International Day of Peace 2014

In Martin Luther King’s Nobel Peace Prize lecture, he compared the tremendous scientific achievements the world had made by the 1960s to the values we held as a society.

We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.

He went on to say, ‘This problem of spiritual and moral lag…expresses itself in three larger problems…Each of these problems, while appearing to be separate and isolated, is inextricably bound to the other. I refer to racial injustice, poverty, and war.’

This year’s International Day of Peace takes place when peace looks impossible to reach. Lately, the news has been discouraging. News of war, famine, violence and disease can be seen daily and for me, and I am sure for others, the news is frightening. Last week, Pope Francis remarked that the world’s many conflicts amount to piecemeal World War Three.

I think Martin Luther King’s words sadly ring true 40 years later.

The recent headlines include some of the most tragic events our history has seen including:

  • The shooting down of flight MH17, with its links to the unrest in Ukraine.
  • The conflict in Syria has amounted to more deaths and refugees than the genocide in Rwanda.
  • The beheading of journalist James Foley by ISIS and a few days later, Steven Sotloff, heroes who wanted to bring awareness to injustice.
  • The kidnapping of Nigerian school girls by Boko Haram.
  • Overcrowded boats of migrants capsizing trying to escape poverty.
  • A shooting of an unarmed teenager by a police officer in Ferguson, MO.

Despite the complexity and confusion that surrounds these tragic situations, I think our society can overcome them. Even though we are not the ones in positions of power, we can not forget we have a voice. We live in a time where social media allows us to gain knowledge of global events more quickly and gives us the opportunity to raise our voice. Social media is a tool to understand  these issues affect everyone.

Photo Credit: Liz Fortier
Photo Credit: Liz Fortier

Girls’ Globe utilizes social media to track the progress of the Millennium Development Goals as they relate to women and children. The eight goals aim to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and other diseases, ensure environmental stability, and promote global partnership for development. Despite various barriers to achieving the goals, the one thing that would prevent any of them from occurring is the absence of peace. As Martin Luther King alluded to, racial injustice, poverty, and war, are still the major underlying factors preventing peace today.

Photo Credit: Liz Fortier
Photo Credit: Liz Fortier

The founder of Girls’ Globe, Julia Wiklander recently wrote about how women and children are the most vulnerable in times of conflict. Women are raped at higher rates, experience trauma, and newborns and pregnant women lack critical healthcare and nutrition. Education opportunities are minimized, and infectious diseases can spread more quickly in places without healthcare infrastructures.

The overflowing Syrian refugee camps are becoming places where sexual exploitation of displaced women and girls is common place. Women are objectified, bought and sold or kidnapped, and presented as gifts to leaders of some of these terrorists sects.

Despite how angry or scared we might feel about the horrifying events happening in the news, we must not think that perpetuating violence is the answer.  Let’s ask our leaders to promote policies for social and racial justice and peace. In this way we will more easily achieve the MDGs and protect those most vulnerable in times of war and conflict.

As Martin Luther King went on, he remarked on the nonviolent progress the US had made for civil rights in the years preceding, and the hope he had for a peaceful future.

Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing away, and out of the womb of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born.

We must now give an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in our individual societies.

If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war. -Martin Luther King Jr.

Want to take action?

Visit the UN’s International Day of Peace website to learn what others are doing to promote peace.

September 21st-26th Girls’ Globe will be in New York for the 2014 UN General Assembly. We are partnering with FHI360, Johnson & Johnson, and Women Deliver in support of Every Woman Every Child to amplify the global conversation on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda. Follow #MDG456Live, raise your voice and join the conversation to advance women’s and children’s health. Sign up for the Daily Delivery to receive live crowd-sourced coverage of these issues directly to your inbox.

Newborn health: How do we care for the most vulnerable in our society?

When the UN millennium development goals (MDGs) were established in 2000, the reduction of child mortality was named as MDG 4. The target of MDG 4 is to reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate. The indicators that are used to track progress against MDG 4 are under-five mortality rate, the infant mortality rate, and the proportion of 1 year-old children immunized against measles.

Photo Credit: United Nations Vaccination Programme Flickr Account
Photo Credit: United Nations Development Programme Flickr Account

Since 1990, the global infant mortality rate has decreased by almost half. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in Europe in 2013, the lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth was 1 in 3300, and the chance of an infant dying before her first birthday was 10 per 1000 live births.

Of course, we could do better, but these numbers don’t paint such a bad picture. Most of us in the developing world do not fear the risks involved with childbirth or worry about our child dying in the first year of life. For us, having a baby is a celebration with little fear.

Let’s change the setting. In Africa, in 2013, the lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth was 1 in 40, and 63 infants per 1000 live births died before their first birthday. That is 6 times higher than the infant deaths in Europe. The United Nations update on MDG 4 explains that, ‘Despite determined global progress in reducing child deaths, an increasing proportion of child deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. Four out of every five deaths of children under age five occur in these regions.’

How would we feel about childbirth in this scenario?

What are mothers and babies dying from in Africa and other developing nations?

According to WHO, mothers are dying from severe bleeding, and preventable infectious and chronic diseases that become exacerbated during pregnancy, such as malaria, HIV, diabetes, and obesity.

27% of pregnant women in developing countries die from severe bleeding during childbirth.

That statistic is unbelievable to me. It sounds like something that would describe a scene from the 1900s in the United States, but this is a reality for a large number of people in the world today.

Newborn health is inextricably connected to maternal health. Similarly to maternal mortality, preventable diseases are the major causes of under-five deaths. Inadequate nutrition, limited access to clean water, and poor healthcare infrastructures lead to the spread of preventable infectious diseases.

Photo Credit: Liz Fortier
Photo Credit: Liz Fortier

When I traveled to South Africa to study public health in 2011, I met a 2-year-old girl who was HIV positive. During the time I spent with her and her family, she enjoyed playing with my camera and trying to recruit me for a game of hide-and-seek. She was just as playful as any 2-year old I’ve met, but sadly she is up against a lot more than most. In addition to her illness, she lives in a shack in a community of people who have been ostracized because of their diagnosis with HIV. She already lacks resources she needs to secure a healthy life.

Poverty perpetuates these health care dilemmas and is severaly slowing down progress towards reaching MDG 4 and 5 (improving maternal health) targets in developing nations.

Although it looks like MDGs 4 and 5 will not been achieved in the hardest to reach locations, increased research, awareness, and acknowledgement of protecting our newborns has led to a few new campaigns to create the needed change.

The ‘Every Newborn Action Plan’ includes different focus areas from MDG 4 and 5:

  • Empowering Women
  • Country Focus
  • Political Leadership
  • Accountability
  • Economic Return

Every Women Every Child is a global movement led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to intensify action to improve the health of women and children.

Next week at the United Nations General Assembly, myself and other Girls’ Globe bloggers will be covering the discussion surrounding the Millennium Development Goal progress as it relates to women and children.

Newborn health is important to me because I feel that the ways in which we care for the most vulnerable in our society reflects what we value. If we are not putting true efforts toward protecting mothers and children we are failing.

Please tune in and use #Commit2Deliver to help influence our world’s leaders to effectively prioritize health care for women and newborns. Follow #MDG456Live on Twitter for live updates from UNGA from Girls’ Globe, FHI360, Women Deliver and Johnson&Johnson and sign up for the Daily Delivery and read fellow Girls’ Globe blogger, Esther Sharma’s, post that discusses how midwives should be central to achieving MDG 4 and 5.

Photo credit for the featured image: sean dreilinger’s Flickr Account. This photo was not changed from the original format.

The MDGs: 984 More Years

In the 1990s, the world looked very different. Forty-three percent of the world lived on less than $1.25 per day, a new wave of feminism was just gaining traction, and girls were kept from attending school in greater numbers than they are now.  In 2010, the amount of people living in extreme poverty dropped to 21% and leaders such as Malala Yousafzai are advocating the importance of female enrollment and attendance in school.

The creation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of goals that address poverty, maternal health, education and the environment, planted a new seed for hope. Leaders, governments and organizations agreed upon these parameters, and collaborated to work towards success. At the UN Millennium Summit meeting in 2000, the space and language for a new paradigm was born.

At the same time, I was wrapping up elementary school. My earliest memories of global interconnectedness are Flat Stanley and September 11, 2001. Flat Stanley is an elementary school project in which students color the paper character, and send him to students in other countries or with family members on vacation. My grandparents visited China during the project so I wrote about Stanley’s immersion into Chinese culture and presented it to the class.

Then, the attacks on September 11th served as my first introduction to how decisions on the other side of the world can impact my life in the United States. As a 5th grader I was unable to immediately grasp the enormity of the day, but I started to understand that something bigger than anything I’d experienced before was in the works.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit:Wikimedia Commons

Unbeknown to me, the birth of the MDGs also happened at this time, and a shift in the global consciousness was underway. Fourteen years later, conscious citizenship has become part of the paradigm. Young people are interested in the corporate social responsibility sectors of major corporations, social entrepreneurship is on the rise and women have more opportunities to work as global change-makers. Since 2000, countless organizations with one or more MDGs at their mission have been created and media outlets, such as Girls’ Globe, operate to raise awareness of global injustices.

With less than 500 days left until the original deadline of the 8 goals, those organizations working towards MDG success are reevaluating their work and vocalizing their interest in a new framework. There are many debates about what MDG success looks like and if it can be achieved. Additionally, campaigns such as #Commit2Deliver and #MDGMomentum are currently serving as platforms to host dialogue and ensure accountability towards the goals. But as someone invested in the success of MDGs 3, 4, 5 and 6, I sincerely believe that although we’ve come up short on the initial metrics supporting women and children, these goals are a huge success.

Since 2000, tangible work has been done to improve the health and rights of women and children worldwide and I hope it never stops. Improving women and children’s livelihoods is no longer only a concern of international relief agencies and is operating beyond a 15-year timeline. Articles about female Ebola patients are alongside those of corporate mergers in our news feeds. There are now entire sections of online magazines dedicated to “the sexes,” “women,” and “impact.” Bestselling books are written by women and discuss feminism, poverty, workplace inequalities, and maternal health.

Technology has enabled the international community to become interdependent in the execution and success of the MDGs. We’ve learned the power of collaboration and are steamrolling with the momentum of increased knowledge and awareness. As a young person, I will continue working for the day when all girls are in primary school and all women can confidently say they feel equal in society, but I don’t think it’s a failure that it will not happen in 2015.

The MDGs are more than a set of specific metrics; they are a space for dialogue and shared goals across continents and sectors.   I was shaped by an interconnected millennium and am part of a generation fueled with a language of justice, equality and hope. If we use the first 15 years as a springboard for shaping the next 984, the Millennium Development Goals will remain an intrinsic success.

Keep up with the latest developments for women and children by following the #Commit2Deliver campaign.

Don’t forget to #ShowYourSelfie, and remember that your voice as a young person matters when discussing the development of our future!

Growing Dreams: Help Educate Girls In Myanmar

Here in the United States, ask a girl what she wants to be when she grows up and her answer may be nurse, teacher, astronaut, senator or even president. The possibilities are limitless.  In Myanmar, a country steeped in extreme poverty, where people lack even the most basic human rights, you will hear no such answer. Girls in Myanmar typically imagine a job that takes them no further than the family farm or the local fish market.

Why the disparity?

In addition to the oppressive government, ongoing conflicts, natural disasters and displacement that have plagued the country, education is simply not attainable for many – most of all girls.

Only half of Burmese girls complete primary education.  For most, the quality of the education is inadequate and typically based on rote memorization.  One in every four girls who has attended primary school is still unable to read simple sentences about everyday life.

Although government schools are free, parents still need to pay for uniforms, supplies, and in some cases bribes to teachers to ensure their children receive attention.

When parents choose which child they can afford to educate, it is always the boys.  Girls, victims of gender disparity, are pulled out of school to work.

Girls who are educated dream big.  Education opens up endless opportunities. Education builds girls’ dreams and transforms lives.

Educational Empowerment helps ensure Burmese girls realize their dreams.

Some girls, unable to afford government schools, attend schools established in Buddhist monasteries – schools which truly are free. Many girls in these schools have been sent by their families from remote ethnic areas to be educated and safe. These girls, often as young as 4, must cope with the trauma of family separation.

One of these schools, located in a poor township outside Yangon, is Maw Kyun, attended by 582 children, half of whom are girls. These girls are learning critical thinking skills, which give them the ability to identify and solve problems.  Since their township does not  have electricity or fresh water, solving problems is essential to their existence.

Photo Credit: Edu Empowerment
Photo Credit: Edu Empowerment

Wint Yi, like 25% of other girls in Myanmar, lives below the poverty line, with a family income of less than $1.25 per day. Fifty percent of her peers will only go to school through the fifth grade.

Unlike, many other girls, Wint Yi has a dream. She knows there is a world beyond her village.  She goes to a school supported by Educational Empowerment.  Wint Yi is one of the fortunate girls in Myanmar.

Girls’ access to quality education should be a basic human right.  Investing in girls’ education bolsters their dignity, saves mother’s and children’s lives, and improves the socio-economic status of the entire community.

Help girls attain their right to education.  Empower others, like Wint Yi, to dream BIG.

Want to take action?

  • Donate to Educational Empowerment
  • Organize an event for International Day of the Girl, October 11th, to create awareness for girls’ right to education
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Meet Wint Yi


 

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org

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Educational Empowerment (EE) was created by women for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities in Myanmar severely affected by poverty and injustice. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women Myanmar to attain their equal rights.