Every year on March 8, the global community celebrates International Women’s Day, an opportunity to put the spotlight on the achievements of women around the world. The work of the Global Fund, our partners and many other conscientious organizations and individuals support on-the-ground efforts to expand gender parity and ensure that women and girls have access to health care, education and opportunity. In fact, approximately 55 to 60 percent of Global Fund investments benefit women and girls, and the organization recently released an analysis of the Fund’s gender equality strategy and action plans. In February, Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund, announced the Fund’s support for a new program to invest in education and other social needs that adolescent girls and young women have in Swaziland.
In the spirit of International Women’s Day, here are some additional initiatives the global health community is working on to improve the lives of women and girls.
UNICEF is coordinating with the Global Fund to reduce the burden of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, while improving the health of mothers and their children. Read more about the efforts to align HIV and malaria investments with investments in maternal, newborn and child health.
In their 2016 annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates described the two superpowers they wish they had: more energy and more time.
Melinda argues that the time element is particularly important for women in developing countries. Globally, women spend more time than men on unpaid work – cooking, cleaning and taking care of family members and the household, etc. On average, women spend 4.5 hours each day on unpaid labor while men spend less than half that much time on similar work. In India, women invest 6 hours of their day on unpaid work versus men’s one hour each day.
Having more time helps women better their lives and their families’ lives by having the opportunity to visit the doctor or pursue an education. Building up infrastructure, such as running water and access to electricity in homes, can help reduce the amount of time spent on unpaid work, and free up time for women to be healthy, attend school and find paid employment to support their families.
ONE’s Poverty is Sexist campaign addresses the inequities women in developing countries experience. For example, “a woman in Sierra Leone is 183 times more likely to die bringing a new life into the world than a woman in Switzerland.” To end extreme poverty and increase the health and well-being of women and girls, ONE calls for putting women and girls at the center of the development agenda while targeting investments in health, education and economic empowerment.
Not only is access to health care a crucial issue, but so is access to stable jobs. The International Labor Organization found that minimizing the gap between men’s employment rates and women’s employment rates could increase the global economic output by $1.6 trillion.
ONE provides many more examples showing that investing in women and girls saves lives, improves education levels, boosts the economy and provides for an overall better quality of life. The organization also released an updated report for 2016.
The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) recently launched the DREAMS partnership to support Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe women. DREAMS takes aim at the systemic issues surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic with the goal of ending it. In sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women account for 71 percent of the new HIV infections in the region. That’s approximately 1,000 new infections each day.
The 10 countries where DREAMS is active (Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) account for nearly half of the new HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women globally. To address this issue, DREAMS is implementing multiple solutions, not just those based on the health sector. One solution includes empowering girls in education. As the Global Fund recently wrote, “Keeping girls in school has been proven to be a protective factor against HIV acquisition, and also for early pregnancy and other health risks.”
There are many other organizations and initiatives focused on improving the health and lives of women and girls around the world. Here are a couple more highlights:
In partnership with the United Kingdom Department for International Development, Girl Effect is building new media brands to reach girls in various countries. Read more about Rwanda’s Ni Nyampinga, a magazine, radio show and growing movement for girls.
Stop TB Partnership
To ensure everyone has equal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, as well as HIV/TB co-infections, the Stop TB Partnership announced the creation of a new gender assessment tool. Read more about this initiative to take gender into account when providing health services.