In Conversation with Kizanne James

Let us introduce you to Kizanne James. Kizanne is a physician from Trinidad & Tobago working on reproductive health and rights.

In this conversation with Girls’ Globe, Kizanne speaks about the challenges she has faced as a woman – and especially as a black woman – working in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the Caribbean.

“We were taught that if you had sex or you had a boy touch you, it’s like a tomato – the more that a boy touches you the less valuable you would be. And that’s not the same narrative for boys.”

Kizanne explains that it’s being grounded in her values that helps her to handle difficult circumstances. In the face of negativity or even hateful abuse from those who disagree with her, knowing her work and advocacy empowers women and girls to make decisions about their own lives keeps her motivated.

“Regardless of what I may be feeling, or the negative voices or concerns people may have…I feel like I’m on the right side.”

This video was made possible through a generous grant from SayItForward.org to support women’s advocacy messages.

If you liked this post, we think you’ll love our conversations with KingaWinfredScarlettNatasha & Tasneem, too!

In Conversation with Tasneem Kakal

Tasneem Kakal is an advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Born and raised in Mumbai, she spent 5 years taking a daily train to and from university. In this interview with Girls’ Globe, Tasneem tells us what the experience taught her about navigating public space as a young woman.

“I would walk up the stairs and go to my platform in this huge crowd of people. And I realized I was doing something that I didn’t know I was doing…”

We all have the right to move through the world without fear. Public space should be accessible to all, regardless of gender. By raising her voice and bringing attention to the everyday nature of inequality, Tasneem stands in solidarity with other women and girls.

“I had to push the boundaries, little by little.”

This video was made possible through a generous grant from SayItForward.org to support women’s advocacy messages.

If you liked this post, we think you’ll love our interviews with Kinga, Winfred, Scarlett and Natasha, too! 

Breastfeeding for Nutrition, Food Security & Poverty Reduction

Some time has passed since the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – an inclusive agenda to create positive, sustainable change. To say the least, we’ve got work to do! Breastfeeding is a vital part of sustainable development.

In 2016, the United Nations placed nutrition at the heart of sustainable development by declaring 2016-2025 as the UN Decade for Action on Nutrition. Breastfeeding is a non-negotiable component of this globally intensified action to end malnutrition. An infant, at the very start of life, is assured optimal nutrition and protection if breastfed. Breastfeeding also ensures food security, especially in times of humanitarian crises. Breastfeeding contributes to poverty reduction by being a low cost way of feeding babies and not burdening household budgets compared to artificial feeding.

Increased rates of exclusive and continued breastfeeding can only be achieved by cooperating and collaborating across all sectors and across generations. Fortunately, the importance of working in partnership is now recognised and translated into various global initiatives. A key recommendation in the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health is access to good nutrition:

“By working in partnership, we can ensure women, children and adolescents, everywhere, can access adequate, diverse and nutritious food throughout the life course, which will help them survive, get an education, become resilient and thrive. In turn, so will their communities and countries, empowering them to break poverty cycles and contribute to inclusive, sustainable, healthier, more prosperous societies.” – Every Woman Every Child

Success in breastfeeding is not the sole responsibility of a woman  the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding is a collective societal responsibility which states have an obligation to ensure. Together, we can achieve success and ensure adequate nutrition, food security and poverty reduction in the generations ahead.

“If we want to change the world for girls and women—and we sure do—we need to work together. Collaborate, not duplicate. Integrate, not separate. We all have a part to play in achieving a healthy, happy world, where hunger and malnutrition are things of the past.” – Women Deliver

Women Deliver apply a gender lens to the SDGs in their new campaign Deliver for Good, which promotes 12 critical investments in girls and women that will foster progress for all.

“No matter where you start, investments in girls and women bring about high social and economic returns. For example, bringing water and sanitation to communities keeps girls in school which then leads to increased use of contraception, less child marriage, less gender-based violence, increased economic stability, and better health outcomes for generations of families.” – Women Deliver

The Deliver for Good campaign – developed and driven by a diverse set of founding partners – focuses on partnership and inclusion identifying siloed sectors, data, and funding as pervasive challenges in achieving global development. It proposes that cross-collaboration is fundamental in achieving the SDGs. Breastfeeding is included in the Deliver for Good campaign targets as a way to ensure maternal and child survival, health and nutrition.

To ensure that breastfeeding is a central part of the Sustainable Development Goals, it is time to raise our voices and advocate at national levels. We need to ensure that our governments create an optimal environment for women and children to thrive – and do so in partnership with civil-society movements, NGOs, and partners at multiple levels. One way for us to influence decision-makers is to remind them of the Return of Investment of breastfeeding – saving lives as well as saving resources.

In our advocacy, as well as in creating lasting policies, we need to make sure that no one is left behind and put our focus on young people and vulnerable groups – such as adolescents, single mothers, and migrants. In order to truly address the challenges of breastfeeding, we must use a gender lens, understanding that breastfeeding protection, promotion and support requires increased investments in gender equality and human rights.

Breastfeeding is not a woman’s issue. All of us, in all segments of society – from business owners to family members and government leaders to citizens – need to be involved in safeguarding women’s and children’s right to breastfeeding.

World Breastfeeding Week takes place from 1 – 7 August 2017. Celebrating collaboration and sustainability, it will focus on the need to work together to sustain breastfeeding. World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has created an online platform with downloadable resources available in a range of languages to support individuals and organizations in their own campaigning and advocacy. 

“Shake S**t Up!”: Kiran Gandhi Talks Stigma

Yesterday morning I stopped by a small shop. I had woken up to my period in the most inconvenient of all it’s forms – the surprise period – so I didn’t have anything in the way of supplies. I picked up a box of tampons, but my heart sank when I saw three men standing behind the counter. I thought maybe I would put the box down. Or maybe I could pick up lots of other things to buy too, as distractions? Or maybe I didn’t even need them, maybe it wasn’t even a proper period?

Nope, stomach cramps and inexplicable levels of sweating, definitely for real. Aware of my own absurdity, I told myself I was an idiot and paid, avoiding eye contact with the man behind the desk who picked up the box like you might do an undetonated bomb in your family home.

Fast forward a few hours and I sat down to a series of Women Deliver “TED-style” talks. I was excited to see Kiran Gandhi’s name on the list – the story of her choice to run the London marathon bleeding freely on her period last year sparked a viral conversation about how the world views menstruation.

Standing onstage in a ‘The Future Is Female’ t-shirt, Gandhi was honest about her choice: “I didn’t think that this would be that big of a deal”. But she wasn’t here to talk about herself. “Whilst in that moment I had the choice to reject my own shame, millions of women and girls around the world do not have that choice.”

“If you ask me, stigma is one of the most effective forms of oppression, because it denies us the vocabulary to talk comfortably and confidently about our own lives”.

Cue intense feelings of ridiculousness. Here was a woman who faced the entire world and said no thank you to the stigma it tried to throw back at her, and I was embarrassed to buy tampons in a newsagent?!

Menstruation, reasoned Gandhi, is not a life or death situation. But she explained that in India, only 12% of women have access to supplies they need to take care of their periods. 36% of girls in Senegal drop out of school each year because it’s not viable to go to school bleeding. And in Nepal, although the practice was banned in 2005, menstruating girls in rural areas are often expected to sleep in a tent outside of their home – leaving them open to sexual attacks, animal attacks, extreme weather and the terror of being outside alone at night. Tampons are still taxed as a luxury item in many countries, and companies aren’t always required to disclose the toxic ingredients they use on their packaging. Life or death? No. Important? Yes.

What can we do? Gandhi sees that there are different levers we can pull “depending on our own personal sphere of influence”.

One of these is activism:

“Shake shit up. When people don’t want to pay attention to an issue you have to do something that makes them do so”.

Another is innovation: “We get a new iPhone every 6 months, but do you know how many innovations there have been within the past 500 years when it comes to women’s periods? 3…A tampon, a pad, and a cup…This is not acceptable!”.

We need innovation desperately. We need innovation that considers the environment (at the moment tampons and pads are not biodegradable) and we need innovation that’s community specific. A reusable pad might be appropriate for one community, but how can girls in another without access to water wash it? And what about girls who don’t have a private place to hang it up to dry?

Kiran Gandhi, as she’s made very clear, has no time for squeamishness: “Menstruation and periods are the foundation of the human race. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that cycle. This is something that should not be talked about with disgust”.

Whether she meant it to be or not, what Gandhi did last year was brave. What she said yesterday was true, and important, and showed me that I’m not being very brave. I am lucky in that I have the choice to reject shame and say no thank you to stigma. Millions don’t. I have to be braver.

Girls’ Globe is present at the Women Deliver Conference, bringing you live content straight from the heart of the action. If you can’t be there in person, you can be a part of Women Deliver through the Virtual Conference, by hosting an event in your hometown, and by engaging online using #WDLive and #WD2016.