Empowering women and girls has taken me from East Africa to South and East Asia. The scope of my work has cut across sectors including health, trafficking prevention, gender based violence, water and sanitation and women’s empowerment. Several years ago, while working in rural Uganda, I learned you can not approach issues for women and girls without recognizing the interconnectivity that exists. Speaking with communities in rural Uganda about gender-based violence brought to light the lack of adequate access to healthcare services for women and girls. In rural India, an immense need existed to involve a variety of stakeholders including community leaders, health workers, men, faith communities, governments, organizations, the private sector and donors in a locally-led process to empower women and girls through water and sanitation (WASH) programs. While working among women and girls who had been trafficked throughout South and East Asia, I realized the power and importance of working with local women. Their ideas and solutions for their own development continually inspired me. Change for women and girls requires a variety of entities working together towards an integrated approach to development.
FHI360 is an organization that strives to improve the lives of women, girls and communities by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions for human development. They challenge the development community to think proactively and provocatively about holistic development for women and girls. Yesterday, FHI360, in partnership with Johnson and Johnson and Women Thrive Worldwide, hosted an event in New York City to discuss what’s being called the ‘Integration Hypothesis’ – which poses the question:
Can breaking development silos make a difference for women and girls?
Abbigal Muleya, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for Zubo Trust in Zimbabwe is a young woman who is breaking all barriers to improve the lives of women and girls. During the event, she delivered a powerful ‘lightning talk’ about community driven solutions which empower girls and women through fish farming programs. Zubo Trust provides networking, capacity development and rights awareness workshops to expand economic opportunities for women. In conjunction with Zubo Trust, Abbigal has worked tirelessly on locally led solutions to ensure women and girls have the same rights as men to become fish farmers and own their businesses. She has cut across sector, social and cultural lines to make this dream a reality. Abbigal set the stage for an engaging conversation around integrated development. She challenged participants to critically think about ways to approach community-led integrated development initiatives.
Leith Greenslade, Panel Moderator and Vice Chair of the MDG Health Alliance, shared with us her thoughts on integrated development priorities for women and girls on Instagram.
Using #IntegratedDev on Twitter, audience members helped spread awareness of the positive examples of integrated development as well as the challenges related to working in silos:
— FHI 360 (@fhi360) March 11, 2015
— Patrick McCrummen (@mccrummengroup) March 11, 2015
— J&J Global Health (@JNJGlobalHealth) March 11, 2015
— Sharon K. D'Agostino (@SharonDAgostino) March 11, 2015
An integrated approach for women and girls requires the development community to address issues from a variety of angles and perspectives. We cannot work in isolation but rather, we must work together to find creative solutions. Central to this is listening to the voices of women and girls. I sat down with Ann Starrs, CEO of the Guttmacher Institute and a champion for women’s and girls’ health. Ann believes truly listening to women and girls is an essential ingredient for successful integrated development programs. I whole-heartedly agree with her and other panelists who passionately spoke about their work and creative solutions.
After the panel ended, we asked event participants their thoughts and ideas on improving the lives of women and girls through integrated development approaches. Find out what Judith Moore, Principal Associate/Strategic Lead for MNCH at Abt Associates, and Mary Kate Costello, Policy Analyst at The Hunger Project had to say on our Instagram.
Want to join the continued conversation on integrated development? Stayed tuned for more engaging interviews and blog posts!
Follow #IntegratedDev, @GirlsGlobe & @FHI360
Event panelists included (left to right as shown above):
- Dr. Krishna Jafa, Deputy Director of Integrated Delivery, Programs, Channels and Components, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Eugenia McGill, Lecturer and Associate Director of the Economic and Political Development Concentration, Columbia University
- Moderator: Leith Greenslade, Vice Chair of the MDG Health Alliance
- Rose Wilcher, Director of Research Utilization, FHI360
- Ann M. Starrs, President and CEO, Guttmacher Institute
- Stephenie Foster, Senior Advisor in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State