Idaho Lawmakers Send Texas Copycat 6-Week Abortion Ban to Governor’s Desk

Women, pregnant people, and reproductive rights activists are reeling about the nation’s latest blow to abortion rights. Yesterday, Idaho became the first state to pass a copycat abortion ban that successfully became law in Texas last year. Now, the Idaho bill is on its way to the desk of Idaho governor, Brad Little, to officially become law.

Anti-abortion activists have seen several state legislative and court ruling successes for their cause of late. And this summer there are real concerns that the Supreme Court may effectively reverse Roe v. Wade as more states, upwards of 26, seek to also ban abortion and allow costly litigation against abortion providers. 21 states already have trigger bans meaning that if the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade, abortion bans will automatically be in effect. States are starting to fall into place like dominoes in abortion bans. Kentucky Republicans advanced a copycat Mississippi abortion ban on abortions after 15 weeks and Florida also passed abortion bans after 15 weeks. The Idaho and Texas abortion bans are more punitive at six weeks. Since the bill passed in Texas, abortions dropped 60 percent.

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New Documentaries About the Maternal Health Crisis, Sex Trafficking Coming to VOD This Year

When I want to learn more about a subject I always turn to documentaries. They provide a quick way to get the facts and crucial information about an issue I am interested in and then if I want to learn more I turn to other resources including books, news articles, research papers, and the like.

While I know a considerable amount about two new documentaries coming to video on demand (VOD) this year, I know some don’t and can use these as jumping points to learn more about the maternal health crisis in the United States and sex trafficking around the world.

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Poor knowledge and practice around oxytocin could put women in Nigeria at risk during childbirth

Chioma S. Ejekam, University of Lagos and Chimezie Anyakora, Pan Atlantic University Severe bleeding after childbirth – postpartum hemorrhage – is a leading cause of maternal morbidity and mortality in middle-income countries. Oxytocin is an affordable and effective drug that’s recommended to prevent postpartum hemorrhage. But there are concerns about the quality of oxytocin available for use by healthcare workers in most low- and middle-income … Continue reading Poor knowledge and practice around oxytocin could put women in Nigeria at risk during childbirth

Women’s Empowerment Program Update Four Years On

This past week I was thinking about the time I spent in Nepal with Coca- Cola to see the devastation after the earthquake and the global brand’s response to it. The April 2015 4.5 magnitude earthquake upended lives and left cities in rubble. I saw much of it during our travels through Kathmandu and its surrounding towns. NGOs worked with their partners in the field … Continue reading Women’s Empowerment Program Update Four Years On

Women Celebrated on This Year’s World Humanitarian Day #WomenHumanitarians

Today is World Humanitarian Day, the annual day where we celebrate humanitarians all over the world who work every day to save lives even in some of the world’s most dangerous countries. This year the world is celebrating women humanitarians as often they are on the front lines in our world’s worst crises.

We know that it can be especially harrowing to be an aid worker in countries like Syria, Yemen, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. We appreciate all of their efforts to continue to work even in dangerous circumstances. Read 24 hours of stories of women front line humanitarians on worldhumanitarianday.org.

Today, I would like to celebrate an aid worker I met in the Philippines when I traveled with World Vision USA to see their life-saving work after the devastating typhoon, Haiyan. Her name is Mai Zamora and she left an indelible impression on me. She was always upbeat despite the number of families who were in need of everything from food and jobs to housing and clothing. And, she was always available for questions and has personal stories about how she fared during the typhoon. When I met her, she was the definition of an aid worker to me along with her colleagues who are still doing amazing work in the Philippines and around the world.

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How to Help Women Gain Financial Independence this International Women’s Day #IWD

We often think about poverty and how to fix it. There isn’t one magic bullet that moves people out of poverty. However, there are a few tenets about reducing poverty in families who live in underserved communities that work nearly every time and those are working directly with women and giving them financial tools to empower their lives and those around them. Kiva, a leading … Continue reading How to Help Women Gain Financial Independence this International Women’s Day #IWD

Is the Formula Industry Overpowering Breastfeeding?

Yesterday global women’s and children’s advocates sounded the alarm regarding alleged strong-arming by US delegates at this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.  The issue at hand was the rights of women regarding their choice between breastfeeding and formula feeding.

According to the New York Times, the US delegation sought to remove the language in a pro-breastfeeding resolution that compelled countries to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding” and to remove any restrictions on formula that many global health experts contend is harmful to infants and toddlers.

The US delegation threatened Ecuador (the sponsoring country for the resolution) with devasting trade measures and a reduction in military aid. Ecuador acquiesced as did many more African and Latin American countries until Russia stepped up to sponsor the resolution, a country the US could not threaten.

Lucy M. Sullivan, Executive Director of 1000 Days, tweeted an entire thread about what was happening at the World Health Assembly in May.

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Venezuela’s Health Systems are crumbling – and Harming Women in Particular

Health workers and patients protesting at the Hospital Dr. Jose Maria Vargas in Caracas, Venezuela. EPA/Edwinge Montilva

Pia Riggirozzi, University of Southampton

Venezuela sits on the world’s biggest oil reserves, but in terms of GDP growth per capita, it’s now South America’s poorest economy. It is mired the worst economic crisis in its history, with an inflation rate in the region of 500%, a volatile exchange rate, and crippling debts that have increased fivefold since 2006.

The economic crisis is inflaming a longstanding “economic war” between the government and the business sector – and a dangerous cycle of protest and repression is further polarising Venezuela’s already divided society.

In this scenario, violence of all sorts is approaching what could be a point of no return. The very ability of democracy to combine forces of transformation and resistance is at stake.

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Coca-Cola Celebrates Mother’s Day With Women Artisans #5by20

Last year I was happy to see women in Nepal benefitting from Coca-Cola’s 5by20 program. By 2020 Coca-Cola has pledged to help five million women entrepreneurs around the globe by allowing them to earn money through its value chain. That could mean teaching women valuable business skills as I saw in Kathmandu to providing women with opportunities to support their families through creating products with Coca-Cola products and packaging to helping women start their own small businesses.

For Mother’s Day, I was delighted to receive this tulip from Coca-Cola made by artisans who work for Mitz, a Mexican nonprofit where women devote 8 to 30 hours a week to create handmade products. Mitz creates jobs for women, funds kids’ scholarships and reduces waste.

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Increasing Caesarean Sections in Africa Could Save More Mothers’ Lives

Image 20170419 6349 gduz3q
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Salome Maswime, University of the Witwatersrand and Gwinyai Masukume, University of the Witwatersrand

Caesarean sections have been lifesaving procedures for hundreds of thousands of women across the world who experience complications during labour. The Conversation

Globally, it’s estimated that just under 20% of births take place via caesarean section – a percentage that’s gone up over the last three decades. This has raised concerns, particularly in high-income countries where generally too many caesarean sections are performed.

But in many African countries women who are medically required to have caesarean sections are not able to access them. This is due to several reasons, the most prominent being weak health systems and a lack of resources.

This needs to be fixed as women in sub-Saharan African suffer from the highest maternal mortality ratio in the world. Close to 550 women die for every 100 000 children that are born. This amounts to 200 000 maternal deaths a year – or two-thirds of all maternal deaths per year worldwide.

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2 Innovative Uses of PET Bottles in Low-Income Countries That Benefit Women

PET bottles, one of the most widely used materials in the world, are used to package foods and drinks from soda and juices to salad dressings and cooking oils. It is also completely recyclable. In the United States alone, 1.5 billion pounds of PET bottles are recycled annually.

Throughout my travels to low and middle-income countries I see PET bottles thrown haphazardly in fields and streams clogging waterways and dirtying sidewalks and walking paths. In countries such as Nepal (where I visited last year with Coca-Cola), there are concerted educational efforts by environmentally focused NGOs to change behaviors around discarding PET bottles. There are recycling centers in Nepal, but not enough to completely clean its streets and countryside. It seems to be a sisyphean battle to combat PET bottle waste, but there are some who are using the bottles in innovative ways.

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Maternal Malnutrition Affects Future Generations: Kenya Must Break the Cycle

By Elizabeth Echoka, Kenya Medical Research Institute and Lydia Kaduka, Kenya Medical Research Institute

Nutrition of women before and during pregnancy and when breastfeeding is critical in determining the health and survival of the mother and of her unborn baby.

Undernourished pregnant women have higher reproductive risks. They are more likely to experience obstructed labour, or to die during or after childbirth. Poor nutrition in pregnancy also results in babies growing poorly in the womb and being born underweight and susceptible to diseases. These mothers also invariably produce low quality breast milk.

Maternal malnutrition has inter-generational consequences because it is cyclical. Poor nutrition in pregnancy is linked to undernourishment in-utero which results in low birth weight, pre-maturity, and low nutrient stores in infants. These babies end up stunted and, in turn, give birth to low birth weight babies. Optimal maternal nutrition is therefore vital to break this inter-generational cycle.

In Kenya, women’s nutritional needs during pregnancy has not received much attention. This has exposed a gap in efforts to improve maternal and child health.

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Book Review: To Fool the Rain: Haiti’s Poor and Their Pathway to a Better Life

To Fool the Rain: Haiti's Poor and Their Pathway to a Better LifeTo Fool the Rain: Haiti’s Poor and Their Pathway to a Better Life by Steven Werlin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Helping families lift themselves out of poverty means helping them build income and wealth, but it is a social phenomenon as well,” wrote Steve Werlin, the author of To Fool the Rain: Haiti’s Poor and Their Pathway to a Better Life. “And one of the social change we try to effect involves working on the way members look at themselves.”

It is quite impressive how someone’s mind and attitude can alter and reset the course of one’s life. However, in order to eventually arrive at that mind reset some people require a substantive hand out, constant observation and follow-up; not simply a prescriptive hand up. When looking at the lowest income countries in the world like Haiti a vast array of NGOs work to alleviate some of its inherent problems with programs that address the root of poverty. Some provide work programs, educational programs, health care, or even microloan programs. But some of Haiti’s families are so extremely poor they cannot dream of qualifying for many of these programs because they have virtually nothing. In fact, they live in such cyclical poverty they cannot feed themselves on a daily basis, or even every other day. In Haiti’s deepest far reaches and unfathomable rural areas are families who live in abject poverty far away from roads and towns. They require the most cumulative social programs designed by worldwide NGOs that specialize in the nuances of poverty reduction and eradication.

In Haiti, for example, one of those social programs is called “Chemen lavi miyo (CLM)” in Creole or a Pathway to a Better Life that is run by Fonkoze, Haiti’s largest microfinance organization. Even as a microfinance enterprise Fonkoze realized that to reach the poorest Haitian families means to provide overarching programs that teach rural women who qualify for their CLM program financial and entrepreneurial skills as well as life and relationship skills.

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Day 3 Dispatch: In Nepal With Coca-Cola

I was in Nepal with Coca-Cola for a very short period of time earlier this month, but we did and saw a lot in the days we were there including:

  • (Day 1) How the local Coca-Cola bottling company is working with a Nepalese NGO that is rebuilding a community from scratch after the earthquake
  • (Day 2) How Coca-Cola is empowering businesswomen in their supply chain

On Day 3 we visited a PET (plastic) bottle recycling center run by the Himalayan Climate Initiative where we sat down with women waste workers who sort the bottles to be recycled. It was heartening to learn about the innovative ways HCI is providing benefits and dignity to the women waste workers who will remain in Nepal’s lowest caste for the rest of their lives.

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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.

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