Race for Survival – Take Action!

race-for-survival

Every five seconds, a child dies needlessly from preventable causes and Save the Children’s Global Day of Action on October 23rd is shining a light on the gross injustice of preventable child deaths and pushing for accelerated progress to save children’s lives. This year over 50,000 children in more than 67 countries – from Iraq, to Nepal to Ethiopia – will participate in a global relay race to call on their leaders to take urgent action in the fight against preventable child deaths.

Save the Children today launched a star-studded film called “Race for Survival”, featuring Hollywood star, Isla Fisher, former Kenyan world record holder, Patrick Makau Musyoki, Bollywood megastar, Kunal Kapoor and US actor, Cameron Boyce.

The short film, aimed at galvanising world action against preventable child death, has each of the stars running a leg of a relay race, in different corners of the world. The race kicks off in Kenya, with athlete Patrick Makau Musyoki, deftly gliding through rural countryside. Cut to Bollywood’s Kunal Kapoor as he charges past ruins on the outskirts of Mumbai, before passing the baton to the US, to Actress Isla Fisher.

The action-packed film also features children, young acrobats, parkourists and free-runners from around the world and was exec-produced by renowned music video producer Nabil Elderkin, best known for his work with Kanye West, John Legend and the Arctic Monkeys.

Kunal Kapoor said: “This breath-taking film is energetic, exciting and fun. It is a celebration of the power, resilience and ingenuity of children and young people around the world. I have seen first-hand the work done by Save the Children and ask people to back their global campaign to save children’s lives.”

Isla Fisher said “I recently visited Save the Children’s work in Brazil and there is nothing more important than making sure every child gets the health and nutrition they need. All children should be able to reach their potential”.

Former world record holder, Patrick Makau said: “Dramatic progress is being made around the world in saving children’s lives from poverty and disease. Change is possible and I encourage people to join Save the Children’s campaign and be part of this movement. Growing up is hard enough. It shouldn’t be a race for survival.”

Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save the Children said: “Our global ambassadors have given their support to this critical issue. We want this energetic film to inspire people to take action all around the world. All children must be able to access life-saving care and given the opportunity to thrive, no matter where they are born.”

To view the film, and to find out how to take part in the Race for Survival visit: http://www.savethechildren.net/raceforsurvival/

Join the conversation using #Race4Survival

#LandMatters for Women

Burmese women working in fields. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Burmese women working in fields. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Consider the following:

Land Matters is a month-long campaign developed by Devex highlighting innovative solutions and furthering the dialogue among smallholder farms in developing countries around the world, land experts, social entrepreneurs, business people and governments. In partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute  and with support from organizations like USAID, Chemonics, to name a few, this campaign hopes to create a collaborative movement to tackle land challenges for, among other sectors, women.

What is the situation for women and land rights?

In many parts of the world patriarchy still rules. The UN-HABITAT report Women’s Rights to Land and Property highlights how women have no rights to land because land ownership is all too often bestowed upon the male head of the family – the father, eldest son or husband. In the case of divorce or death of the husband, a woman can lose her and her children’s right to stay on the land on which she lives (and sometimes works) and be thrown on the streets, left to fend for themselves. Additionally, women are disproportionately affected by slum clearance, forced evictions and resettlement schemes by the state. In many places like Lesotho and Zimbabwe, women face legal discrimination laws and policies, no access to credit, and/or few to no female or gender aware male representatives with decision-making power.

Land ownership is important, even critical, for many women around the world. Whether it’s the land they live on, the land they work, or a combination of both, land can be the gateway to a better life. In countries like El Salvador, Burundi and Niger, organizations like IFAD have helped provide women technical and legal assistance in achieving land rights and navigating government systems. UN Women has had success in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan spreading awareness in communities about women’s land rights and providing legal assistance and training classes on farm management to thousands of women. Even if laws recognize women’s’ rights to land ownership, actually implementing them can be more difficult than getting them on the books in the first place. So often the hardest part of implementing rights is changing the ingrained patriarchal attitudes of society and that may prove to be the biggest challenge in acquiring land rights for women.

Former UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet visits Rural Women’s Land Rights Project in Morocco. Courtesy of UN Women on Flickr (Creative Commons).
Former UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet visits Rural Women’s Land Rights Project in Morocco. Courtesy of UN Women on Flickr (Creative Commons).

Why is it important for women to have land rights?

There are a number of arguments to be made for furthering women’s land rights, but the most compelling is that research shows that when women have access to land rights and control over the family finances, there are a lot of benefits not only for women but also for children, families and communities as a whole. Families have better nutrition and reduced food insecurity. Children, especially girls, receive more education; are born healthier at higher birth weights; have better health outcomes; and girls are less likely to marry young. There are less reports of domestic violence. This list goes on, but you get the idea.

When you consider this research in relation to the fact that women disproportionately bear the burden of poverty and that female-led households tend to be the “poorest of the poor,” what is missing is glaringly obvious. We are missing out on so much potential. If women can produce better outcomes for their families working on limited resources, just think of how much better off children, families and communities could be if they actually had access to their full rights and resources. The outcome could very likely be a world with less hunger and malnutrition, less violence, less poverty, and better health outcomes for children.

Moving Forward

Just because the #LandMatters campaign ends at the end of September does not mean the conversation needs to stop. Fighting for women’s land rights is an on-going project that requires partners from all sectors and disciplines. Check out these organizations working to improve land rights for women…:

…and these resources:

And check out this video from the International Center for Research on Women with economist Krista Jacobs explaining why everyone benefits when women have access to land rights:

Cover image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Join us in Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week!

World Breastfeeding Week 2013 - Official logo
World Breastfeeding Week 2013 – Official logo

August 1st marks the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week, observed around the world to bring attention to the importance of breastfeeding for a child’s life, health and well-being. This year’s theme is “Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers,” a theme which emphasizes the importance of kangaroo care.  The week’s activities are coordinated by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), which was established in 1991 to implement the Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding.

The benefits of breastfeeding to children’s health are well known and well documented. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breastfeeding is one of the single most effective ways to promote child survival and child well-being. WHO estimates that if all children were breastfed within an hour or birth, exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives, and partly breastfed for up to the age of two years, over 200,000 child lives would be saved every year. While breastfeeding can be essential to a child’s survival and basic health, its benefits are far reaching, and a recent study has also linked breastfeeding to a higher IQ. WHO, UNICEF and other stakeholders have adopted a globally accepted recommendation of six months of exclusive breastfeeding as the optimal goal for babies around the world.

Yet, despite convincing scientific evidence demonstrating the indisputable benefits of breastfeeding, less than 40% of children between 0 and 6 months are exclusively breastfed globally. While the reasons behind low breastfeeding rates are complex, more often than not one or several of the following reasons are at least partly to blame:

  1. Inadequate and unaffordable maternity health care services: When women lack access to proper maternity health care, they might be unaware of the importance and benefits of breastfeeding, and unable get the support they may need if they are facing challenges with nursing, such as not being able to produce enough milk, or finding breastfeeding painful. Ensuring that women can access proper, affordable maternal health care services is crucial in the promotion of good breastfeeding practices.
  2. Short or non-existent maternity leaves: As only a handful of countries offer maternity leaves of 6 months or longer, most mothers would have to continue to breastfeed after returning to work to meet the recommendation of 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. For many mothers, balancing breastfeeding with work can become too draining, and breastfeeding rates tend to drop notably after mothers return to work.
  3. Inflexible work place arrangements: Mothers wanting to breastfeed after returning to work are often faced with a reality of their place of work lacking a private and clean space for pumping milk, no place for storing breast milk, and lack of flexibility in terms of breaks required for moms to pump at work. In the United States, the “Break Time for Nursing Mother” legislation made it mandatory for employers to provide nursing moms with access to both the required breaks, and a space to pump milk at the work place. Similar laws are needed all over the world, and information about laws and policies relating to breastfeeding should be made more readily available to ensure that nursing moms are aware of their rights.
  4. Stigma associated with public breastfeeding: As normal and as crucial as breastfeeding is for babies’ well-being, public breastfeeding still causes controversy around the world and nursing mothers find themselves shamed and shunned to nurse in dirty toilets or made to feel like they shouldn’t be leaving their homes until they no longer have to breastfeed their babies. Eliminating the stigma and standing up against the hypocrisy that surrounds public breastfeeding is essential for mothers to feel comfortable breastfeeding their babies, whether at home or in public.
  5. Aggressive baby formula marketing: Campaigning by infant formula companies has also been found to have a negative impact on breastfeeding rates, for example in East Asia as well as in Mexico.

The decision of breastfeeding is often attributed solely to mothers. However, for many mothers the situationbreastfeeding symbol is much more complicated. It is also important to remember that even in the most ideal situation, some mothers will not breastfeed for six months, and the reasons for that can be complicated, from simply not being able to produce enough milk to the mother being on medication that prevents her from breastfeeding. Guilting mothers to breastfeed is never the right approach – providing them with proper maternity care, equipping fathers, partners and extended family with skills to support breastfeeding mothers, ending stigma around public breastfeeding and implementing laws and policies that make it easier for working mothers to breastfeed are all positive tools that can be extremely effective in ensuring that breastfeeding rates continue to increase – not decrease.

Breastfeeding is not only a child well-being issue, it is also a women’s issue and a feminist issue.

Image courtesy of WHO
Image courtesy of WHO

We all, as individuals, partners, husbands and wives, families and societies have a role to play in ensuring that all babies get the best possible start to life, and that all mothers can have the best possible circumstances for breastfeeding their children at home, in public, or after returning to work. Girls’ Globe wishes all mothers and families around the world a Happy World Breastfeeding Week, and we encourage all of our readers to step forward to support breastfeeding mothers all around the world!

Are you a breastfeeding mom who wants to contribute to ending stigma around public breastfeeding? Send us a photo of yourself breastfeeding, with a quote about why you think breastfeeding is important. Photos can be submitted to info@girlsglobe.org, and they will be shared on our blog and through our social media!

Cover image and “What Dads Can Do” graphic courtesy of WHO – check out their other great infographics on breastfeeding along with our World Breastfeeding Week Pinterest board to learn more!