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: 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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NGO Spotlight: Nepal Orphans Home

Nepal Orphans Home (NOH) is many things to many people, but it is one thing to all: a lifeline extended by a warm smile, without politics, without judgment, simply with compassion.

With help from a widespread and deeply committed donor base comprised of everyday people working hard for a living and giving what they can, and sometimes really cannot, afford, NOH attends to the welfare of children in Nepal who are orphaned, abandoned, or not supported by their parents.

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NOH is the face an abandoned baby sees smiling down at them, the person that baby feels holding and feeding them. They are a child’s extended family during a medical crisis they would otherwise have to face without cash in a country operating on a pay-for-cure basis without insurance. They are the extension of a remote village where droughthas claimed the last of the food, where runners enter the village saying there is a truckload of rice and other staples where the road ends, waiting for them to come and get it.

NOH is the provider of education for 260 women in their community, free of cost but paid handsomely in return by the smiles, confidence, laughter, and the overall wellbeing of the community.

NOH is the buyer of chemotherapy and pain medication for terminally ill children whose families cannot afford it; they are the smiling presence in the ward, celebrating birthdays and granting last wishes.

NOH is the daily hot and nutritious lunch given to children in an “untouchables” village, who are attending the school built by NOH, taught by teachers whose salaries NOH supports.

NOH was the first face that many remote Nepalese children saw coming to their rescue days after the earthquake in 2015.

NOH provided shelter to hundreds of Kamlari (indentured servants) following their rescue and brought back those who wished to return to their Kathmandu homes to regain their childhood in a loving and secure environment.unnamed

NOH is a family welcoming in children, that for one reason or another have found themselves without anyone, with a loving embrace, good cheer, and daily reminders that they are supported to achieve their dreams. It is a family where every member supports each others’ goals and where everyone comes together to achieve them.

NOH is this and so much more, administered by a Board of professionals, dedicated to helping those in need with their expertise, compassion, and resources.

To learn more about opportunities to become involved with Nepal Orphans Home by supporting a child’s education or volunteering in Nepal, search for them on the UniversalGiving website.

Celebrating Mothers Worldwide

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By Nancy Baah

On Sunday, May 14, children of all ages in the US will show gratitude to their mom with gifts, flowers, or a “vacation day” from motherly duties. With Mother’s Day quickly approaching, we at UniversalGiving would like to take the time to show appreciation for awesome mothers around the world by saying, “Thank you!” Moreover, while it is important to thank the mothers in our own lives for all they do, UniversalGiving would like to highlight the challenges many mother’s face globally.

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To get involved with helping a mother in need, UniversalGiving invites you to take advantage of the giving opportunities below:

Cultural Canvas Thailand (CCT) is a nonprofit organization that places volunteers at Wildflower Home Foundation, a haven for single mothers in crisis. The WildFlower Home Foundation is a home for single mothers who do not have the means to take care of their kids. For more information on volunteer opportunities, click here.

 

Pandas International is a non-profit organization that strives to preserve and propagate the endangered Giant Panda. Currently, Panda International is soliciting donations in efforts to provide formula to raise panda cubs in captivity that are born to mothers who aren’t prepared enough to care for their offspring. Help this great cause.

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NGO Spotlight: KickStart International

Here is a guest blog from KickStart International sharing the story of Grace Ciamay.

You would agree that Grace is no stranger to adversity.

 

HIV positive, Grace is on her own to not only stay healthy, but also to care for her three children in a small village outside of Choma, Zambia.

 

Grace is on her own because she reached her breaking point.Her husband’s ongoing promiscuity for years and years left her and her son HIV positive, and she wouldn’t tolerate it any longer. She left him early last year.

 

Liberated? Yes. Scared to not have his financial support any longer? Absolutely.

 

I drove about two hours off the main road to get to her small village, and though the landscape is beautiful and neighbors are friendly, it didn’t look like the area offered much opportunity. It would be easy to roll over and feel defeated – but Grace knew her future could be brighter. She was determined to make it on her own.

 

Her family needed food and money, two things, she learned, that an irrigation pump could bring her year round. It was just six months ago when Grace purchased a MoneyMaker pump on credit, and you should see her now.

 

“After getting a pump, my farm work is now easy. I went from three hectares of land to almost five. Before I used the buckets and it was hard.”

 

Her excitement was palpable. She was eager to tell me she has already doubled her monthly income and expects to quadruple it by the end of the year – and this is only the beginning. She is also investing her money in new businesses, quite obvious ones as I waded through the flocking chickens around her property.

 

But nothing made Grace’s face light up more than when she talked about her children.

 

“I teach them, as future leaders, that I did this and they will know that they can [make it] too.”

 

When we thought of the idea of KickStart – the model, the tools, the approach – we envisioned the millions of people that were struggling to provide for their families. We have given 820,000 people a kickstart out of poverty—and now that mass of millions is starting to take shape; with faces, names, and stories of fight, dignity, and hope for their children.

 

A generous donation of only $330 gave Grace the opportunity to transform her life and change the course of her children’s’ futures. But our work isn’t done yet. There are millions more still living in poverty and you have the power to unleash their potential.

 

Grace is now earning enough to put her children through school. Her daughter dreams of becoming a doctor and her son will never miss a dose of his life-saving medicine.

 

Grace paused, looked at me and said,“The sky is the limit for me.”

– KickStart’s Website

KickStart’s mission is to get millions of people out of poverty quickly, cost-effectively and sustainably. KickStart creates opportunities for poor, rural, entrepreneurial farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa to make money and offers a permanent solution to address the deepest root of poverty; lack of income.

Help lift a family out of poverty here.

Click here to view more giving opportunities with KickStart.

Spread the Love

“I have a slice of bread, that’s it, I don’t eat unless you eat, so we share this. I will not eat the slice of bread. Even though I need it more than you do, I will give it to you” -Katli Sekete

This is Ubuntu.

I spent six months in the Joza Township in Grahamstown, South Africa assisting a family of 25 Xhosa orphans and their one mother. Through my service I became part of the Ngcangca family. They taught me the South African word Ubuntu which is over-generous human kindness to one another because we are interdependent and exist because of each other. 

“I can’t live without you. I can’t be free if you’re not free, because I am who I am because of you. Everything you do directly has an impact on me”

In pockets of South Africa Ubuntu lives on. It is deep enough that a family who has gone two or three days at a time without food will give food to their neighbors. My beautiful South African family taught me invaluable lessons about how to spread the love.

Spread the love and volunteer in South Africa!

By UG Team Member, Molly Dietrich

Celebrating Mothers Worldwide

mothers day philpost

By Nancy Baah

On Sunday, May 8, children of all ages in the US will show gratitude to their mom with gifts, flowers, or a “vacation day” from motherly duties. With Mother’s Day quickly approaching, we at UniversalGiving would like to take the time to show appreciation for awesome mothers around the world by saying, “Thank you!” Moreover, while it is important to thank the mothers in our own lives for all they do, UniversalGiving would like to highlight the challenges many mother’s face globally.

CCT image

To get involved with helping a mother in need, UniversalGiving invites you to take advantage of the giving opportunities below:

Cultural Canvas Thailand (CCT) is a nonprofit organization that places volunteers at Wildflower Home Foundation, a haven for single mothers in crisis. The WildFlower Home Foundation is a home for single mothers who do not have the means to take care of their kids. For more information on volunteer opportunities, visit:

http://www.universalgiving.org/volunteer/empower_single_mothers_at_wild/id5299.do

International Medical Corps is a global, humanitarian, nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering through health care training and relief and development programs.  To help accomplish their mission, the International Medical Corps is seeking donations that will be used to provide midwives with essential renewable medical supplies to safely deliver babies. For more information on how you can help, visit:

http://www.universalgiving.org/donate/provide_medical_supplies_for_m/id4937.do

Pandas International is a non-profit organization that strives to preserve and propagate the endangered Giant Panda. Currently, Panda International is soliciting donations in efforts to provide formula to raise panda cubs in captivity that are born to mothers who aren’t prepared enough to care for their offspring. To help this great cause, visit:

http://www.universalgiving.org/donate/purchase_formula_for_cubs_and_/id9918.do

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