US Global Health Policy

U.S. Global Health Policy
International Day of the Girl: End Child MarriageInternational Day of the Girl: End Child Marriage

My grandmother married at 8 years old; my mother married at age 15.

I often wonder what their lives --- their potential --- would have been, if they were not child brides.

Today, the same pattern is repeated in villages and cities around the world. Every year, nearly ten million girls are forced into marriage before they reach the age of 18 --- with little or no say in the matter.

That’s more than 25,000 girls a day; 19 girls each minute.

These girls are denied the opportunity to fulfill their potential for healthy and productive lives. When they enter marriage, most drop out of school and enter a world where they work from dusk to dawn to provide labor to the households. From their mothers' care they are transferred to the supervision of their husbands and mothers-in-law, who view them as an additional labor source. Pressured to demonstrate their fertility, they get pregnant when they are still children and face the risk of illness or death when they deliver.

And some child brides are as young as eight or nine.

Bolivian nurses. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Building local capacity is a pillar of the United States Agency for International Development's USAID Forward reforms. This post is one example of how USAID worked through Management Sciences for Health (MSH) to build, nurture, and support a local development stakeholder that is still thriving today. The story was written by global health writer John Donnelly, and first appeared in MSH’s book Go to the People in 2011. Cross-posted on Modernize Aid in the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) blog field feedback series.

Girl from Uganda. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

The press statement title caught my attention: “Members Continue Efforts to Protect Rights of Women in Developing Countries.”

With piqued interest, I read on:

Congresswoman Betty McCollum and Aaron Schock have once again introduced legislation to stem the devastating impact of child marriage on young girls in developing countries.  The McCollum-Schock International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act, House Resolution (H.R.) 6087, promotes and protects the rights of girls in the developing world.

I was pleased to learn that H.R. 6087 establishes a strategy to prevent child marriage and promote the empowerment of girls.  The legislation also integrates the issue of preventing child marriage into existing US development programs, and requires that relevant agencies collect and make available data on the rates of child marriage and its impact on meeting key development goals.

While global health and policy efforts to protect young girls from early or forced marriage are increasing, millions of girls are forced into early marriage every year. Pictured: four Senegalese girls. {Photo credit: S. Galdos/MSH.}Photo credit: S. Galdos/MSH.

If you think that child marriage is not an issue in the twenty-first century, think again.  In developing countries, 82 million girls who are now ages 10 to 17 will be married before their 18th birthday. Over the past decade, 58 million girls in developing countries -- one in three -- have been married under the age of 18; 15 million -- one in nine -- were married by age 15.

These girls are often married against their will, despite national laws that prohibit marriage until the age of 18, and numerous international declarations, conventions, and global conferences that “guarantee” the rights of girls, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Senate Passes Preventing Child Marriage Act

Child marriage is increasingly becoming a hot topic within the realm of global health -- and influencing U.S. domestic and global policy.

The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act (S. 414) -- reintroduced in the U.S. Congress in February 2011 --- passed on the Senate floor by way of voice vote on May 24, 2012. (The bill also passed the Senate unanimously in December 2010.)

5thBDay badge in white background.5thBDay badge in white background.

Every child deserves a fifth birthday. It seems simple enough. But for many children in the world — especially in countries with the highest burden of child mortality, such as India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Pakistan and Ethiopia — preventable deaths will claim their lives, before they reach the age of five.

Today, USAID launched an ongoing child survival awareness campaign, called, “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday.”

The “5th Birthday” campaign kicked off with a briefing event at Kaiser Family Foundation, featuring USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah and other experts. Dr. Shah and colleagues stressed that reducing the burden of child mortality is critical to our future as a global community.

While the global community has made great strides reducing child mortality, inequality in child mortality remains: several regions and countries continue to shoulder the greatest burden and loss of life.

Speakers at the Inaugural Conference on Global Health, Gender and Human Rights. {Photo credit: PAHO/WHO.}Photo credit: PAHO/WHO.

Health is a human right and should not be denied based on any factor, including gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.

On March 21 and 22, 2012, law students, global health professionals, and human rights experts gathered at the Inaugural Conference on Global Health, Gender and Human Rights at American University to discuss tackling global health issues from a human rights perspective.

Co-hosted by the American University Washington College of Law, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Guatemala, the two-day conference focused on six crucial topics: disabilities, women's and adolescent girls’ health, gender identities, older persons, access to medicines, and tobacco control.

Speakers and participants articulated the important role gender and human rights play in the promotion of health around the world.

Voices of TB participants (from left): David Rochkind (moderator); Rachel Urduno (Mexico/Texas); Andre Gariseb (Namibia); Pham Thu Hoa (Vietnam); Francis Apina (Kenya); Rosalie and Faith Stephson (Philippines/Texas); Endalkachew Fekadu Demmisse (Ethiopia). {Photo credit: Claire Moodie/MSH.}Photo credit: Claire Moodie/MSH.

Cross-posted on TB-CARE I.

World TB Day, March 24th, was commemorated in many countries around the world last week to acknowledge the accomplishments made in the fight against tuberculosis (TB), and to call attention to the work that still needs to be done.

Voices of TB, a unique event organized by USAID, featured former TB patients speaking about their personal fight against TB. Survivors of TB from Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia and Vietnam --- four TB CARE I-supported countries --- and from the United States, spoke at the event on March 22 in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Sima Samar speaking on 'How to advance women's rights in developing countries.' {Photo from World Bank webcast, March 5, 2012.}Photo from World Bank webcast, March 5, 2012.

On Monday, March 5, 2012, everyone from policymakers to students gathered at the World Bank for a Special Event on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Women’s Rights.

CEDAW is a treaty that has been ratified worldwide by all but six countries --- the United States, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, and two small Pacific Island nations (Palau and Tonga).

The event was hosted by Caroline Anstey, Managing Director of the World Bank, in conjunction with the Nordic Trust Fund, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, and the United Nations Foundation.

Over the past 25 years, the number of people worldwide with access to essential medicines has more than doubled. Yet more than 30 percent of the world’s population still does not have reliable access to essential medicines.

We know how to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. But without intervention nearly 40 percent of mothers with HIV/AIDS in developing countries will transmit the virus to their newborns.

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