A glass of water; a book; a shoe; a bank account. Do these things make you #ThinkTwice? The #ThinkTwice campaign uses everyday objects to highlight the often life-threatening inequalities which persist all over the world. Understanding the deep inequalities which still exist is the first step towards building a world which leaves no one behind.
Across the globe, over 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). Sheikh Almis Yahye Ibrahim’s three daughters aren’t a part of that statistic. A prominent religious leader in the Arab region, Sheikh Ibrahim is part of a network formed to fight FGM, a human rights violation which has immediate and long-term consequences. Sheikh Ibrahim preaches about the dangers of FGM to 5,000 people at his mosque in effort to change perceptions about this harmful practice.
The European Union supports the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme to Eliminate Female Genital Mutilation, the largest global programme of its kind to accelerate the abandonment of this harmful practice. Backed with the latest social science research, the programme collaborates with governments, grass-roots community organisations and key stakeholders like Sheikh Ibrahim to put an end to the practice for good. Through the Global Programme, the EU has helped more than 3.2 million girls and women in 17 countries benefit from FGM-related protection and care services. More than 31.5 million people in over 21,700 communities have made public declarations to abandon FGM.
When 20-year-old Mamta watched her “little sister” enroll in grade 6, she felt incredibly lucky and proud to have contributed to the continuation of her education. Since joining the Sister-to-Sister programme, she has become a role model and advocate for young girls in her community in Nepal.
Although the country has achieved significant progress in enhancing access to basic education, girls still face a number of barriers. Shouldering the burden of domestic chores from a young age, coupled with child marriage, means many girls drop-out before completing their studies.
As a “big sister,” she supports her “little sisters” in their studies and encourages them to go to school. She also talks to girls’ parents, to ensure they understand the importance of educating their daughters. Her efforts are clearly paying off.
Mamta is in no doubt about the benefits of girls’ education. As she encourages young girls to continue their education, she hopes that they will one day do the same for their own daughters. “Educated girls can understand the importance of education, and will let their own daughters study before they get married. If they get an education, they can earn money which means they can stand on their own two feet. ”
It is her hope to continue serving as a role model in the program so that every girl can enjoy the freedom of creating their own path outside of their traditional boundaries. “I have a passion to work for girls and for community,” she says.
Mamta is taking part in the Sister-to-Sister initiative, under the Partnership for Equity and Access in Kapilbastu project implemented by We World Onlus. The project raises awareness of parents, teachers, and local institutions on the importance of investment in education and builds child friendly environments in schools. Started in 2016, the project reached out to 51,904 children. In addition to supporting mainstream education, it also provides educational support for nearly 2,000 out-of-school children.
With poor maternity services and healthcare facilities, home birth is commonplace across Zambia. But without skilled medical care, women often suffer complications, resulting in unacceptably high mother, child and infant mortality rates.
Vuka Muleya saw the problem, and pictured his own wife in the same situation. He wanted to take action. So, when the European Union started working with UNICEF and other partners to improve the health of women in children in the community, Vuka decided to volunteer as a motorbike ambulance driver. He was determined to ensure that women could give birth safely.
“By working together with the facility, the end result is that we have healthy mothers and babies in the community,” says Vuka. “We were empowered with the knowledge to help women in the community.”
When Vuka drives a woman to the Kafue Mission Rural Centre, funded by the EU, he feels motivated knowing he is increasing the odds of survival for both the mother and child. The new maternity wing educates members of the community about facility deliveries and monitors mothers and their babies for 48 hours after birth.
The EU-funded programme was developed to improve overall health of women and children while building a more resilient government health system. Through an investment of €49.5 million, the programme has supported the construction of new health facilities, including the new maternity wing at Kafue Mission Rural Centre, new equipment and training for healthcare workers and volunteers like Vuka. With more women able to access adequate healthcare facilities, the odds of survival for both mother and child have increased significantly.
“If we do not collect the trash ourselves and carry it to the main road, nobody will pick it up”, explains Mwanatumu Omar. Using the rake, the Kenyan woman points towards the alley. No vehicle can get past the congested rows of huts, let alone a garbage truck.
Mwanatumu is a member of the local Majengo garbage unit. The slum village lies on the outskirts of Mtwapa, north of Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa. Once a week, the 14 women and men walk through the village, armed with wheelbarrows and garbage cans and clean up. Like many other informal settlements, their locality is not connected to the public garbage disposal system. That’s why the slum dwellers have lately taken it upon themselves.
Majengo is one of two settlement areas on the outskirts of Mtwapa, a town north of Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa, that are to be transformed from randomly grown, densely populated slums to neighbourhoods that meet planning guidelines and requirements in which every inhabitant will have access to clean drinking water, a toilet, with adequate roads and safe living spaces in future.
Majengo’s garbage command is part of a pilot project of the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme implemented in 2014 by UN-Habitat in collaboration with its partners, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, the European Commission and, more specifically for Majengo, the Government of Kenya.
Mary Lakesi lives with her six grandchildren in Zomba district, in the South of Malawi. She is a beneficiary of the social cash transfers programme. Rose Gunde, her eldest granddaughter, would like to become a nurse. However, the nearest secondary school is more than 15 km away.
“I saved a portion of the transfers to buy a bike for Rose. Thanks to the programme we also got a goat and good quality seeds. I am confident that we will do better now”.
Through SoSuRe (Social Support for Resilience), the EU is engaged in reducing poverty and enhancing resilience among the most vulnerable households in Malawi. SoSuRe provides funding for social cash transfers targeting ultrapoor households with very limited labour capacity. Currently, 65,000 beneficiary households (270,000 Malawians) are receiving continued support through predictable cash transfer payments across 7 districts (out of 28).
When the children see her thin silhouette in a white coat approaching their village, they run to meet her and accompany her the rest of the way. Her name means good news in Arabic and that’s exactly what Bashair is bringing in this mountainous area of Sana’a governorate in Yemen, where she works as a community health worker.
One year ago, the lives of the inhabitants of Bani Zayed village improved significantly when Bashair got nominated to join the community health worker network. After receiving an intense training of three weeks on community health, child nutrition, integrated management of childhood illness and maternal care, she started providing health and nutrition services in her village, as well as in neighboring areas. “I started working immediately after the training. On my first day, the sun was really high, but I insisted on visiting all the villages in one day to make people know that I am here to help them,” recalls Bashair.
UNICEF and the EU are supporting the training of women health workers, covering incentives, providing medical equipment and supplies so they can go back to their communities to offer basic preventive and curative health and nutrition services at the household level within their communities. So far, 1,527 community health workers have been selected and trained in the priority governorates of Sana’a, Sa’ada, Hajjah, Al Hudaydah, Lajh and Ibb, reaching 696,300 households, including 877,343 children under 5 and 389,930 pregnant and lactating women.
“In our village, we used to marry off our daughters between the ages of 11 to 13. If a girl was still unmarried at 15, her parents would struggle to find an able bridegroom”, says Abdur Rahman, a village elder of Maittha village of Barguna district, one of the most cyclone-prone coastal districts of Bangladesh.
No more though. Sazeda Akhter, a student of grade 11, has single-handedly stopped 107 child marriages in different villages of Barguna, and has already become a well-known name in the district for her initiatives to prevent child marriage.
She also began to visit houses in her village and nearby villages with her volunteers to engage parents in discussions against child marriage. In addition to preventing 107 such marriages, she has helped 87 drop-out students to re-enroll in school.
Sazeda Akhter’s work and achievements are part of a larger campaign with Plan International, funded by the European Commission, to improve the sexual and reproductive health status of all young people in Bangladesh, including socially excluded youth from hard to reach areas, through ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and information.