Monday, August 2, 2010





01. Your Voice
02. Regional Briefs
03. International Briefs
04. Vacancies
05. Call for Action
06. Calendar of Events         
07. Awards
08. Fellowship/Scholarship Opportunities
09. Call for Papers/Submissions
10. Resources

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"...thousands of women could be saved each year if they had access to skilled care during pregnancy and childbirth, and access to emergency obstetric care. Most of the interventions they need are simple, affordable, and highly effective."

 Dr. LEE Jong-wook, WHO Secretary-General

01. Your Voice


No More Broken Promises: Increase Financing for Maternal Health

By Christine Butegwa*

Between 2010 and 2011, at least three East African countries will be going through an election – Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. As the political leadership goes back to the people to seek a mandate for the highest political office, do they think about what is happening to more than half of their citizens – women? Do they care that the leading cause of death for women in sub-Saharan Africa is preventable? Maternal deaths and mortality ratios remain highest in sub-Saharan Africa where for every woman who dies, as many as 30 others suffer chronic illness or disability.

Every minute, at least one woman dies from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth, this according to the World Health Organisation. This means that worldwide, about 592,000 women die each year, the majority from sub-Saharan Africa. Maternal mortality has both social and economic consequences on families, the entire community and nation including higher likelihood of infant mortality and stunted growth, psychological trauma on family members, loss of economic livelihood at household level with higher vulnerability to poverty, loss of productive human resources for the nation and therefore loss of income.

Maternal mortality is defined as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days after termination of a pregnancy from any cause related to, or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management. The most common cause of maternal death is bleeding, which can kill even a healthy woman within 2 hours if left unattended. Half of the deaths caused by haemorrhage in sub-Saharan Africa occur mainly in rural areas where quality delivery care is largely unavailable. Other causes of maternal mortality are increasing poverty, impact of HIV/AIDs, unsafe abortion, declining quality and access to health care, inadequate medical personnel, medical equipment and essential drugs, poor road and communication network, high and unregulated fertility as well as short birth intervals; high rates of teenage pregnancy, lack of information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, insufficient mobilization to ensure demand for services at local level as well as low level of male involvement in maternal health and rights; and unaccountability of civil and political leaders.

African governments including the governments of the East African countries have signed most of the international and regional commitments that deal with sexual and reproductive health including the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD POA, 1994); the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA, 1995); the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, 2000); the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol, 2003); the Maputo Action Plan on Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Africa (Maputo POA, 2003). Most recently in 2009, the African Union (AU) launched an Africa-wide Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality (CARMMA) with the slogan, “Act Now! No Woman Should Die While Giving Life!” CARMMA is one way the AU is popularizing the Maputo POA which aims to achieve universal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and achievement of the right to sexual and reproductive health (SRHR) for every person in Africa by 2015.

And yet, very few countries have moved away from policy pronouncements towards implementation of these commitments. One of the key areas of implementation that African governments are yet to fulfill is increased financing for health, particularly reproductive health which would go a long way in reducing maternal mortality rate (MMR) on the continent. Indeed, as the world prepares to review the MDGs in 2010, few countries in Africa will meet health related regional and global targets such as MDGs and Abuja of ensuring that the health budget makes up 15% of the GDP. To reach the MDGs, experts estimate that the proportion of government spending on health would need to increase nearly six-fold and that more than 12 percent of GDP would have to be spent on health. Yet by 2008, the regional average spending in East and Southern Africa is 4.7%. The situation is improving slightly in some countries like Uganda where in the 2010/2011 Budget, the government for the first time increased its spending on health, and particularly on reproductive health. Rwanda has also consistently invested in its health system with the resulting lowering of the MMR of the country.

While these efforts should be applauded and replicated, most of the East African governments continue not to treat reproductive health as a priority but one that is left largely to development partners and donors who sometimes fund over 80% of RH programmes such as family planning. Governments need to be held accountable by their citizens to live up to the Abuja 15% pledge towards health spending. At the current rate of financing, no East African country will be on target to meet the MDGs by 2015.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it, “While global health is a global responsibility, African leaders also have a moral responsibility to our people. Just as we expect the international community to honour their commitments to global health, we also expect African leaders to honour African commitments”. Furthermore, in keeping with proven multi-sectoral strategies, different sectors that have an impact on sexual and reproductive health such as education (early marriage, sex education), agriculture (nutrition, property rights), transport (road and communication infrastructure), justice (sexual violence), and others should be required by government to set aside a percentage of their sector budgets to address SRHR holistically.

Governments also need to address the high levels of corruption and mismanagement that are hindering countries from meeting their obligations. Corruption accounts for the high level of leakage of even the limited resources being allocated to health sectors. The recent Global Fund corruption scandals in both Kenya and Uganda are examples of the level of corruption and mismanagement in the sector that has devastating effects on citizens, particularly poor women.

Finally, if governments are to make serious positive strides to reduce maternal mortality, there needs to be a separation of the state and religion. Currently, individual religious and cultural biases penetrate national programmes and interventions aimed at reproductive health. The evidence speaks for itself. Equality in sexual relationships and freedom of choice regarding one’s body and sexuality are key to a healthy and functional reproductive process and system. It follows that abuse of sexual rights, whether through violence against women, early marriage or female genital mutilation among others, compromises the ability and the extent to which one can enjoy their reproductive rights.

As Uganda prepares to host the AU Summit from 19th – 27th July 2010 on the theme, “Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa”, civil society including ABANTU for Development, UN Millennium Campaign, the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA), Save the Children, White Ribbon Alliance, and other partnering organizations will host an East African caravan on maternal health from 3rd – 16th July 2010 to lobby African leaders to prioritise the maternal health agenda. The caravan will travel from Kenya to Tanzania, then to Rwanda and finally Uganda. Public forums with grassroots communities will be held while medical personnel and RH providers traveling with the caravan will provide medical and RH services to women and girls along the routes. Real stories of women and girls’ experiences related to maternal health will be collected along the caravan routes and these testimonies will be presented to policy makers when the caravan arrives in Uganda. Additionally, a Regional Rural Women’s Conference will be hosted by the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) coalition from 21st – 22nd July 2010 in Uganda that will also ensure that women’s voices reach policy makers ahead of the AU Summit. Women, men and children from East Africa will be calling on governments that have not done so (Uganda and Kenya) to ratify the Maputo Protocol, and those that have ratified (Rwanda and Tanzania) to move towards implementation to ensure that women live healthy and safe lives. African leaders and governments must demonstrate their political will to end maternal mortality on the continent and act, Now!

*Christine Butegwa is the Regional Coordinator, Africa Programmes with Akina Mama wa Afrika, a regional and international women’s organization based in Kampala, Uganda.

02. Regional Briefs  


Senegal: Door to Political Office Opens for Senegalese Women
A law on gender parity in electoral lists, approved by a large majority in Senegal's National Assembly, has been welcomed by women from diverse walks of life. Aminata Mbengue Ndiaye, the Socialist mayor of Louga in northwest Senegal, has urged women to mobilize. "The battle is only starting because we have to convince all the skeptics. But we will also have to educate women, provide them with training, build their capacity and even change behaviors and attitudes," she said. Fatou Kiné Diop, president of the non-governmental organization Senegalese Council for Women (known by its French acronym, COSEF), said, "We must now support and educate communities so they can take ownership of the new law. We also call on the head of state to promulgate it, but especially civil society which now has important work to do in terms of monitoring." For more information, visit

AngolaAdvocacy to Prevent Violence Against Women – Media Impact
Susana Mendes is the first woman to hold the title of editor in chief at Angolense, Angola's leading investigative weekly--and she is doing it a bit differently than her predecessor. She is in charge of directing coverage of the country's $1.7 billion oil industry, government corruption and injustices in the poorer neighborhoods of Angola. However, she also keeps the paper routinely focused on a topic often treated as a special women's issue: domestic violence. "All my colleagues agree that this is a public problem," said Mendes at Women's eNews' office during a recent visit to New York, where she participated in a forum on oil politics and Africa. "We publish special reports about the issue, interviews and also talk a lot about gender equality." In 2008, Mendes joined other female colleagues in Angola's capital Luanda at the Forum of Women Journalists for Gender Equality. The group joins counterparts in Latin America and elsewhere in Africa in harnessing media as a force to protect women through the "Challenging Silence" campaign. For more information, visit

NamibiaAre Namibian Women Being Forcibly Sterilised?
The Windhoek-based Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) is litigating 15 alleged cases of forced sterilisation. Three women's cases will be heard initially. Each woman is demanding the equivalent of 132,000 U.S dollars in damages. The sterilisations were first uncovered by the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW). Although the State will argue that consent forms were signed in all three cases, the women’s lawyers maintain the process necessary for "informed consent" was not followed and the women were coerced, or did not understand the procedure. Meanwhile new cases have emerged in a town 80 kilometres south of Windhoek, suggesting that the practice continued even after the health ministry was alerted to problems. For more information, visit

03. International Briefs


Trinidad & Tobago: First Woman PM Takes the Helm in Trinidad
What a year it has been so far for the 58-year-old Persad-Bissessar, an attorney who guided an amalgam of five opposition political parties and trade unions to an overwhelming victory over the incumbent People's National Movement (PNM) – taking 29 of the 41 seats in Parliament. In February, she became the first woman to hold the post of opposition leader, one month after she ousted the leader of the main opposition United National Congress (UNC), Basdeo Panday, in a bruising campaign in which she was portrayed as everything from a drunk to a weak leader. Now she joins the late Dame Eugenia Charles of Dominica, Janet Jagan of Guyana and Portia Simpson Miller of Jamaica who have headed governments in their respective Caribbean countries. For more information, visit

India - Honor Killings Rising Among Caste Issues
For three weeks now, a morbid murder story has been playing out in the Indian media. Nirupama Pathak, 22, a New Delhi–based journalist, was allegedly murdered by her own mother. Her crime? She had wanted to marry a fellow journalist who belongs to a lower caste — and she was pregnant. On a trip home to make a final effort to convince her family, Nirupama texted her boyfriend that she was being held captive, locked up in a bathroom. On April 29, she was found dead. The family claimed Nirupama had killed herself, and lodged a case against her boyfriend for rape and abetting suicide. But when the postmortem results revealed Nirupama had been asphyxiated, the police arrested her mother, Sudha Pathak. For more information, visit

Cambodia Struggles to Reduce Maternal Deaths
For Chan Theary, a remote, mountainous stretch of land in western Cambodia encapsulates the uphill struggle this South-east Asian nation faces in reducing the alarming number of women who die during pregnancy. Thma Da commune, which sits along the border with Thailand in Pursat province, is a sparsely populated area that lies roughly 200 kilometers from the closest hospital. There is a single midwife stationed in a makeshift health centre. That means there is only one person who is trained to treat pregnant women for the roughly 4,000 people scattered throughout the entire commune over difficult, muddy roads. Cambodia is burdened with one of the highest maternal mortality ratios, or MMR, in the region. In 2008 the figure stood at 461 per 100,000 live births. For more information, visit

04. Vacancies

Consultant: Human Rights First
Deadline: Rolling Basis
Human Rights First is a nonprofit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. We build respect for human rights and the rule of law to help ensure the dignity to which everyone is entitled and to stem intolerance, tyranny, and violence. Human Rights First is seeking a consultant to conduct research and prepare materials to support advocacy efforts aimed at improving responses to racist, xenophobic and other forms of bias-motivated violence impacting refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. For more information, visit

Health Manager: International Rescue Committee
Deadline: 31 August, 2010
The incumbent will assist the Health Director and the health team in Kinshasa by providing technical and managerial support to all IRC health programs in the country. He/she will work closely with colleagues based in Kinshasa as well as North and South Kivu, Haut Katanga, West Kasai, and Orientale Provinces as well as IRC partner agencies with the implementation of the health program. For more information, visit

05. Call to Action   

Call for Advocacy for Sentenced Women’s Rights Activist- Iran
The Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) International Solidarity Network and the Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women (SKSW) are deeply concerned by the sentencing meted out to our colleague and friend, Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, in May by the Iranian Revolutionary Court for exercising her constitutional right to peaceful assembly. Please see WLUML website link and scroll down to attached sample letter.

06. Calendar of Events   

East African Caravan on Maternal Health
Date and Venue: July 3rd – July 18th, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda
Sub-Saharan Africa is off-track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for maternal and child health by 2015.  The toll of more than 13,000 deaths per day accounts for half of the worlds maternal and child deaths. The East African Caravan on Maternal Health will travel thorugh Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda with and to aim to create awareness on the human rights violations a woman is exposed to during her life journey “from the womb to the tomb”. It will travel across each country and will hold public rallies and offer free information, services and materials in identified schools, medical facilities and social centers.  The Caravan arrives in Kampala on 14th July 2010, just prior to the 15th Ordinary Session of the Assembly African Union Summit, where the Heads of State will discuss Maternal and Child health and Development in Africa.  For more information, or

15th African Union Summit
Date and Venue: July 19th – July 27th, Kampala, Uganda
African countries should promote maternal, infant and child health and report on progress, in order to curb high deaths rates on the continent. Africa has some of the highest rates of maternal, infant and child mortality. More than 500,000 women die in childbirth or from complications during pregnancy each year, according to UNICEF. A woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1:16 chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth, compared to a 1: 4,000 chance in developed countries. African Union Heads of State and Government will meet at the 15th African Union Summit whose theme is “Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa.”
The main events will be:-
Þ    The 20th Session of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC): 19-20 July 2010
Þ     The 17th Ordinary Session of the Executives Council: 22-36 July 2010
Þ    The 15th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union: 25-27 2010
For regular updates, visit

07. Awards


The 2011 Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship
Deadline: August 4th, 2010
The Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship support social entrepreneurs whose work has the potential for large-scale influence on critical challenges of our time: tolerance and human rights, health, economic and social equity, peace and security, institutional responsibility, and environmental sustainability. These issues are at the heart of the foundation’s vision of empowering people to create a peaceful, prosperous, sustainable world. The Skoll Awards are designed for leaders who contribute value to a peer network committed to continuous learning. By telling their stories, they join in the foundation’s ongoing celebration of the power of social entrepreneurs. For more information, visit

08. Fellowship/Scholarship Opportunities

The Graça Machel Scholarship Programme
The Graça Machel Scholarship programme will develop further the work of Canon Collins Trust in building the skills of local people and communities through the provision of relevant scholarships. Scholarships that target women have long been recognized as an effective approach in addressing gender equality and eradicating poverty. By providing opportunities to study at postgraduate level, these scholarships aim to empower women and to equip them to take up leadership positions in order to have a direct impact in the communities, nations and region in which they live. For more information, please visit

Scholarly Exchange Programme                                                                    
Deadline: Ongoing
The South African Institute of International Affairs has a scholarly exchange initiative, whereby it seeks to host scholars, from the region and globally, that are focused on issues that are aligned with the research agendas of the two hosting research programmes. Two exchanges can be accommodated each year, and applications are assessed on an ongoing basis. Scholars can range from PhD students to senior academics and an exchange period of up to two months will be considered. For more information, visit

09. Call for Papers/Submissions                     

Call for Papers on Gender--Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change

Deadline: August 1, 2010
Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, a peer-reviewed volume published by Emerald Group Publishing/JAI Press, encourages submissions for Volume 32 of the series. The theme of this volume will be women and/or gender; submissions concerned with gender and/or women as it relates to any of the three broad foci reflected in the series title will be considered. For more information, visit

Post-graduate strand at ICTD 2010 (IEEE/ACM International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development)
Deadline: 31st July, 2010
The purpose of the post-graduate strand is for post-graduates and other young researchers to share their experiences in the ICT4D field in order to gain more knowledge on how ICT use for development can be improved. Authors are invited to share their research about, and experiences from, the entire field of ICT4D. Both empirical research and conceptual papers are being sought. We ask for short papers and we are interested in both practical and theoretical papers, completed and research in progress papers. For more information, visit

10. Resources


The Lancet- Vol. 375, No. 9739; 5th June 2010 p. 1939-2050
Young mother with baby in a baby-sling, Bolivia - Copyright: Kopp_Florian/Still PicturesLarge numbers of the public remain unaware of the health issues facing women and children. Women and girls make up 60% of the worlds poorest and two-thirds of the world’s illiterate. Yet with education and empowerment, they can lead healthy lives and lift themselves and their families out of poverty. To devise a plan to make women and children’s health more visible, we must listen harder to voices from those countries where most maternal and child death take place. Too often we ignore these voices. A themed issue of The Lancet covers a range of global issues on maternal, child, and newborn health.

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Violence against women is a worldwide yet still hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment, battering, and sexual assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence is such a deep part of our cultures and lives.