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CGI, Day 2 – Securing the Health and Safety of Girls and Women

Tina Brown introduces:

  • Gary Cohen, Executive Vice President, BD
  • Geeta Rao Gupta, Senior Fellow, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Richard C. Holbrooke , Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. Department of State “and, of course”
  • Ashley Judd, Board Member, Population Services International

Starts with Geeta Rao Gupta, who declares the primary issue to be that hundreds of thousands of women are dying because of entirely preventable causes, such as 350,000 worldwide due to complications from pregnancy.  (Fifty million [50,000,000] child—under 18—brides worldwide.)

Tina takes the microphone away to talk about Ashley Judd’s discoveries in the Congo. (If this organization wants to concentrate on policy, not celebrity, Tina Brown should not be moderating.)  Judd, though, rises to the bait, nothing that Secretary of State HRC’s visit was not productive, and the people on the ground in the Congo did not believe that they were heard.  Only 6% of DRC has family planning ability; those who want to use family planning solutions but do not have access to such will have hundreds of thousands.  “100% of the women Judd met had been gang-raped more than once.”  Tells story of woman whose husband said “you have been raped too much” and left.

The word “fistula” was used extensively during Ms. Judd’s presentation, including a couple of times about “fistula repair operations.”

Gary Cohen notes that he was pulled into the issue of sexual violence against girls because of his work in fighting HIV/AIDS.  Found that 1/3 of girls in Swaziland who had experienced sexual violence, and that 29% of those became pregnant—effect is that about 10% of the female population is effectively eliminated from being part of the productive workforce, even if they are not part of the ca. 2% of the total female population that will die in childbirth.

Now working through other organizations, including a partnership with PEPFAR (about which Mike Kimel is more enthusiastic than I am, but which abides in either case) to try to empower women to facilitate AIDS/HIV relief.

Richard Holbrooke notes that he has never seen a State Department initiative to educate the men in leadership positions about the dangers of sexual violence against women.  They are trying to change that, but facing political issues. (We need to work with the [corrupt, violent] police in Afghanistan, but they have until recently been the largest part of the problem.)

Discusses the flood in Pakistan; shows a map of the affected area superimposed over U.S. and Canada—very little not covered.  International community is not going to be able to raise enough;Pakistani government is going to have to increase its revenues just to be able to pay them out.

The biggest problems will be now: 4-5,000 schools, hundreds of hospitals, countless homes have been washed away.  People will go back and they—especially the kids—will start drinking the stagnant water, resulting in dysentery at best. We are in a massive new round of fundraising to address the flood.  “Not one child I talked to knew how old they were.”  Information must be disseminated by radio—need portable radios.  Water purification: working with P&G, but do not have 10-gallon cans that can be used with P&G’s PUR product.  Need to teach people to use part of a packet.

Ms. Judd notes that the water issue is key to PSI; do monitoring and real-time data analysis and “barefoot entrepreneurs” (people on the ground) to emphasize the issues, and deal with “the chlorine taste” (if the mix is not ideal) as “the taste of health.”  Work toward a positive result, not the “if you drink this water, you will die” so much as developing social capital. (Dysentery is the #2 killer of under-5 children in the developing world.)

Geeta Rao Gupta notes that programs have been developed on the social level—cites several projects that have emphasized male education activities.  If you can provide services where women get a return on their labor, the household income is increased.  Needs to be cast as initiatives to improve the welfare of the households.

Mr. Cohen notes that they categorize “sexual violence against girls” as a human rights issue. Notes that Swaziland is the most leading respondent to their initiative, which also has cooperation from UNICEF.  Transfer to community level, which directly deal with organizations that educate men and boys about the opportunities when women have the opportunity to earn as well.

There is more data, and it is getting more attention, so it is easier to talk about the problem. Mr. Cohen notes that the Soviet rape in Berlin in 1945 (“a drunken orgy of revenge”) while Bosnia was a “calculated use of rape as an instrument of war.”  (Maybe John Barnes’s painful phrase Serbing should be used more generally.) Clearly becoming more systematic.  Geeta Rao Gupta notes that she works with efforts such as GEMS to provide information and educational opportunity to people.

Tina Brown finally proves her value by noting that need to make these points through stories and narratives.  That gets the young people involved in an issue.

Ashley Judd lists several organizations with which to work, such as Women 4 Women, Girl Up, Girl Effect (which, as Tom Watson notes, released a marvelous PSA today), and The Enough Project (which is directly related because a substantial amount of the  most egregious sexual violence against women occurs in “conflict mineral” countries).

She also notes that there is a female condom available worldwide (though not so much in the U.S.), which they promote through dialog with hairdressers (who then speak with their clients).

Best route to a good result is to provide access to contraception, planning, and information.  Will not help to “wag the finger from the top”; need to enable control with the people who want to have control over—freedom for—their own bodies.

Mr. Cohen is optimistic, partially because we have seen much progress made on this issue over the past few years at CGI.  Tina Brown notes that we’re probably not at a “tipping point” yet, but certainly getting closer to achieving awareness.

As Nick Kristof twitted earlier today (again, via Tom Watson, translated from Twitter into English), “Clinton Global Initiative this year seems very focused on investing in girls as cost-effective strategy to fight poverty.”  As strategies go, this one is—or, more accurately would be, in a world where economic models worked well—Most Likely to Succeed.

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