The New York Times’ “IHT Rendezvous” blog examines factors contributing to the more than 13 million abortions that occur in China every year, the highest number of any country worldwide. Though China’s so-called “one-child policy” is a contributing factor, “with women coerced into aborting ‘out of plan’ children by the threat of heavy fines or the loss of a job — or, in some cases, physically forced to abort,” some “scholars are now pointing to a new factor — under-25 women who, if they are unmarried, do not directly fall within the remit of the family planners,” the blog writes. A recent survey by China’s Research Institute of the National Population and Family Planning Commission estimates six million abortions occur annually among this group, the blog adds. This highlights other issues, the blog notes, including young people’s increased sexual freedoms and a culture and tradition that remains reluctant to discuss sex education, leaving young women without the knowledge of how to use contraception. “Yet gradually, people are beginning to talk more openly about what had long often been discussed only in absolute privacy,” the blog writes and provides some examples (Tatlow, 10/19).
Kaiser Family Foundation Report Examines Country-Level Response To U.S. GHI's Women, Girls, & Gender Equality Principle
“A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation examines how countries are responding to and implementing the women, girls, and gender equality principle of the U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI),” an email alert from the Foundation states, noting, “This principle, one of seven core principles of the GHI, aims to sharpen the focus on women and girls across U.S. government global health efforts.” According to the alert, the report is “[b]ased on interviews conducted by the Foundation with representatives from 15 GHI country teams” and “identifies nine key themes and trends that could help inform U.S. policy discussions and the future directions of efforts related to the health of women and girls.” The alert adds, “The report builds on earlier work by the Foundation on the women, girls, and gender equality principle, including a roundtable discussion and an analysis of ‘GHI Plus’ country strategies” (10/19).
In the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) “Smart Global Health” blog, Phillip Nieburg, senior associate of the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, discusses a recent report (.pdf) he wrote, titled “Improving Maternal Mortality and Other Aspects of Women’s Health: The United States’ Global Role,” “that addresses key challenges to improving maternal mortality and women’s health worldwide and talks about what the related priorities of U.S. foreign policy should be.” He says, “Rather than continuing what appears to me as a piecemeal approach to global aspects of reproductive health, with separate programs to address, e.g., gender-based violence, women and HIV/AIDS, maternal mortality, family planning, cervical cancer, girls’ education, etc., I argue in my report that the United States should develop and implement a comprehensive global plan for women’s health that includes males as well as females, using coordinated prevention and care programming for each stage of the reproductive health life cycle” (10/25).
In an opinion piece in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, David Olson, a global health communications consultant who worked as a communications adviser to the Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance in Kenya earlier this year, describes how “abortion rights [in the country] have been liberalized in certain cases in a Constitution approved in a public referendum two years ago.” He continues, “The new constitution says clearly that ‘the life of a person begins at conception’ and ‘abortion is not permitted unless…'” Olson writes, “And that innocuous ‘unless’ is what keeps the abortion issue alive in Kenya, almost two years after the constitutional referendum: ‘…unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.'”
“Uruguay’s Congress voted narrowly on Wednesday to legalize abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, a rare move in largely Catholic Latin America that underscores the country’s liberal leanings,” Reuters reports. “President Jose Mujica, a former leftist guerrilla fighter, has said he would sign the bill into law,” the news service notes (Castaldi, 10/17). “[T]he bill approved by Uruguay’s Senate came after a pointed debate among legislators, producing a compromise that disappointed both abortion-rights groups and opponents, who have vowed to carry out a referendum to overturn the legislation,” the New York Times writes, adding, “Legislators carefully worded the bill, describing it not as legalization of abortion but as a decriminalization measure.” The newspaper writes, “The bill effectively legalizes abortion in the first trimester, permits abortion through 14 weeks of pregnancy in cases of rape and allows later-term abortions when a woman’s health is at risk” (Romero et al., 10/17).
Aissata Sall Yade, a communications assistant for the Senegal Urban Reproductive Health Initiative, part of IntraHealth International, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog about Aissatou Dia Fall, a head midwife at Senegal’s Gallo Dia Health Center in Yeumbeul, and her efforts to improve access to health care for women in the community. She has reached out to different organizations for monetary assistance for her clients, Yade notes, adding, “Strategies like Aissatou Dia Fall’s will help improve Senegal’s national contraceptive prevalence rate, which is currently only 12 percent. It will also help reduce one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates (410 deaths per 100,000 live births) and reduce the fertility rate (an average of five children per woman)” (10/17).
“While reports from the United Nations as well as the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) indicate that maternal deaths are declining around the world, far too many women continue to die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth,” Ana Langer, director of the Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard School of Public Health, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “In fact, every 90 seconds a young woman dies unnecessarily when she is giving life,” she continues, noting, “More than 90 percent of these deaths could be avoided, if all women had timely access to good quality care.”
Writing in GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog, Nicola Pardy, an editorial intern at GlobalPost, reflects on the closure of the Global Health Initiative (GHI) office announced in July, noting that the government announced the establishment of a new Office of Global Health Diplomacy. She asks, “So, what has changed in this next phase of the initiative?” Pardy quotes Foreign Policy’s “The Cable” and the Center for Global Development’s “Global Health Policy” blogs, which commented on the announcement. She also cites a recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation that examines how countries are responding to and implementing the women, girls, and gender equality principle of the GHI; highlights two case studies on GHI reproductive health-related activities in Guatemala (.pdf) and Ethiopia (.pdf) released by the Change Center for Health and Gender Equity in June; and notes an analysis of the GHI published in the Lancet this month. She concludes, “GHI’s lofty objectives have yet to come to fruition. Now it’s time to see whether the initiative has both the momentum and leadership to get there” (10/26).
Agence France-Presse reports on how poverty and hunger are forcing families in the rural village of Hawkantaki, Niger, to marry their daughters at increasingly younger ages, writing, “A girl married off is one less mouth to feed, and the dowry money she brings in goes to feed others.” The news agency notes “one out of every three girls in Niger marries before her 15th birthday, a rate of child marriage among the highest in the world, according to a UNICEF survey.” According to AFP, “Most of the marriages should be illegal under Niger’s law, which states that the minimum age of marriage is 15,” but the law “only applies for civil ceremonies officiated by the state. Marriages in villages are sealed inside mosques and fall under what is called ‘traditional law'” (Callimachi, 9/16).
“South Africa faces significant challenges when it comes to sexual health, and with the high prevalence of rape, teen pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases and infections, schools need to implement strong and informative programs on sexuality and contraceptive use,” Jos Dirkx, founder of Girls & Football SA, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, published in partnership with Women Deliver as part of a series on youth perspectives to recognize World Contraception Day, observed annually on September 26. She discusses some women’s personal experiences with contraception, and concludes, “Girls & Football SA strongly believes that by creating a safe space through our programming, we are able to present girls with the chance to ask questions, get accurate information and start a dialogue about their bodies, their health, and their sexuality” (9/18).