The Integration Hypothesis

​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:

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):

Gender Integration and The Gender 360 Summit

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Panelists take the stage to talk about the role of donors in setting expectations for gender integration

Gender. It’s a small word with a major impact on global development.

When discussing gender integration, one might assume that the word ‘gender’ equates to solely women and girls. This is simply not the case. Gender refers to all sexes – men, boys, women, girls and all those in the transgender community.

Understanding gender’s impact on social and economic growth is the first step towards improving economic development.

For example, does poverty mean the same for men and boys as it does for women and girls? In many parts of the developing world, men eat first (and usually most). Therefore, when food is scarce, women and children – especially girls – suffer the consequences of poverty to a much greater degree.

Upon coming to the realization that poverty means different things to men and women, boys and girls, organizations and governments can more effectively establish and implement programs and policies to remedy such gender inequalities and thereby promote economic growth.

This is gender analysis in action.

At yesterday’s Gender 360 Summit, gender advocates from around the world delved deeper into the complicated topic of gender analysis. Theresa Hwang, Gender Director for CARE USA, emphasized the importance of organizations having gender champions at every level and department, saying that organizations should not only talk the talk, but they must walk the walk. Hwang shared that CARE proudly implements gender-focused policies that include, among others, infant-at-work and breastfeeding programs.

“We can’t effectively create social change if we aren’t evaluating our own values.” – Theresa Hwang

Correct language also proved to be a popular topic of debate. Advocates admitted that gender analysis typically includes jargon that may not be exciting unless you are already interested in the field. Aparna Mehrotra, Senior Advisor on Coordination and Focal Point for Women at UN Women, suggested that we ask ourselves: How we can change the language to incite others to join the conversation? What language and terms will resonate the most with local communities? Mehrotra stressed the importance of having an exciting and easily digestible vocabulary for basic regulations to get people interested. Then, ‘once the door is cracked open,’ more technical gender jargon becomes appropriate.

The Summit also included a brainstorming session (a.k.a The Gender Lounge) whereby breakout groups created a creative ‘mind map’ that illustrated the group’s perspectives on the relationship among contributing factors of gender integration and gender analysis’ main end goal. My group agreed that good leadership, access to quality resources, correct methodology, engaged community members, and proper incentives all play an important role in understanding effective gender analysis.

My breakout group creative our mind map about gender integration
My breakout group creating our mind map about gender integration

Finally, representatives from various donor corporations took the stage to discuss the role of donors in setting expectations for gender integration. Across the board, the representatives agreed that showing measurable progress is critical in order to gain and retain interest from potential donors. Sharon Thorn, Senior Director of Federal Government Relations at Walmart, said that corporations must be more focused on taking a cross-sectional approach to gender initiatives and sharing information about already established successful (and unsuccessful) programs and less concerned about getting credited for their efforts. To sum up the donor’s role in gender analysis, the panel reiterated the importance of having gender at the heart of development with three words: scale, impact, sustainability.

FACT:  The first instance of gender mainstreaming occurred in 1948 with the publication of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Originally titled The Universal Declaration of Man, Eleanor Roosevelt persuaded members of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to change the title to its current gender-inclusive form.

Midwives: The Real Unsung Heroes

There are individuals, around the world, who are saving the lives of women, children and families every day. These are no ordinary people, in fact, many call them heroes. They travel to remote villages, through crowded urban centers, across mountains and rivers to provide life saving care to mothers and families. Creativity and strength are their “super powers” as they work with limited resources under strenuous conditions.

These super heroes have saved the lives of many of my friends. Amazing individuals, most of them women, provide loving care to babies and mothers near and dear to my heart. Who are they? It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it is:

A midwife!

Midwives are saving lives. They help prevent serious complications for mothers and their babies during childbirth. Competent midwives greatly decrease the risk of both mother and child dying during birth. After childbirth, midwives continue to support mothers and their children through care, help with breastfeeding and other comprehensive support services. Their jobs look different depending on the country where they work.

Midwives must have the right skills and the best resources in order to do their jobs effectively.

With the help of a trained midwife, women’s and families’ stories around the world are different. Death is replaced with life. A midwife can provide the essential care needed to prevent harmful and preventable complications during and after birth. Yet, more than one-third of all births take place without the care of a skilled birth attendant. The 2011 State of the World’s Midwifery report, listed nine countries with a significant shortage of trained midwives or skilled birth attendants. Many of these countries have some of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates.

We need more trained midwives and we must celebrate those tirelessly working to save mothers, children and families around the world.

In the developing world, midwives need continual training and ongoing support. To ensure this support is a reality, governments, organizations, the private and health sectors and midwives, themselves, must be involved.

Last fall, I had the privilege of visiting the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I was impressed by The Hamlin College of Midwives and their mission to train more midwives to serve in rural areas in Ethiopia where there is a significant need for maternal care.

I recently read an amazing story about how Jhpiego, an organization working to save the lives of women and children worldwide, is supporting a midwifery program in rural Ethiopia. They also work in other countries to support maternal and child health programs.

The Hamlin College of Midwives and Jhpiego are two positive examples of people and organizations working to support the incredible work of midwives.

On June 1st the International Confederation of Midwives will hold the 30th Triennial Congress in Prague. Over 3,000 midwives from around the world will gather to share their work, learn new best practices and celebrate each other! During the congress, the 2014 State of the World’s Midwifery report will be published. The world’s leading general medical journal The Lancet will feature a midwifery series. At the congress, special ceremonies will be held to recognize and honor midwives vital contributions. Let’s take the time and celebrate these amazing heroes.

There is beauty and hope reflected in the lives of women who are able to deliver safe and healthy babies.

Want to join the global conversation?

Follow @GirlsGlobe, @JNJGlobalHealth, @FHI360, @world_midwives and #ICMLive for coverage related to the upcoming International Confederation of Midwives, taking place in Prague,1-5 June 2014. Use the hashtag #SOWMY2014 and follow the launch of the 2014 State of the World’s Midwifery Report.

 Cover Photo Credit: UNAMID, Flicker Creative Commons

#MDG456Live: Join the conversation at the UN!


This coming week, the United Nations, civil society, non-profit organizations, entrepreneurs, and other influential individuals are getting together to discuss the progress of the Millennium Development Goals, how we can accelerate that progress by 2015 and what world we want by 2030. Girls’ Globe will be present in New York City throughout the week to enhance the discussion around the health related MDGs and accelerating progress for women and girls. This week we are thrilled to be partnering with Women Deliver, FHI 360, and Johnson & Johnson in their initiative to provide curated coverage on women and children and the post-2015 agenda, in support of Every Woman Every Child.

  • Sign up to the Daily Deliveries that provide a summary of each day directly in your inbox.
  • Visit the Hub that includes content like blog posts, videos, summaries of discussions and more.
  • Join the conversation using #MDG456Live on Twitter and Instagram.

Tomorrow, the doors at 92Y open to the Social Good Summit, a three-day conference where big ideas meet new media to create innovative solutions. This ground-breaking conference includes Keynote Listeners like Melinda Gates, Richard Branson and Jim Yong Kim, who will participate by listening to the conversations and ideas generated from the panelists and the audience. The Social Good Summit is also connecting people across the globe to participate in the discussions. Events are taking place in Afghanistan (the first ever social media conference in the country), Singapore, Togo, Argentina, and around the world. The Social Good Summit in New York City, with speakers like Malala Yousefzai (16-year old Educational Campaigner from Pakistan’s Swat Valley), Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (new Director of UN Women), Maz Kessler (Founder of amazing crowdfunding site Catapult), and Rebecca Chiao (Co-Founder and Director, HarassMap), will be live-streamed to make the conversation even more inclusive. Join the discussion using #2030NOW.

This week you can expect live coverage from the events by the Girls’ Globe bloggers, blog posts related to the Millennium Development Goals and specifically the progress being made for women and girls, interviews with inspirational individuals who are changing the world, and more!

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