“Countries Should Thrive, Not Just Survive.”

Opening up the panel, Greg Beck, FHI 360‘s Director of Integrated Development, told the story of one particular attempt to aid in relief efforts. After great effort, and amassing donations and supplies, they opened boxes to find stacks of things like inflateable toilets and acne cream.

Asked Beck, “How is this going to help anybody rebuild their life?”

Beck’s point was an extreme example of a nonetheless integral point: development and aid are not straightforward, not simple. They don’t consist of simply hurling donations and good intentions at a problem, and hoping something sticks.

The term ‘integrated development’ means just that—that development is complex and requires coordinated, planned effort across sectors.

It operates around the idea that development does not exist problem by problem, sector by sector. You can’t improve global health without improving education without improving women’s rights. Naturally, there are some specific efforts that require a concentrated approach, but overall, a holistic view is more effective, and organizations and governments need to address what people really lack in the complex, multilayered environments in which they live—not just what we think they need.

The list of speakers was packed with high-level representatives of the NGO world. Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver; Greg Beck, FHI 360’s Director of Integrated Development; Eliya Zulu, Executive Director of the African Institute for Development Policy; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women; Tony Pipa, US Special Coordinator for the UN post-2015 development agenda and Wilberforce Kisamba-Mugerwa, Chairman of the Uganda National Planning Authority.

However, the highlight of the evening might have been Dakshitha Wickremarathne, a social worker and a youth representative on the Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing.

By far the youngest on the panel, Wickremarathne was walking proof of the refrain of this conference: that young people need to be engaged in order to move forward.

He told powerful stories of the effects young people had in his native Sri Lanka, including one regarding a simple observation made by a young person that in sign language, the same sign was used for ‘rape’, ‘sex’ and ‘sexuality’. The cultural impact of this small detail is immeasurable, and he resolved to correct it, and worked to establish a better glossary for sign language.

Zulu pointed to the danger of ignoring the growing power of young people. In numbers they’re growing, and have untapped potential, for good or for bad. As Zulu explains, even the smartest youth can be proponents of world extremism if they’re disillusioned or unemployed.

“If you treat young people as a problem, not an opportunity, you’re missing the point,” affirmed Iversen.

With Iversen and Mlambo-Ngcuka present, the theme of the importance of women and girls—especially young women and girls—was woven throughout the conversation.

The impact of women’s rights on global development is immense, and that women’s rights also has to expand to include adolescent and girl’s health.

“We’re so focused on maternal health more than adolescent health, and by the time we’re addressing adolescent health, it’s a little late,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka.

The empowerment of young women and girls can have great ramifications for other areas of development.  For example, said Pipa, it’s been shown that getting girls and adolescent girls into school is correlated with lower HIV rates. That’s a small, but important victory in three battlefields: global health, education and women’s rights.

“We’re not living in silos,” said Iversen. “It’s all integrated, and it has to be, and we have to look at this that way.”

Keep Women and Girls in Nepal Safe

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Last October, I began a journey through the remote Langtang Mountain range in Nepal. The purpose of my visit was to experience how women of all ages are rallying their communities against the issue of trafficking. Historically, in this area of Nepal, trafficking is the main source of income for many families. In fact, in many communities, there are no girls over the age of twelve. They have all been sold to brothels in India and taken to other areas in Nepal. It is difficult to imagine young girls being used and traded as commodities rather than valued as worthy human beings. I began to understand the issue more as I realized the history of the Tamang people. The Tamang people in Nepal have not  been valued for generations. Tamang are not allowed to hold government jobs and are treated as lower-class citizens. From an anthropological perspective, this gave me a clearer understanding as to why slavery has been the only economic option for those living in these remote regions. When I visited this community last year, I found the promise of hope. A locally-led goat farming program was providing young girls with the opportunity to raise and sell goats rather than the girls being sold themselves. As a result, the health and well-being of many of these young girls and their families increased dramatically. Health and safety for young girls was provided through a relatively low-cost economic alternative.

IMG_0190Women, girls and children are considered among the most vulnerable populations in the world. They experience some of the most extreme health risks and the promise of safety is rarely an option. When I woke up on the morning of April 25th and learned the news about the earthquake in Nepal my heart sank. My mind immediately went to these young girls and their families. When a crisis such as war, disease, famine or a natural disaster occurs, the risks for women and children increases significantly. The Langtang Mountain region in Nepal was severely affected by the earthquake. Personal stories and accounts from colleagues revealed most homes and villages were destroyed in the region where only a few months ago I experienced such positive hope and change. This area is so remote it has been difficult for any help to reach the Tamang people living in the mountains.

The media frenzy surrounding the crisis in Nepal has made it difficult to know exactly what is happening and how we can work to empower women and girls in this country. We need to ask the question: In post-crisis, how can we continue to keep women and girls in Nepal safe? This is a multi-layered question and requires an integrated response both locally and globally. As an international community, I believe there are ways we can respond which are both empowering and will bring about lasting change for the health and well-being of women and girls.

Understand Increased Risks

When a crisis or natural disaster occurs, women, girls and children face increased risks to their health and safety. The earthquake in Nepal, left tens of thousands of pregnant women without medical care and exposed to the harsh elements. Similarly, according to the International Justice Mission, there is a heightened risk for displaced young women and children to be trafficked across the Nepal/India border. We must understand the increased risks in order to know how to mitigate those risks.

Empower Locally Led Solutions

While in Nepal, I, also, had the opportunity to lead a blogging workshop for one of Girls’ Globe’s featured organizations Women LEAD Nepal’s young leaders. I am inspired by their courage and strength through the crisis in Nepal. These young women are leading the way through providing locally-led solutions to surrounding communities. They have worked to empower young people and children through local partnerships building temporary learning centers for children living in some of the most severely affected areas. These amazing young women were featured in the Kathmandu Post as their relief efforts have also entailed education focused kits which include school books, calculators, pens and more to young people who have been working to prepare for exams in the midst of crisis. Locally-led solutions can bring lasting and sustainable change to improve the health and safety of women, girls and children living in post-crisis situations.

Use Your Voice for Change

When a natural disaster or crisis occurs in another country we can not always drop everything and physically go to help, nor is that always the best way to help either. Many who would like to help often think going is the first and only solution. While relief is an important part of the response it is not the only response. I believe one of the most powerful ways you can create change and keep women and girls in Nepal healthy and safe is through using your voice. The media buzz around the crisis in Nepal will eventually fade. Whether you are passionate about writing or enjoy sharing well informed posts through social media let’s continue to use our voices to keep the health and rights of women, girls and children in Nepal at the forefront of the conversation.

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.

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):