The Integration Hypothesis: Let’s Empower Women and Girls

The challenges women and girls experience around the world are interlinked and multi-dimensional. Addressing and developing effective solutions to empower women, girls and communities requires a coordinated global and local response. Last month, Girls’ Globe had the opportunity to be a part of FHI 360’s Integration Hypothesis event in New York City. The event gathered organizations, thought leaders and those working at a community level to discuss the importance of creating sustainable integrated solutions to effectively address issues such as education, violence against women, health and poverty. Creating successful and sustainable integrated development programs for women, girls and communities is not a new conversation. For years, development practitioners, advocates, governments, organizations and communities have sought to address global  issues through talking about the need for more integrated and holistic approaches.

Last week, FHI 360 and Girls’ Globe hosted an interactive Google+ hangout to continue the conversation on the importance of integrated development for women and girls. The live discussion was a continuation of FHI 360’s Integration Hypothesis series. A diverse group of panelists took the “virtual stage” in what was an engaging and robust discussion. All panelists agreed there is no better time than the present to begin to turn the integration discussion into effective international development solutions.

Greg Beck, Director of Integrated Development for FHI 360, began the conversation by defining integrated development as a coordinated response across sectors to create an amplified impact for communities. FHI 360 is committed to building the evidence needed to show where integration and development solutions can be most effective and sustainable. Through a four million dollar FHI 360 Foundation grant, FHI 360 has launched a new integrated development initiative which utilizes their research and technical expertise as well as experience in international gender programming to produce evidence-based integrated solutions. Greg emphasized the importance of awareness and education among the donor community and private sector as essential elements to the process of advancing successful integrated development outcomes.

The Google+ Hangout panelists included: Greg Beck, Director of Integrated Development at FHI 360; Rose Wilcher, Director of Research Utilization at FHI 360; Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver; Joyce Adolwa Head of Girls’ Education, Empowerment and Programming at CARE; and Catalina Escobar, CEO of the Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar Foundation. The panelists shared their experiences as well as the challenges and opportunities to implementing integrated solutions for women and girls at both a macro and micro level.

Creating lasting opportunities for women and girls requires a multi-prong approach. Katja Iversen emphasized the importance of continued advocacy for women and girls. Clear messaging and advocacy are critical components to building successful integrated solutions. Katja stated, “We need to make it so delicious for governments and others to invest in girls and women.” Evidence  is the foundation while advocacy and messaging are powerful vehicles for creating change and moving the conversation into effective action for women, girls and communities.

Joyce Adolwa spoke of the importance of listening to and involving communities in the process of integration. Women, girls and communities must be at the center and thoroughly involved in the change making process. Joyce emphasized, “Societies change because people change.” Sustainability can not occur unless we involve communities and people in the change-making process.

Simply put, integrated development solutions for women, girls and communities must meet people where they are. We all have a responsibility to carry this conversation forward. Integrated solutions and decision making must both come from the grassroots community level as well as involve donors and those at an international decision making level. Let’s continue to think critically about how we are investing time and resources into holistic solutions for empowering women and girls.

Watch the recorded hangout and continue to share your thoughts at #IntegratedDev

Read our Storify recap to learn more.

Girls’ Globe and the 2013 Women Deliver Conference – One Year Later

Has it already been one year since the 2013 Women Deliver Conference? Where has the time gone?

Although it may seem as if the conference was only yesterday, a lot has happened over the past year.

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The Girls’ Globe team meets for the first time at the 2013 Women Deliver conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The 2013 Women Deliver Conference was not only a remarkable occasion for various actors within the realm of international development to get together to discuss solutions and take action for women’s and girls’ well-being and health around the globe. This conference was the first time the Girls’ Globe team met face-to-face. It was at this place that the seed was planted for Girls’ Globe to grow into the youth-driven advocacy and communications organization that we are today. And since then, we’ve been active!

Since the 2013 Women Deliver Conference, the Girls’ Globe team has tirelessly advocated for the rights and health of women and girls around the world – and we are getting the world’s attention! In the past year alone, our website has been visited over 160,000 times, more than eight times the amount of views in our previous 16 months combined. What’s more exciting is that these website hits were not limited to one region but rather, included visits from every single country except two.

With 30 bloggers (and growing!) representing 16 countries and 4 continents, we are constantly adding fresh new faces and perspectives to our global team. However, we have not limited ourselves to sharing the voices of individuals. In the past year, we have brought a diverse group of women’s and girls’ organizations to the forefront as well. Our 22 featured organizations (and counting!) cover a range of international issues including but not limited to education, maternal and newborn health, gender equality, micro-credit, gender-based violence, WASH and leadership. We are proud to provide a digital space for these changemaking individuals and organizations to share their ideas, to be heard and to grow.

At the 2013 Women Deliver Conference, we were fortunate to partner with FHI 360 and Women Deliver to provide conference attendees and global followers alike live media updates, interviews, blogs, photographs, event summaries and more. Since then, the Girls’ Globe team has covered the 2013 International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the 2013 United Nations General Assembly in New York City – each time bringing unique youth perspectives to conference coverage and thus, bridging the gap between youth and high-level decision makers. With several more conferences already awaiting Girls’ Globe coverage in 2014, we are excited to continue involving young people, and girls in particular, in the international conversation.

Our team of changemakers continuously advocates for the rights of women and girls across a variety of social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, YouTube and Google Plus. In the past year, we have raised awareness and initiated a call to action for women’s and girls’ rights by, among other ways, hosting Google Hangouts and co-hosting Twitter chats alongside influential organizations such as the International Justice Mission, Johnson & Johnson, UNFPA and WaterAid America. With our online subscribers and social media followers combined, our team has created a network with a digital reach of over 20,000 people.

At Girls’ Globe, we strive to raise awareness and educate others about global issues concerning the rights, health and empowerment of women and girls. At our core, we believe that all women and girls should be free to live to their full potential, free from all forms of violence and discrimination. We believe that human rights are women’s and girls’ rights.

The Girls' Globe value statement
The Girls’ Globe value statement

We are constantly growing and connecting with changemaking and inspiring individuals and organizations. Do you want to make a difference for women and girls? Does your organization empower women and girls? Become a blogger or join our network and help change the world for the better.

We are thrilled to announce that Girls’ Globe will be attending the International Conference on Midwives (June 1 – June 5) and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) Partners’ Forum (June 30 – July 1). Keep up-to-date on all our conference coverage by signing up for our Daily Deliveries. Join the conversation online using #ICMLive and #PMNCHLive.

Thank you all for a fantastic year! We could not have done it without your support. We look forward to an even better future filled with stories of empowering women, inspiring girls, and unstoppable global advocacy.

Find out what others have been doing since the Women Deliver conference using #SinceWD2013!

Cover image: Girls’ Globe blogger Emma Saloranta asks a question to Melinda Gates at the 2013 Women Deliver conference

Moving beyond access: Poverty, powerlessness and family planning

CARE_Steal these stats_1 in 3 women
Image courtesy of Care (www.care.org)

When we talk about family planning, the discussion often centers around the notion of “choice” – women’s right to choose if, when and with whom to have children; what birth control method to use; and what to do in the event of an unwanted pregnancy. We recognize that too many women and girls currently lack these choices and do not have control over their reproductive decisions. We know that there are 222 million women in developing countries who would like to delay or stop childbearing but do not have access to birth control methods –  also referred to as the “unmet need for family planning”. We know that 800 women lose their lives every day to preventable causes related to pregnancy and child birth, and that many of these deaths could be prevented through simply providing women with access to contraception. We know that 47,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions, due to lack of access to birth control, and lack of access to safe, affordable and legal abortion services.

Behind women’s lack of choices and decision-making power lie underlying challenges related to poverty, gender inequality and power dynamics that strip women of their ability to make their own reproductive choices.  Poverty doesn’t only manifest itself as lack of income or material goods, but is fundamentally about lack of choice, lack of power and lack of opportunity. For women in poverty, there is no choice involved when it comes to family planning  – women and girls give up their health, their independence, their education, their income, and their lives because they are unable to take control over their reproductive and family planning decisions, not only because they lack access to services but because of inequality, patriarchy and discrimination.

All over the world, women’s bodies are still not their own.

Addressing these challenges requires more than just addressing the issue of access, because access is not enough to ensure that women actually have decision-making power. Bringing services to women won’t help, if family planning decisions are still made by men. Availability and affordability of birth control won’t make a change, if women are still prevented from using it by their partners and husbands. Access to skilled birth attendants can only do so much, if girls are married off as children and face increased risks of complications due to early pregnancies.

While providing women and girls with access to family planning services  is a necessary starting point, efforts that aim to improve women’s control over their fertility and reproductive decisions must also address gender inequality, power dynamics, social norms, patriarchal traditions and the fundamental issue of poverty for any progress and change to truly be sustainable.

WB_Woman and child
© Curt Carnemark / World Bank

These are topics that the discussions taking place at the Third International Conference on Family Planning aim to address. Many of the plenaries, panels and events at the Conference titled “Full Access, Full Choice” focus on providing women and girls improved access to high quality, affordable and reliable services, but panels also include topics such as The Rights-Based Approach to Family Planning; Quality of Care in Family Planning; and Men and Family Planning. Plenaries such as Achieving Equity through Women in Leadership and Making Family Planning Integral to Development and the Post-MDG Agenda are sure to provide space for discussions that look beyond access, and address the bigger issue of women’s empowerment, gender equality and power dynamics.

Girls’ Globe is in Addis Ababa, reporting live from panels, plenaries and events. Follow and join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ICFPLive hashtag, sign up for the Daily Delivery, visit the ICFPLive Hub for crowdsourced content curated by FHI 360,  and follow Girls’ Globe for live updates, videos and images from Ethiopia.

Women must be brought to the table, to the discussions and decision making. They need to be consulted, addressed and listened to, because women and girls are not the problem, but the solution, to challenges such as population growth and sustainable development. It’s time to move beyond access towards empowerment and equality, and bring women at the center of the discussion – and solution.

Lindsay Mgbor/UK Department for International Development
Lindsay Mgbor/UK Department for International Development

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