5 Ways This NGO is Helping Nepal’s Women Waste Workers

Nepal, while being a hotbed for adventure seekers, trekkers, tourists, and mountaineers, faces many economic struggles that heavily plague low-and-middle income countries. The vast majority of Nepal’s economy is based on remittances with 25 percent of its working population living outside of the country. Additionally, with an average population age of 23, Nepal has a dismal 50 percent unemployment rate. These systemic economic struggles, of course, disproportionately affect women and subsequently their children and families. Couple that with a stringent caste system and some Nepali women remain inherently stuck on the lowest rung of the class ladder and are subject to some of the basest forms of work available to them.

The Himalayan Climate Initiative (HCI), a youth-driven environmental NGO based in Kathmandu, is working with some of these women whose only other economically viable life option may be selling themselves sexually to the nearest customer, working in the illegal scrap waste trade, or going abroad to find work and then enduring whatever fate awaits them. HCI employs socially discriminated women waste workers at its PET Bottle Recollection Social Enterprise (Nagar Mitra) allowing them to create a livelihood beyond what might traditionally befall them.

Continue reading “5 Ways This NGO is Helping Nepal’s Women Waste Workers”

After Earthquake, Nepal Sees NGO Paradigm Shift

This article originally appeared on Huffington Post.

The world of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is vast and growing if you live in Nepal. Some experts estimate there is a whopping 50,000 registered NGOs (PDF) in the country, a steep increase since an NGO registration change in 1992. With that change, groups of individuals joined together in droves to create organizations to fight the languishing poverty in Nepal, a country that has been classified by the United Nations as one of the world’s least developed countries since 1971. Experts also attribute the increase of Nepalese NGOs to the country’s small private enterprise sector. Most Nepalis believe the only way they can make money is through civil society where tens of millions of dollars flow through Nepal’s civil sector every year.

While many organizations follow the safe blueprint of how NGOs should operate, there are some that are devising innovative ways in which to help communities at their most basic level, especially after the earthquakes that rocked the landlocked country caused nearly 9,000 fatalities nationwide last year. The earthquakes shocked the country and exposed immense disaster relief vulnerabilities of the government as well as the throngs of NGOs that were not prepared to handle a major natural disaster.

Continue reading “After Earthquake, Nepal Sees NGO Paradigm Shift”

Nepali Women Increase Earning Potential Through Business Training #5by20

The energy and enthusiasm was palpable as we walked into a room full of eager women entrepreneurs role-playing the everyday dynamic between business owners and their customers. While the room was loaded with fun and laughter during this exercise, its importance was not lost on any of the women who had come to the campus of Coca-Cola Bottlers Nepal Limited’s (BNL) 5by20 training, an initiative to empower 10,000 women business owners across Nepal by 2020. Even though these women are already a part of Kathmandu’s bustling community of urban shop owners, they had come because they realized there are more business skills to learn, hone, and improve. And, as women in micro-enterprise the more skills they learn, the more they can earn for their households in a country where men overwhelmingly dominate the private sector.

SONY DSC
Pallavi Gautam, Senior Executive, Public Affairs and Communication (PAC) at Bottlers Nepal Limited conducts a 5by20 training on September 13 in Kathmandu.

Continue reading “Nepali Women Increase Earning Potential Through Business Training #5by20”

Day 1 Dispatch: In Nepal With Coca-Cola #NepalNow

It’s been raining virtually nonstop since we arrived in Kathmandu on Sunday morning. There were downpours all day without any let up until the evening. I hope we get to see the sun on Tuesday. It’s the end of the monsoon season in Nepal, but I don’t think the weather quite wants to get rid of the rain yet.

Today was our very first site visit for this Nepal trip to see Coca-Cola’s rebuilding efforts after last year’s earthquake as well as their work with women in their global #5by20 program that will empower five million women by 2020 across Coca-Cola’s value chain.

Today, we focused on how Coca-Cola is helping local NGOs rebuild after the quake as well as how Coca-Cola employees joined as a team to push through the crisis they endured after two very sizeable earthquakes.

You can read about our visit to a village about an hour and a half away from Kathmandu and how a local NGO is using innovative ways to create sustainable communities.

Continue reading “Day 1 Dispatch: In Nepal With Coca-Cola #NepalNow”

Why We’re Traveling to Nepal With Coca-Cola #NepalNow #5by20

Last year I remember exactly where I was when the 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on April 25. I was on my way to Haiti to report on maternal health, and really good friends of mine from the International Reporting Project had been in Nepal for a very short time on a reporting trip when the quake hit. I remember tweeting them to see if everything was okay. Thankfully they were and wrote amazing, insightful articles from their harrowing experience on the ground. Even though I wasn’t in Nepal, knowing people who were and reported once the quake happened brought the crisis close to home.

The way in which countries respond to disasters varies. One thing is certain: governments cannot shoulder massive disaster relief alone. I learned this once I saw the coordinated one-year disaster relief in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan. Relief, I’ve learned, is always a combination of public and private partnerships that work in tandem to benefit citizens that have been hardest hit. Sometimes it is not easy and the coordination may be a bit slow-going, but the truth is private companies that have apositive, established footprint in countries with an excellent track record can benefit government and NGO partners with logistics support, private enterprise expertise, and most importantly finances.

Continue reading “Why We’re Traveling to Nepal With Coca-Cola #NepalNow #5by20”

The Troubling Truth About Maternal Mortality in the United States

When everyday Americans think about women dying during childbirth it is probable that their initial thoughts travel directly to Africa where it is quite well known that maternal mortality is rife. Chances are their thoughts never focus on the deaths and near deaths during childbirth that women experience right here in the United States. After all, the overwhelming consensus is that the United States has the best medical care, superior health workers and health system in the world despite some of its inherent challenges. This thinking renders maternal mortality in the US thoroughly inconceivable to many even while data reveal it should not be inconceivable at all. In fact, maternal mortality is on the rise in America having doubled over the past 25 years all while global maternal deaths are steadily declining. Globally, maternal mortality was effectively reduced by 44 percent according to the World Health Organization.

The United States, while not the overall leader in maternal mortality among all countries, it is the leader among all developed nations. The United States ranked number 33 out of 179 countries in Save the Children’s 2015 Mothers’ Index Ranking and 46th in the world due to the rate of women who die from pregnancy and childbirth complications. Compared to other developed countries, the United States’ ranking is abysmal, especially with Norway, Finland, and Iceland ranking in the top three overall. Even countries like Estonia and Belarus, whose GDPs are considerably lower than ours, far outrank America.

Continue reading “The Troubling Truth About Maternal Mortality in the United States”

Why Mothers Aren’t Accessing Antenatal Care Early in Their Pregnancies

Anja Smith, Stellenbosch University

South Africa has extremely high maternal mortality levels. This is true when compared with developed countries as well as other developing countries.

According to the World Health Organisation, for every 100,000 live births in the country in 2015, 138 women died due to pregnancy and childbirth complications. In Sweden, fewer than five women die for every 100,000 live births. In Brazil, the estimate is 44 women for every 100,000 live births.

Continue reading “Why Mothers Aren’t Accessing Antenatal Care Early in Their Pregnancies”

NYC Report Tackles Maternal Morbidity Rates

For years researchers who study maternal morbidity and mortality have been stumped as to why rates continue to rise and why women of color are adversely affected despite education, health care, and socio-economic factors.

A new report and the first of its kind released in May, New York City 2008 – 2012: Severe Maternal Morbidity, shows the myriad reasons why women of color, especially low-income, Black non-Latina, women fare the worse with severe maternal morbidity (SMM). While most studies in the past across the country focus on maternal mortality, this report focused on maternal morbidity, the causes of maternal mortality.

Continue reading “NYC Report Tackles Maternal Morbidity Rates”

Why a new vaginal ring could be a game-changer in HIV prevention

Thesla Palanee-Phillips, University of the Witwatersrand
The results of the two studies showing that a vaginal ring can help reduce the risk HIV infection among women is being hailed as an important HIV prevention breakthrough.

Launched four years ago, the two clinical trials, known as ASPIRE and The Ring Study, set out to determine how safe and effective the ring was in prevention of HIV infection in women. The ring, which is used for a month at a time, contains an antiretroviral drug called dapivirine that acts by blocking HIV from multiplying.

The studies enrolled close to 4500 women aged 18 to 45 in South Africa, Uganda, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Each study found that the ring helps reduce the risk of HIV infection in women. In ASPIRE, the ring reduced the risk of HIV infection by 27% overall. In The Ring Study, infections were reduced by 31% overall.

Continue reading “Why a new vaginal ring could be a game-changer in HIV prevention”

Pregnancy Loss Cards Help Families, Friends Deal With Miscarriage

In the United States, miscarriages cause the loss of between 15 to 20 percent of reported pregnancies, or around 750,000 each year. Miscarriages are painful times for women and often family and friends do not know how to properly empathize. Dr. Jessica Zucker, a Los Angeles based psychologist and writer, specializing in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health, experienced a miscarriage at 16 weeks and wrote an … Continue reading Pregnancy Loss Cards Help Families, Friends Deal With Miscarriage

Maternal Health Heroes: Interview With Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese #MHHSS

We are happy to publish our third interview in our Maternal Health Heroes Summer Series with Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese, Founder and Executive Director of Save the Mothers. Throughout the summer we will speak with some of the most notable maternal health advocates in the world ahead of the Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference that will be held in Mexico City between October 18 – 21, 2015. Follow the conversation at #MHHSS.

The morning I spoke to Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese she had just come off of a late shift delivering babies at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario. Two of the expectant mothers in her care during the night were African. One expectant mother hemorrhaged directly after delivery and the other who had undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) needed it to be wholly reversed before she could deliver her baby. Dr. Chamberlain Froese was able to successfully reverse the FGM and saved both mothers’ and babies’ lives during delivery.

Just another day at the office.

Given each of the mothers’ obstetric complications if they still lived in Africa, the probability is they would not have survived their deliveries. In fact, 800 women around the world, particularly those who live in low- and middle-income countries, die every day during childbirth from largely preventable causes like postpartum hemorrhaging or obstructed labor. In Canada, both women survived and delivered healthy newborns. In Africa, that likely would not have been the case. After caring for these women, the lingering question arose again for Chamberlain Froese: Why is it that women who deliver in the West are more valuable than other mothers?
Continue reading “Maternal Health Heroes: Interview With Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese #MHHSS”

Kenya is a Breastfeeding Success Story But Still Has Its Challenges

By Elizabeth Kimani-Murage, Brown University

Breastfeeding has both short-term and long-term nutritional benefits for children. Nutrition is central to sustainable development. Good nutrition in the first 1000 days of a child’s life is critical for child growth, well being and survival, and future productivity.

The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for children until they are six months old and continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary feedings until children are two, for optimal growth and development.

What Kenya did right

Kenya has seen a remarkable growth in exclusive breastfeeding for children under six months old. In 2003 only 13% of mothers were breastfeeding exclusively. This year, according to the National Demographic and Health Survey, 61% of mothers of children aged less than six months were breastfeeding exclusively.

Continue reading “Kenya is a Breastfeeding Success Story But Still Has Its Challenges”

Maternal Health Heroes: Interview With Dr. Priya Agrawal #MHHSS

We are happy to publish our second interview in our Maternal Health Heroes Summer Series with Dr. Priya Agrawal, Executive Director of Merck for Mothers. Throughout the summer we will speak with some of the most notable maternal health advocates in the world ahead of the Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference that will be held in Mexico City between October 18 – 21, 2015.  Follow the conversation at #MHHSS.


Speaking with Dr. Priya Agrawal, Executive Director of Merck for Mothers, for this latest interview in our Maternal Health Heroes Summer Series, I instinctively realized that she is not only a gifted communicator with a passion for women’s health, but also an infectious advocate for safe motherhood both in the United States and worldwide.

Merck for Mothers, a 10-year, $500 million initiative aimed at reducing maternal mortality, was launched in 2011 and initially set robust goals to reduce women’s deaths during childbirth in low- and middle-income countries. Like many in America, Merck for Mothers failed to initially realize at the time that maternal mortality in the United States is a persistent problem that is steadily worsening. In fact, that line of thinking is quite understandable given most of the 800 women who die every day during childbirth live in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

The good news for women living in low- and middle-income countries, however, is maternal mortality has drastically been reduced by 45 percent since 1990, a marked change despite the future reductions that still need to occur during the Sustainable Development Goals era. Sadly, in the United States the numbers are not improving.  “The United States is the forgotten child when it comes to maternal mortality,” Agrawal mentions. “We learned very quickly that even in our backyards we had to do something. Maternal mortality has more than doubled in the United States. The trend is going in the wrong direction.” Given the amount of money spent on health care in the United States, we experience the highest maternal mortality ratio than any other developed country in the world.

Continue reading “Maternal Health Heroes: Interview With Dr. Priya Agrawal #MHHSS”

New Bill is Committed to Reducing Maternal, Newborn, and Child Mortality

Today a new bipartisan bill, The Reach Every Mother and Child Act, was introduced to the Senate by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Chris Coons (D-Del). The Reach Every Mother and Child Act will build upon decades-old work of the United States being a leader on drastically reducing maternal, newborn, and child mortality. In fact, this new bill will help save the lives of 15 million children and 600,000 women by 2020.

Continue reading “New Bill is Committed to Reducing Maternal, Newborn, and Child Mortality”

Maternal Health Heroes: Interview With H.E. Toyin Saraki

We are excited to launch our Maternal Health Heroes Summer Series with an interview with H.E. Mrs. Toyin Saraki, founder of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa. Throughout the summer we will speak with some of the most notable maternal health advocates in the world ahead of the Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference that will be held in Mexico City between October 18 – 21, 2015. Follow the conversation at #MHHSS.


When did you know global maternal health was a bigger issue than you previously realized?

I became aware of the serious issues surrounding maternal health and survival over 20 years ago, when I gave birth to twins in Nigeria. I tragically lost one of my twin babies during childbirth, and then had to fight for the survival of the other. Even though I was an educated and informed woman, I was unable to save the life of my stillborn second twin daughter because of the infrastructural deficiencies in Nigeria’s healthcare system at the time, including a fatal delay in finding an anesthetist for an emergency C-section. Although I was grateful to leave this painful experience with my first twin and my own life, I realized that this experience is an unavoidable reality for many women in Nigeria, and indeed across the world.

Globally, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every day, and 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries. And, where a mother suffers, her child suffers; and more than 3 million babies die before they are a month old. I founded the Wellbeing Foundation Africa to help address this heartbreaking issue that affects so many women and children. At first, my view was much more localized and I did not know all of these global statistics and the injustice that was taking place on a daily basis; but now it is these statistics, and the real life stories behind the statistics, that spur me on to continue every day.

Continue reading “Maternal Health Heroes: Interview With H.E. Toyin Saraki”