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Policy and Advocacy
Posted by: Margie Lauter at 3:55PM EST on July 2, 2012
Thanks in large part to the tremendous work of our advocates, the U.S. Senate passed the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act last month, co-sponsored by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). This is a crucial step in upholding the rights of adolescent girls around the world and a critical step in preventing the harmful practice of child marriage. Thank you for lending your voice to the tens of thousands of girls who are forced into marriage each year.
Posted by: Stephanie Chen at 2:13PM EST on June 12, 2012
In the poor Bangladeshi village of Kawabadha, a shy little girl named Morsheda recently turned five years old. At her party, Morsheda sang and danced with her friends and family and feasted on a traditional dessert made of rice and sugar. Unfortunately, Morsheda’s fifth birthday celebration was an event many children around the world will never experience.
CARE’s latest video features Morsheda’s story and how a massive-yet-innovative program called SHOUHARDO is not only helping children such as Morsheda reach their fifth birthdays but also ensuring they grow healthier, and in many cases, taller.
Over the last 50 years, child mortality has been reduced by 70 percent. However, more than 7 million children will die this year before they reach their 5th birthday. These conditions are often worsened by the chronic malnutrition and food shortages, challenges that Morsheda’s family faced. USAID has launched a public campaign called “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday” to help raise awareness and end these avoidable child deaths.
Morsheda is one of more than 2 million people who have benefitted from CARE's SHOUHARDO program, a partnership with USAID and the government of Bangladesh. Morsheda’s family calls her a “nutrition baby” because her mother Hanufa received nutritious food while she was pregnant until Morsheda was two years old. More importantly, Hanufa actively participated in the many health groups that enhanced her understanding of her rights as a woman and educated her on proper childcare.
To watch the full video, click here.
Posted by: Niki Clark at 10:18AM EST on November 16, 2010
At this point in my visit, exactly a week in, I’m starting to think that Kenya is sitting on a gold mine. Not literally; I know conflict over natural resources is a consistent issue for the continent. I’m talking about another type of untapped wealth. Kenya has some of the most talented people I’ve ever met.
When I attended the CARE National Conference back in May, still just a hopeful CARE employee (in May I was still interviewing, I landed my dream job in June, in November I’m writing you from Kenya), I was struck by something Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during her keynote speech: “Talent is universal. Opportunity is not.” Something about being in Nairobi makes this statement turn on repeat in my head.
At our debriefing a few days before, along with Peninah, I meet Priest. When Auma talks about the successes of partnership within in the Sports for Social Change Network, she talks about Priest. He is, by all ways and means, the SSCN Poster Child.
Born and raised in Korogocho, a slum in Nairobi, Priest discovered boxing after being bullied by his school mates. But instead of talking about his ability to knock out his opponents, Priest focuses on the things boxing has given him you can’t see in his sprite, muscular frame. His inner strength. His confidence. His ability to walk away.
Box Girls started when, while at a boxing match, he overheard some girls behind him say they wish they could box. He turned around and told them they could. They showed up a few days later and asked Priest to train them. They wanted to be able to defend themselves in the dangerous neighborhoods and slums they called home.
What started with a few girls has turned into a few hundred. Three of Priest’s girls have gone on to represent Kenya in the Olympics. One girl, Liz, is captain of the national team. But what started as a means of self defense has evolved into a means of empowerment. The Box Girls are physically strong, even the young ones have wiry muscles, but much of their strength is of the internal type. Boxing has given them the confidence and self esteem to want more for themselves and their lives. Each practice session, like Safe Spaces, includes life skills messaging where the girls talk about important and challenging issues. And there are many of them.
When I first meet the Box Girls, they (as all Kenyans seem to do) greet me with a song and a dance. They are smiling and happy and proud of their skills. In Korogocho, they are called champs. Boys and men alike peek into the windows of the practice room, crowding to see the girls that are boxers. Wishing they were one of them. It is obviously another CARE success story. Using community leaders to create change. But later that afternoon I see firsthand why a Box Girl’s smile is such a transformation. Why CARE’s partnership with Box Girls and Priest is such a success. I visit the place where many Box Girls come from. It’s the Nairobi landfill.
By the time a girl joins the Box Girls, Priest has made sure she is no longer living in what they call “the dump.” But many of them started there. During our debrief with CARE staff, after a few references, I interrupted Priest to ask, “What do you mean, the dump?” He told me, “A dump. Like a garbage dump.” Even when he told me that, there was something in me that felt like he was making it up. It couldn’t be that bad. Even in a country that struggles with poverty as much as Kenya, I was positive no one could actually live in a garbage dump. What kind of place would let that happen? Live in a dump, eat from a dump? I wasn’t sure if it was the time change or what, but sometimes during my conversations with people I became convinced that this was all a big movie. That some crazy director decided to write a horror film about poverty and so he made up a big scene about living in a landfill. I was positive it couldn’t be that bad.
It was worse.
Hamilton is a young, friendly guy. He’s incredibly articulate and smart. I would have never guessed that he grew up in a landfill. When he was a kid, he ate there, occasionally finding pieces of scrap metal to sell. When leaving the area, you can see stalls selling various scavenged item. One stall sold dirty, used underwear, obviously pulled from the garbage. Hamilton was needed to show us around, to point out to us where the Box Girls came from. Like many of the slums in Nairobi, political tensions are real, and if you go without an insider, you can face real danger. We didn’t even actually go to the dump, just stood on the edge. The glimpse I got was enough to turn my stomach.
Like Priest and Peninah, Hamilton got out. And then turned right back around. He’s now working at the Korogocho dump, encouraging kids through his soccer program. He’s a partner with the Sports for Social Change network. His program has been such a success that he actually took Kenya to the Homeless World Cup with some of the adults from his area as coach. They came in fifth place out of 48 teams. They were the top team in Africa. Seeing the glint in his eyes as he shares his story, his passion is tangible. He cares for these kids more than anything. He just wants them to have a chance at opportunity. A chance for something more.
While Priest and Auma are talking with the journalist, my role becomes crowd control. The dump kids start to swarm the cameras, fascinated by foreigners. So that the interview goes smoothly, I distract them back to me, taking their picture, showing them their faces. Their shy demeanors are immediately dropped and I am in the middle of a massive embrace. One little girl wearing a dirty Barbie t-shirt wraps her tiny arms around my legs and doesn’t let go for nearly an hour. These are the children Hamilton works with. Part of me is heartbroken; one kid is knawing on a computer chip he found on the ground. They are playing in garbage. They are barefeet and filthy. I will later develop a nasty cold after spending hours hugging them and wiping their faces. They are walking germ factories. But the other part of me is filled with joy. They are beautiful; such typical kids. Crowding me to get my attention. Laughing and prodding and poking each other. They could be from anywhere. They are smart and bright and smiling. I am blessed to meet them. I feel light inside, like they are emitting some sort of physical joy that is transferred to me. I am crouched down so I am at their height. When my knees start to cramp and I stand to shake out the knots in my legs, I’m brought back. I’m standing in the midst of a garbage pile. And these children call it their home.
The images that I see today will remain with me forever. How is this okay? “Talent is universal. Opportunity is not.” I am convinced more than ever that the work that CARE is doing, investing in people like Priest and Hamilton, investing in organizations like Box Girls and Safe Spaces, is critical. Kenya is jam packed with talent, with bright, smart girls and boys that could be on the path to careers as astrophysicists, teachers, world class athletes. What they lack is the opportunity. CARE is giving them that.
I will not forget these faces. I will not forget their stories. I know even more now than ever how critical the work and people of CARE are. And I will tell others.
I go home, covered in dirt, in a smell that won’t wash off. Today is a day that I will look back and say, “That is the day I was changed forever.”
Posted by: Brooks Keene at 2:53PM EST on October 14, 2010
When you turn on the tap one day and no water comes out, what do you do? You call the plumber or the city and complain. You need dependable and quick service, and you usually get it.
It might seem an obvious point, but a lot of development work on water and sanitation has traditionally focused more on building wells or latrines than on helping to catalyze or set up a service that will run forever and always be there when it’s needed. Surveys in various countries have found that between 50 and 80 percent of water points in Sub-Saharan Africa are dysfunctional or need repair, representing a colossal problem for those communities and big waste of money.[i]
To see how this works in practice and in honor of Global Handwashing Day, let’s take a simple example: getting kids to wash their hands in school. It’s been estimated that getting kids to wash hands with soap at key times could save a million lives a year from things like diarrhea and respiratory infections. So this is, quite literally, one of the most important things we could accomplish as a global society.
If you want school kids to wash their hands, they’re going
to need soap and water. Simple
right? The data suggest not. In a school WASH program in
But we know that the budget is only a small piece of the puzzle. The school administration has to prioritize buying soap, something that frequently isn’t the case, so public health officials need to come by every so often and make sure no one is asleep on the job. That official needs to have money for fuel to make it to all of the schools to check up on them. She needs to have a standardized tool to monitor the school with so that information can be compiled about how good of a job the district is doing overall. On their end, the school administration needs the budget to buy soap, but they also need training in methods to get kids to wash their hands correctly (we’re creating new social norms here!). Local stores need to sell the soap at a reasonable price and with a reliable supply chain, so now the private sector is involved as well. And I haven’t even started talking about how you make sure a school has clean water.
The simple fact is that a lot of the public and private systems
we take for granted as Americans are missing in many places in the world. I’ve been to schools in
It’s getting to this level of supporting national
public and private systems that is critical if we’re ever going to move the
meter in a meaningful way.To get there,
major donors like the US need to
definitively get beyond charity projects and think seriously and critically
about how the work they are funding will lead to long-term services that are
there when people need them.It means
taking a backseat to the government and private sector actors who will be there
long after the foreign aid dollars cease to flow.Officials in the
every drop counts: tackling rural