In Pursuit of 214 Million by Katie Nelson

In 2012, Melinda Gates embarked on a journey dedicated to what may be one of the world’s most controversial and vital parts of women’s rights activism — family planning. Her pledge was simple, a commitment to help 120 million women and girls around the globe access birth control in eight years.

Now approaching five years since its inception, Family Planning 2020, as the initiative is called, has reached 24 million women worldwide and helped them access safe, effective, and affordable birth control. Addressing that staggering number of 120 million, however, does not begin to scratch the surface of the worldwide crisis of unplanned pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of July 2017, 214 million women of reproductive age living in developing communities, and wanting to avoid pregnancy, are not using effective contraception. 214 million women — this is the true number reflecting the global unmet need for contraceptive resources.

The scale is massive. Yet for the sizeable impact, the better part of the discussion surrounding the push for global contraceptive access is kept out of the public sphere. Women worldwide are faced with limited choices in methods, as well as both cultural and religious opposition; the ability to acquire effective methods is rare in poverty-stricken areas, and those that are available often lack quality. Even beyond those restrictions, the discussion is an issue that many women consider a personal, private journey, something Gates empathizes with in her article “Keeping Our Promise to 120 Million Women and Girls” published this week for Family Planning 2020’s five-year milestone.  

For such a taboo subject, however, the inaccessibility of contraceptives has drastically negative consequences for communities. First and foremost, it is a global health issue. Though a natural process, pregnancy has an unambiguous and taxing impact on the health and well-being of a woman and her body. Lack of family planning can increase the risks of health problems surrounding pregnancy, and even the risk of death especially in older women who encounter augmenting complications during childbirth.

Unplanned pregnancies are more likely to lead desperate women to dangerous and unhygienic abortion attempts; poorly timed births from unplanned pregnancies currently contribute to some of the world’s highest infant mortality rates. According to the United Nations Population Fund, if all women in developing areas without access to contraceptives used modern methods, approximately 35 million abortions and 76,000 maternal mortalities would be prevented every year. But it is not just an issue concerning women. Since the outbreak of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, the disease has run devastatingly rampant, especially in places like sub-Saharan Africa with less access to contraceptives.

The mortality and orphaned children rates have skyrocketed, and nearly 40 years later, the epidemic still persists. Among women living with HIV, access to family planning methods mitigates the risk of inadvertent pregnancies and reduces the number of affected babies. Among the greater population, however, contraceptive methods such as male and female condoms (when used properly) safeguard against the spread of the disease between parties. The conclusion? It is a global, rather than a women’s, health issue.

What many around the globe have yet to realize, moreover, is that the debate surrounding contraceptives goes beyond the world of social and moral concerns, and touches the realm of cold, hard figures. For developing countries, and developed countries seeking to leave a positive footprint on this planet, this should be seen as an economic discussion. At the macroeconomic level, studies have shown that reducing exponential population growth helps spur socio-economic development in some countries, the best known example being that of the Asian Economic Miracle.

As the study goes, between 1960 and 1990, the five economies experiencing most rapid growth were all found in East Asia — South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan. Yet simultaneously, there was a decline in the average number of childbirths — an average of six at the beginning of this period to an average of approximately two at the end. When further investigated, analysts agreed that the experience of East Asian countries suggested the downward childbearing trend lessened dependency burdens and supported high savings rates. On the smaller scale, a woman who has access to contraceptives has fewer children; she can devote more resources to each child and improve their respective futures; she has the capability, time, and energy to re-enter the workforce.

Align that hypothetical trajectory with the scale of the problem — 214 million more individuals with the ability to contribute to the local, national, and even global economy — and it is evident why countries, especially developing ones, should have a vested interest in contraceptives. Access to family planning is paramount to lifting both individual families, and in turn nations, out of poverty.

In “Keeping Our Promise to 120 Million Women and Girls,” Gates writes about how she came to grasp the necessity of contraceptives in the global community after growing up in a family where their importance was not emphasized:  

“Everything changed when Bill and I launched our foundation, and I started spending time with women in the world’s poorest places. Everywhere I went, the conversation turned to contraceptives. I met women who were getting pregnant too young, too old, and too often for their bodies to handle. I met women who were desperate not to get pregnant again because they couldn’t afford to feed or care for the children they already had. In Malawi, everyone I met knew someone who had died in pregnancy. In India, I asked a group of women if anyone had lost a child, and every single woman raised her hand.”

Since the 1990s, contraceptive use has increased, albeit marginally — between 1990 and 2015, WHO calculates global usage has risen from 54% to 57.4%. It is a statistic that does not reflect a plateaued need, but an alarming lack of access for a world who claims it exists a hyper-modern age. Gates’ experiences, however, are not statistics.

The stories she has heard and the ones she has shared — they are personal and human. They are the eyes, the words, and the heartbreak of women across the globe; they are the eyes, the words, and the heartbreak of their families. They are 214 million women we should be pursuing with an unfettered tenacity and equipping with brighter futures to create a better, more productive world that is in all of our best interests.

To read Gates’ article, click Family Planning 2020 to find out more or learn about other positives developments associated with family planning like “Keeping Our Promise to 120 Million Women and Girls” and Global Impact of Family Planning.

 

 

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NGO Spotlight: In Defense of Animals – Africa

In Cameroon, habitat destruction and the illegal commercial ape meat trade are pushing chimpanzees towards extinction.

image-1.doHaving spent her whole life committed to working with animals, veterinarian Dr. Sheri Speede founded In Defense of Animals – Africa (IDA-Africa) to make sure endangered chimpanzees are able to thrive in their natural habitat. IDA-Africa partners with Dr. Speede’s Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center and the government of Cameroon to rehabilitate orphaned chimpanzees and enact policy changes to protect these magnificent animals.

Within the Mbargue Forest of Cameroon, IDA-Africa houses chimpanzees that are victims of illegal trafficking and rehabilitates them to return to the wild and is working to bring eco-guards to protect chimpanzees from future abuse.

IDA-Africa also strives to create meaningful and lasting change through the promotion

image.doand support of law enforcement, habitat protection and education. They work closely with the locals of Cameroon to foster a healthy and connected community that benefits both the residents and the chimpanzees. IDA-Africa employs local residents, purchases local fruits and vegetables to support a village market economy and funds a sustainable agriculture project that improves the diet of both local children and chimpanzees. Additionally, they sponsor education programs for village farmers to learn about sustainable agriculture and agro-forestry and others for children to learn about chimpanzees and why they need protection.

To learn more about opportunities to partner with In Defense of Animals – Africa and adopt an orphaned chimpanzee, volunteer in a chimpanzee sanctuary or fund a youth education project, look for them on UniversalGiving.

 

NGO Spotlight: Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children

Project Peru

The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) is a global non-profit with a mission to provide access to medical care for underserved and underprivileged familiesaround the world. FIMRC implements innovative and self-sustainable health programs and partners with a network of outpatient clinics fora multidimensional strategy that reaches across clinical services, extensive community outreach efforts and health education programs. FIMRC’s mission is accomplished through:

Project Limón, Nicaragua

  • ACCESS: Providing access to primary care for families to improve their health
  • EDUCATION: Creating a foundation of knowledge for communities to make choices that will benefit their families’ health
  • PARTICIPATION: Incorporating the local community in decisions on key health issues to address, while also incorporating the global community in volunteering to increase our outreach capability

As a non-profit working in international development, FIMRC considered its first priority to be the communities with whom they work. FIMRC is involved in nine countries from Central America to Africa to Southeast Asia, and each communities’ needs are taken into consideration in site development. This is why each site is different in the particular programs that are implemented: each community has different needs and responds differently to programs.

Project Cavite, Philippines

What makes FIMRC different from other development non-profits is that they incorporate volunteers directly into their model of intentional giving through participation. Their volunteers help on site staff in providing the incredible education programs and medical service provided to the communities. Volunteers see the direct impact FIMRC has while on site, and understand first-hand how they accomplish their mission.

FIMRC also understands that not everyone has time to travel and therefore has many other opportunities for people to get involved. They have an Adopt-a-Project program that gives 100% of the funds raised directly to the project site for a direct impact or make a general donation to FIMRC. Additionally, anyone can start an FIMRC Chapter at high schools, colleges or within any community!

Project La Merced, Peru

To learn more about opportunities to volunteer with FIMRC in Peru, India or a host of other countries, search for them on the UniversalGiving website!

NGO Spotlight: Global Partners for Development

Global Partners: Community-Driven Development for Education

Global Partners for Development has relentlessly pursued long-term solutions to the needs facing East African communities for over 35 years. Although they have always practiced community-driven development, Global Partners has recently incorporated a more school-centric model. When they decided to try something new by adjusting their model of work, they knew they had to be committed to getting it right. Global Partners identifies schools with exceptionally low education indicators and partners with local communities to increase civic engagement, bolster local capacity for project management, and invest in community-driven projects at their schools.

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Why the change? In short, while Global Partners was proud of their long history and the work they’ve done throughout the years, they face the challenge of impacting even more disenfranchised communities in the future. More than 4.5 million children in East Africa remain out of school. Children from poor households are less likely to have access to education than those from rich households, and females from rural areas are often the worst off of all. Waterborne diseases remain rampant in East Africa and cause chronic illness and death, especially among young children. Global Partners believes their new school-centric model will better enable them to implement scalable projects and achieve sustainable results in a larger number of communities.

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Why schools? Quality education impacts every development outcome for generations. Research has proven that an educated child, and especially an educated girl, will have a smaller, healthier family with an improved livelihood. The hope is that by partnering directly with schools and communities and engaging and training them to work together, Global Partners will improve the greater communities’ perception of the importance of education and further associate education with village and family development.

Why engage the community? Engaged citizens are more confident in their ability to participate in community development, and community engagement fosters local ownership. Local ownership helps ensure the long-term sustainability of development projects.

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What’s next? Based on indicators relatedto poverty and education, Global Partners has concluded that the Singida Region of Tanzania is in critical need of support for its public schools. Learn more about the specific plans Global Partners for Development has for Singida as well as other opportunities, such as donating to secondary school scholarships for girls in Uganda, on the UniversalGiving website. 

Saturdays are for Service

The age-old, yet notably profound, saying of “practice what you preach” is one that often stumps many nonprofit organizations and do-gooders alike. In the efforts of day-to-day life or ensuring that a company runs, this mentality can often get lost amongst the errands, paperwork, and email chains.

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At UniversalGiving, that is why the vision to “Create a World Where Giving and Volunteering Are a Natural Part of Everyday Life” is not just a parroted goal, but an integral part of the company culture. This past weekend in particular, members of the team made their way to serve at the Northridge CommUNITY Garden in the Bayview. The garden itself is a part of the Northridge Cooperative Homes, an organization that seeks to provide safe and affordable housing to those looking to improve their quality of life. Two times per month, individuals from this community work in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco and its volunteers for a ‘Park Beautification’ project.

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“I wasn’t sure what to expect when we showed up on Saturday, but working for Habitat for Humanity ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences so far this summer,” remarks CSR Intern Sheridan Wilbur about her day at Northridge. “Everyone was a stranger at first, but by the end of the shift, I had exchanged phone numbers with the coordinator, Laurel, listened to the program leader’s upcoming adventures in Yosemite, and heard about how one woman got herself out of alcohol addiction and now is following her passion in tech and sports. I left inspired and felt more connected to the San Francisco community.” Team member Angel Sun agrees, exclaiming that she “…[feels] connected and energized when serving the community and making our city better!”

During the day, volunteers completed tasks such as weeding, transplanting roses, removing debris, spreading mulch, and harvesting fruit from the community’s orchard. The shift concluded with a group lunch, where participants were able to talk to their experiences over rice, salad, and even some harvested plums. “Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity is one of my favorite things to do — I get to be outside, work hard, and contribute to an important project,” says Mindy Bush, manager of UniversalGiving’s Corporate Client Services. “Most impactful for me, however, is the spirit of community that I feel. I loved having the time outside of work with [other team members] Katie, Sheridan and Angel and getting to know them all better. At the end of our shift, I felt inspired by all of the individuals who chose to be a part of the work that day!”

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The program is a part of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco’s Neighborhood Revitalization’ campaign, which strives to bring the organization’s work into neighborhoods where its houses have been built. With additional projects focused on improving the health and well-being of the Bayview and East Palo Alto areas — such as home repair and school renovation — the organization seeks to make the Bay Area a more comfortable and community-based place. Now that is the epitome of “practice what you preach.”

From the Bay Area? Want to learn more about volunteering with Habitat projects like the one mentioned in this article? Head to www.habitatgsf.org for Neighborhood Revitalization opportunities and more.

How Far Do People Walk for Water?

This is a guest blog from Drop in the Bucket! This video is a relatable representation of the time it takes for many Africans to collect their daily water. The average jug full of water can weigh about 40 lbs when full. The burden of fetching water is more commonly placed on women because in about two-thirds or 64% of households women collect water for the family. There is a strong need for clean and safe drinking water since nearly 300 of the 800 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live in a water-scarce environment. While this video highlights collecting water as an “African” problem, we must remember not to generalize because most African’s  communities do have access to water.

We must do all we can to assist those who have to walk hours to collect water. We can help is through supporting the construction of water pipelines for indigenous groups in Tanzania here.

“The video is titled “How long do people in Africa walk to get water?”. The video attempts to frame the water crisis in a different way by setting the long walk for water, that many people in Africa do every day, in an American location.

The video one was directed by Nathan Karma Cox and shot on location in Studio City, CA at Black Market Liquor who generously allowed us to shoot during the day before they opened. The video was produced by Cory Reeder and features music by Stone Sour drummer Roy Mayorga who played all of the instruments on the track including kazoo. Vocals were provided by Stone Sour guitarist Christian Martucci and the graphics were created by Rodrigo Gava from Gava Productions.” –Drop in the Bucket

NGO Spotlight: Empower and Care Organization

Empower and Care Organization (EACO) is a Community Based Organization run by Ugandans to address the limited educational and economic opportunities that exist for vulnerable groups of women and children in Mukono County, Uganda.  EACO’s vision to implement activities that provide opportunities to the reduce poverty and HIV/AIDS in the Mukono community.

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EACO interventions focus on poverty reduction and address the effects of HIV/AIDS for a majority of vulnerable women, particularly widows and those living with HIV/AIDS, as well as vulnerable children, youth, and the elderly.

The Need: EACO seeks to help children attend school in Uganda. Education and poverty go hand in hand, and many of young people don’t have the opportunity or fees to go to school, let alone afford other basic necessities of life. Under this project, ACO provides school fees and materials, medication, and food for needy families.

EACO also leads WASH Projects to deliver trainings on hygiene promotion, construction of latrines for the schools, and repairing the 69 damaged boreholes in the Mukono communities. Additionally, they provide education on the links between water, sanitation and health, and the nature of and threats posed by environmental diseases,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe importance and main elements of hygiene-promotion and the complexities of delivering safe water and sanitation in an emergency.

EACO wants to make clean water accessible within 1 kilometer for 100% of the people in rural Mukono. By constructing and repairing fresh water wells throughout rural areas, EACO will bring relief to thousands of residents, including those in surrounding communities, significantly improving the health and wellbeing of the residents.

The vision and philosophy of EACO is based on the belief that every human being is a unique individual and that we all have a right to good health and basic needs and should access means to a comfortable life in one way or another.

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EACO believes that the first priority is that people should have a sustainable life.

However, almost equally important is that an individual’s life should have meaning and that they should develop independence. This is being achieved through care, then empowerment and support. This begins with infrastructure to give the Mukono communities clean water and latrines and stop the spread of disease. It is only then that communities can benefit from education. With improved health comes the ability to be employable, to generate income and escape from poverty.

To learn more about opportunities to donate to or volunteer with with EACO, which is a vetted NGO partner of UniversalGiving, check out their website!

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