected by diseases such as malaria. Malaria kills close to 1 million people each year around the world—90% of that in Africa alone.

It is crucial for all of us to educate ourselves about the issues surrounding early child marriage, its consequences and ways to combat it. As global citizens, it is our responsibility to oppose harmful practices, and to help our fellow human beings realize their human rights and live fuller lives. To broaden our knowledge of the issues and to discuss ways of combating this harmful practice, the Women’s Forum is bringing together some remarkable women leaders to share with us their insights about successful programs and projects. We will have:

Josephine Kulea, an acclaimed Kenyan children’s rights activist. Ms. Kulea has rescued many girls from early child marriage and female genital cutting, and has placed them in schools instead. She recently started the Samburu Girls Foundation, a project supporting women’s right to education, and fighting female genital mutilation and forced marriage.

Amanda Grant-Rose, a representative from Lift Up Africa, will share with us the organization’s extraordinary HELGA Project, and the Bride Rescue Project, which grew out of HELGA. These projects provide girls rescued from early childhood marriage with education as well as room and board. They work to help young women develop self-esteem and a sense of self-efficacy.

Blessing Rogers, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hope for Children International, Inc. Ms. Rogers both works directly with children through her organization Hope for Children International, Inc., and she addresses legal issues concerning child marriage. She is a human rights activist concentrating on the rights of children and women, and she is the host and executive producer of Afrik Express, a talk show focusing on Africans in the diaspora.

In addition to these brilliant women leaders, Wambura Mitaru, a Kenyan singer and Berklee College of Music scholarship award recipient, will join us as part of our celebration! Ms. Mitaru will share with us her musical heritage and artistry.

Our catering partners will be Taste of Kilimanjaro & Teranga Restaurant!

We invite you all to join us on Monday, May 21st! Celebrate Africa and support us in fighting child marriage!

You can RSVP here: http://africadayboston2012.eventbrite.com/

To learn more about child marriage, and the remarkable work other organizations are doing to fight child marriage, please visit:

-Smriti Kattel

6,994,726,950 and counting: Jane Roberts on “Women, Population, and the MDGs.”

Since the human race began, women have delivered for society.  It is time now for the world to deliver for women.” -The Lancet

With the world’s population set to hit 7 billion by the end of this month (6,994,726,950   was the most recent population count at the time of this posting – check out the current world’s population counter here) our Women’s Forum event “Women, Population, and the MDGs” , was a conversation that is more timely than ever!  The luncheon roundtable event featuring Jane Roberts was held on October 6th to a packed room of 60 attendees during a weekday noon.

Jane Roberts captivating the audience.

Jane Roberts is a grassroots advocate who exemplifies the power of taking a single action and making a huge difference. She is the co-founder, with Lois Abraham, of the 34 Million Friends of the UNFPA project. Her contributions in the fields of population, development, the environment, and the human rights of women and girls have led to her recognition in 2003 by Ms. Magazine as one of their Women of the Year. In 2004, Women’s eNews selected her as one of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century. Along with Lois Abraham, Ms. Roberts was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the 1000 Peace Women Project under the patronage of UNESCO in 2005. In the same year, she published her first book 34 Million Friends of the Women of the World.

Ms. Roberts has traveled widely, and given public talks around the country in addition to extensive TV and radio interviews. In 2008, Ms. Roberts was named a Purpose Prize Fellow by Civic Ventures. She received the Global Citizenship Award from the United Nations Association of Southern California in 2009. In the same year, Jane Roberts and her 34 Million Friends of the UNFPA project were featured in the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

Jane finished her speech with her radical grassroots proposal,

Jane Roberts (center) with UNA-GB, JSI, and Pathfinder International staff.

When the world takes care of women, women take care of the world,”

leaving just enough time for our engaged audience to ask a few questions, focused on how to change the culture on the ground, how to engage men in the conversation, and what we can do to get engaged.

One direct way to get involved is to become one of Jane Robert’s 34 Million Friends of the women of the world. Visit her site, and do your part today!

The call to action also included ways you can support UNA-GB’s work, including our current 66 for 66 campaign that is geared towards educating the next generation of global leaders to tackle the pervasive problem of gender inequality.  Find out more here: http://www.crowdrise.com/unday2011/fundraiser/unitednationsassocia1
On October 24, 100 Boston area middle and high school youth will convene at the State House, stepping into the shoes of ambassadors from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, South Korea and Mali to debate solutions to the question: Why do global inequalities for women in education and employment persist and what can be done about it?
Help us provide this opportunity FREE OF COST to all the youth and donate now here: http://www.crowdrise.com/unday2011/fundraiser/unitednationsassocia1

Many Thanks as well to our two fabulous co-sponsors, JSI and Pathfinder International!

John Snow, Inc., and its nonprofit affiliate JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., are public health research and consulting firms dedicated to improving the health of individuals and communities throughout the world. JSI builds local capacity to address critical health problems, collaborating with local partners to assist countries, governments, communities, families, and individuals to develop their skills and identify solutions that meet their public health needs. JSI has implemented projects in 104 countries, and currently operates from eight U.S. and 81 international offices, with more than 500 U.S.-based staff, and 1,500 host country national field-based staff.  Learn more here!  

Pathfinder International’s mission is to ensure that people everywhere have the right and opportunity to live a healthy sexual and reproductive life. In more than 25 countries, Pathfinder provides women, men, and adolescents with a range of quality health services—from contraception and maternal care to HIV prevention and AIDS care and treatment. Pathfinder strives to strengthen access to family planning, ensure availability of safe abortion services, advocate for sound reproductive health policies, and, through all of our work, improve the rights and lives of the people we serve.  Learn more here!

-Jen J

Invest in Healthy Ecosystems

With the global population set to reach 7 billion people later this year food and resource security is becoming increasingly more important. This week a new report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and its partners announced that investing in healthy ecosystems could improve food security, enhance resilience to climate change, as well as provide economic benefits for poor communities.

The report, which was written by over 50 contributors, uses case studies of China, Guatemala, Jordan as well as others to present the issues as well as recommend changes. The three specific areas of change in order to improve food security and reduce stresses on water supplies are detailed as: environmental protection, water resources management and food production. The report also explains that one of the most difficult challenges in improving current levels of food production is the availability of water because it is needed for livestock, crop irrigation, fisheries and other agricultural uses. Likewise, the report also makes recommendations for drylands, wetlands, crop systems, fisheries and livestock systems.


“Maintaining healthy, resilient ecosystems to ensure water availability for agriculture and other ecosystem services is thus essential for long-term food security,” a press release on the report produced by UNEP and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) stated.

Investing in our healthy ecosystems could make huge differences in the everyday and long-term lives of communities around the globe. You can also get involved in a variety of ways, both small and big, through WhyHunger.com – a organization building a movement to end hunger and poverty by connecting people to nutritious, affordable food and by supporting grassroots solutions. Likewise you can read more about the global food crisis and what the UN is doing to help here.

Here at UNA-GB we will be holding a Women’s Forum Luncheon Roundtable on October 6th, which will focus on Women, Population, and the Millennium Development Goals.  Jane Roberts, a grassroots advocate who is the co-founder of the 34 Million Friends of the UNFPA project will share how supporting gender equality makes a positive impact on all of the MDGs and population issues as a whole. Her contributions in the fields of population, development, the environment, and the human rights of women and girls have led to many recognitions, including a feature chapter in Nicholas Kristof’s NY Times bestseller Half the SkyRSVP now to get involved and join the conversation!

– Alexandra

A Youthful Week: Week of 7/25 News Roundup

A lot of focus was on the global leaders of our future throughout this week as the week started with the UN high-level meeting dedicated to the development of youth. The theme of the meeting was “Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding”, just in time as the International Year of Youth is coming to an end this summer.

Along with the topic of youth, came a new report released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) at a side event of the UN high-level meeting, the report titled “Securing the Future Today“. This report and discussion focused on the youth’s actions to fight against the disease of AIDS. This will be a step in the right direction for our future, and the future goals in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals as goal #6 focuses on the global fight against the disease, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases including malaria.

Disease was also a big topic this week, as millions of children received the measles vaccination in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The UN World Health Organization helped in coordinating this great achievement, as there has been a measles epidemic that many people have lost their lives to and the funding was needed to make this event a great success. In efforts to globally fight against more diseases, the UN marked July 27th World Hepatitis Day as a day to recognize the fight and prevention of the disease. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with the soccer team FC Barcelona have joined this week in the fight against disease to create a campaign against polio, called “More than a Goal. End Polio”. With a said 1 percent left in the fight against the disease and its eradication, the organizations are determined to put an end to it.

Along with disease, comes the support of resources and nutrition throughout the world so that people can survive with access to basic needs and children can develop and prosper. The crisis in the Horn of Africa continued this week as the drought is causing a lack of water and therefore threat of nutrition to people throughout the continent’s nations. More support is needed, as there are also many children suffering from this crisis, causing malnutrition and this threatening their survival in the crisis for all, with a said $1.4 billion in funding appealed by the UN to support the cause.

Efforts continue to assist globally in the fights against disease, malnutrition, resources and overall the availability of safe living conditions around the world. Support and funding is needed to continue to allow for these wonderful projects to develop and you can get involved in the action! In time for August 2nd, you can contact Congress representatives to share your voice towards the budget cuts that will unfortunately help support programs like these, specifically programs that help support women and girls throughout the world have availability to resources.

Join in the support and action to help the people of today in any way you can and the global leaders of tomorrow in our youth today!

-Cara