No Humanity, No Life Without A Woman

We sat down with Dr. Lola Dare on International Women’s Day 2018 to discuss the progress that women have made over the past thirty years or more.

Click here for a copy of the interview

From 1985, when Beijing Conference held in China on women empowerment and other interventions, would you say women have fared better?

The progress since Beijing has been patchy across African countries, implementing sectors and issues. While some countries have reported significant progress in women’s inclusion and participation in politics, many still lag behind. Women should push for much more progress.

More women are completing primary education, but very few go up the education ladder to complete secondary and tertiary education.  In the work place, women comprise only 15% of the membership of multi-national boards. In spite of having more women in the work force, they still remain largely in administrative positions, with a wide pay gap even when they occupy senior or executive positions in corporations.

According to the most recent report on gender parity published by the World Economic Forum, it would take over 2 centuries (217 years) to bridge the gender parity gap if we continue at the current pace.   This is unacceptable and much more needs to be done.

What are the challenges facing the womenfolk?

I do not identify challenges but opportunities. Within every mountain lies an opportunity to learn, adapt, improve and positively impact on your space, work and indeed on humanity. This shift in mindset is very important for progress and action. The average man sings his minutest victory as ‘awesome’. Women on the other hand are known to play down their greatest exploits as simple and ordinary. This ‘modesty’ has not helped to profile women as the success they are at home, work, play and society. Increased exposure to education, along with democracy, expanded availability of technology to enable voices and improved access to financing all provide more opportunities for the African woman to harness.  The coverage by these empowering inputs remain inadequate amongst women and this is where more needs to be done.  We need bolder progress to ensure that women access what global, regional and country policies provide to them towards representation, participation, inclusion and access to both social and economic assets.  The #timeisnow!

How would these challenges be tackled?

One of the key ways is for women themselves to come together in purposeful action with unity. No one commits to you until you commit to yourself.  Women need to be courageous and seek to acquire the education, skills and competence they need to successfully compete in all sectors. Women need to seek implementation of the many good policies that are in place. We need to take advantage of support to small and medium scale enterprises. This is an area that is largely dominated by women-led enterprises. We need to move women’s loans from micro-credit to enabling enterprise loans that can truly move women away from poverty to sustainable livelihood.

The policies for gender equality are in place and have been signed as a part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Women must work across borders to demand their implementation and #pressforprogress. Women need to support each other, celebrate each other and more importantly nurture young females.

Would you say our culture and traditions are anti- women empowerment?

Our culture in its original form is based on a high level of regard for women. In our traditional tenets, a man of stature and integrity is measured by the value he places on the women in his life (mother, wife, daughter etc.) to provide for, empower and protect them.

This in no way makes women the ‘weaker sex’ but the respected and revered one!  I am not aware of any culture or tradition, where domestic abuse or disrespect for women is celebrated except among charlatans and scoundrels in society. This is neither our culture nor African heritage.

Our history is full of women who have distinguished themselves well beyond the kitchen and other duties. The social impact investment area of our work targeting women, young females and girls is named to celebrate Queen Kambasa of the Bonny Kingdom, in the Niger-Delta area of Nigeria. Queen Kambassa is well renowned for her positions on gender equality. There are many others including Queen Amina of Zaria, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Magaret Ekpo, Hadjiya Gawa Sambo, Alhaja Humuani Amoke Alaga MBE, all of whom are notable rights activists as well as Prof. Jadesola Akande, Prof. Bolanle Awe and Prof. Grace Alele-Williams to mention a few amongst many others.

Traditional rites of passage including various forms of genital mutilation affect both men and women and can be harmful to both.  However it is taking some time for women’s roles to fully evolve from their long standing role of home keeping and child rearing. We need concerted actions to take forward the very modest achievements in this area and should also #pressforprogress here.

Some women have excelled in business and other human endeavours with the exception of politics in Nigeria, what is responsible for this?

Politics in Nigeria is not for the faint-hearted even, amongst men!  It is a very tough terrain requiring long hours and a lot of money.  Women have neither this time nor resources to wantonly engage in the current billion naira patronage motivated political system that we have.  I stand in deepest admiration for those women of valour in Nigerian politics who have in spite of all odds stood up to be counted in this murky terrain.  Kudos!

Quite frankly, we should frown that our politics is driven by this volume of money, such that it leaves merit and value behind. The experience is the same for both male and female. Money matters so much that only a minuscule value for merit, commitment and vision drives politics and can be found in its landscape. Sadly, it would appear that money wags merit and as you can see, we all lose. This must change for progress to occur.

Would you say women are endangered species?

Endangered ke? This could never be the case.  In whatever way you construct it – mother, wife, daughter, aunt, niece, friend, cousin, colleague…! There is no humanity and no life without a woman!

What is your advice to women and girls in this digital age?

‘Be prepared!’ I was taught this as a member of the Girl Scouts in Ireti Primary School, Ikoyi and later as a member of the Girl Guides of the Holy Child College, Obalende, Lagos.  A very important life enabling lesson. Only those who are prepared can identify and make the best of opportunities that present themselves in our lives each day.

‘To thy self be true’. I learned this from the Reverend Sisters in Holy Child College. Being true to self is key to believing that you can and that by His grace you will.

Finally, all women must remain primed. ‘Action not words’. This is the motto of Holy Child College, a great school that has turned out women of distinction and integrity.

African Regional Dialogue on Health and Accountability

LAGOS2016

The transformative agenda set by the UN Declaration on the Sustainable Development Goal was very clear in its intent to ‘leave no one behind’ . Equity, rights and universality are central to this agenda as well as innovative financing from various resources, blended to support aligned country owned initiatives across all sectors. Timely data of acceptable quality is central to the monitoring and review process of the SDG and forms the bedrock of accountability at all levels – country, regional and global .
The Health Data Collaborative (HDC) was established to respond to the 5-point agenda of the Measurement Summit hosted in June 2014. It builds on the work of the Country Information and Accountability (COIA) Platforms and further recognizes the need to align existing programmes and investments in data, taking this forward to impact on review and action processes for accountability. Civil Society (CS) has been very active in the HDC and has devised a draft scope of work in response to its commitments and terms of reference for the Collaborative CS platform . Although much consideration has gone into the development of the scope of work in collaboration with members of the CS platform of the Health Data Collaborative, broad-based buy in and consensus building is required across key global health initiatives, regional institutions and countries at the country level to promote ownership that can scale investments from all resources – domestic and international, as well as sustain action.
This dialogue builds on the work of outcome documents of two previous Health and Accountability Dialogues (Nairobi 2010 and Accra 2012 ). It further takes on board strategic directions in global health in the sustainable development goals. In particular, it seeks to build consensus around the work of the Health Data Collaborative to improve the quality of data, scale investments in data collection as well as promote timely access and use of data for various purposes including advocacy, policy dialogue and accountability. Tagged Lagos 2016, this third Health and Accountability Dialogue is co-hosted by the Government of Lagos State and CHESTRAD International, with support from Health Data Collaborative partners.
The regional dialogue is strategically scheduled before the major meetings and commitments around the UN General Assembly in September 2016, permitting the HDC and the CS platform to engage in advocacy and global policy engagement action around the UN General Assembly and its side events. The dialogue will build on previous experience by CHESTRAD International in hosting such events in the region and will seek to broaden participation to regional expertise, organizations and networks that are required to achieve and sustain success.

Objectives
The objectives of the dialogue are
(a) Promote regional awareness of the health data collaborative and build broad-based consensus across regional, country and global levels on the value and culture of data.
(b) Engage country and regional stakeholders to chart options for improving data quality and use, building stronger investment cases for the data infrastructure and technology revolution that are essential to promote equity, sustainability and transformation, not only in health but to assure development that leaves no one behind.
(c) Consensus towards the development of messaging and advocacy strategies to promote investments in one country information system for monitoring, review and action in addition to expand the buy-in to the CS working group terms of reference and the above advocacy messages;
(d) Develop the action work plan with clear timelines and roles and responsibilities for activities including the roles and contribution of regional organizations

 

To participate, please complete the form below

 

Changing the rules

Every now and then in my household, we disconnect the cable TV and other similar devices and encourage the children to come up with their own entertainment. Invariably, my middle daughter and eldest of our last three, would invent a game.  Trouble rears its head when she loses at her own game, as she then changes the game rules.  If the initial rule of the game made the person with the most beads the winner, the moment she starts to lose, the rules would change mid-game to suit her so she always comes out on top. Her powers of persuasion are stellar and she could talk the tail off a dog and since she is the most creative, she always runs this particular gig.

 

Watching the children play again recently, a thought struck me:  Who sets the rules in international relations? It seems that whoever designs the game always comes out on top.  Why are Countries measured against development indicators that are set to economic parameters such as per capita income? Why are agricultural indicators are set against machinery per 100 sq. km of arable land, rather than farmers/workers per 100 sq. km? Instead of measuring the share of women employed in the non-agricultural sector, how about looking at the share of women involved in the agricultural sector? Who decided that in this particular measurement, the agricultural sector is any less important than the non-agricultural?

 

Among other thoughts, I wonder why health indicators do not measure herbal remedies, traditional healers passing on the art to a new generation, natural immunization of children through breast feeding and other homeopathic practices? Similarly, why does the measurement of births attended by skilled health staff not include doulas and traditional birth attendants?  For the longest time, the only acceptable measure of contraceptive prevalence is modern contraceptives. Insufficient recognition is given to natural contraception and anything that does not further the commercial interests of the capitalist nations that control the world. By the same token, measurement of death rates should take into account the nature and circumstances of death such as the quality of death in people who lived and died alone.

 

How about measuring social development parameters against deviancy, psychopathic crimes and teenage delinquency, community based care of the elderly, family values and cultural responsiveness?  Should we not measure environmental indicators against individual ecological responsibility and communities historically  living harmoniously with the environment? Perhaps we should pay more attention to ecological diversity and ratio of endangered native populations/plant and animal species, measuring those that have become extinct against those that are still thriving, rather than looking at government policies only?Perhaps if development indicators were to be set to different parameters, it is quite possible that the winners and losers in international relations are likely to be very different indeed.

 

ALWAYS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL

Let us get down to some specifics. The United Nations is currently canvassing through an open consultation process, proposals for the Indicators that the world will adopt to measure progress of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Inputs have come in from governments and from civil society, the academia and private sector. For the first SDG, zero poverty is the goal and the first indicator is proportion of population living below $1.25/day.  It used to be 70 cents/day by the way, then it became a dollar/day, now it is $1.25/day.  Apparently, poverty can only be measured by the dollar and when the dollar loses value in the global currency market, poverty has to shift to align with the value of the dollar, rather than risk more Americans falling below the poverty line. Who cares if the currency of African countries has lost up to 50% of its value in the time under review?  Anyhow, a number of countries and interest groups have commented on this indicator. The Africa IAEG has already expressed concerns that the disaggregated employment status may be difficult for the national statistical systems of its members states to collect. That already means that the entire continent is placed at a disadvantage and at risk of falling dangerously behind in account of this factor. No prizes for how African countries will fare with this indicator.

Then there is the question: How is $1.25/day as cost of living actually measured? Is it measured by disposable income, cash earned per day, value of expenditure/consumption per day? Does it include access to in-kind resources that might have no corresponding value of measurement in western terms, such as food items ‘paid’ by persons farming on family land? Does it take adequate cognizance of persons who ‘live off the land’? How do we measure the dollar value per day of child care offered by a grandmother whose daughter is returning to school, engaging in petty trade or subsistence farming? How do we compute the monetary or dollar value of a meal of yams, vegetables and snails all sourced at the farm when compare with the dollar value of a meal bought in a supermarket in the West? How about consumption of organic food? Shouldn’t a meal of organic corn and ube eaten on the farm in Ughelli be valued higher than a meal of preservatives-laden TV dinner eaten in a cramped high rise apartment in New York? Or does it only matter when those organic food items are produced by multinational corporations quoted on the London stock exchange?

How do we address the question of national definitions of poverty? What are we to do with target 1.3: ‘percentage of population covered by social protection floors… pensions… benefits…’, as these do not leave any room for the measurement of family-derived social support, pensions and benefits – e.g. the grandmother mentioned earlier, for whom quality of life is significantly better living with her daughter and grandchildren than living alone? Perhaps we should quantify living with the extended family as a high index of quality of life even though it is difficult to quantify, rather than living in a state-funded home for the elderly, which costs the State tens of thousands of dollars?

Any way we slice it, it would appear that the main thrust of the indicators for the SDGs (as it was for the MDGs), is policy-driven, culturally-skewed, working towards the goal of straight-jacketed, conveyor-belt, mass produced, western- interpreted responses that do not leave enough room for existing non-western cultural responses to social issues. Instead, the indicators that are fashioned appear to be designed to undermine, frustrate and invariably destroy those cultural, family-based responses and place the welfare of individuals in the hand of the State. When we look at the western model of social welfare, what can we learn from the shifting of welfare from the family to the State and the inevitable shift in loyalty that goes along with it? What are we learning from the shift of the responsibility of child rearing, child discipline and social emancipation from the family to the State in the United States, for instance? This is the time to review the rules and parameters, engage and debate these issues before the SDG indicators are finalized and foisted on us all. If not, the results are already quite apparent and let’s face it: no one will need to guess who the winners and losers are going to be. After all’s said and done, the big question really is: “How culturally neutral are these indicators?”

 

About the Author

Oluwafunmilola Babalola is an international development executive, social change catalyst and Commentator. She is Managing Editor of Feelnubia.com, a forum for the virtual cultural agglomeration of people of African descent. Feelnubia is a member of Global Health South. To contact her, please send an email to: lola@babalola.eu

The Global Financing Facility

As the world approaches the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the enormous progress that has been made in improving maternal and child health is becoming evident. However, despite the progress, it is equally clear that more remains to be done: far too many newborns, children, adolescents and women die of preventable conditions every year, and far too few have reliable access to quality health services.

There is now an unprecedented global momentum to further accelerate improvements in Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH). Through key global partnerships such as the Partnership on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), the G8 Muskoka Initiative, Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed and the United Nations Secretary-General’s Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) movement, the importance of women`s and children`s health have been put at the center of global development efforts. Building on this momentum, there is now strong support for the concept of “convergence”: accelerating progress in improving the health and quality of life of women, children, and adolescents so that all countries achieve the levels reached by the best-performing middle-income countries. The global interest in RMNCAH is an opportunity to make a final push on the MDGs and ensure a solid foundation for the post-2015 work. To take advantage of this opportunity and ensure more rapid acceleration toward the 2030 convergence targets, these following challenges will need to be addressed:

Significant additional investments are needed from both domestic and international resources to close the funding gap of US$5.24 per capita in 74 high-burden countries in 2015;

  • Financing arrangements undermine equitable and sustained progress as countries transition from low- to middle-income status;
  • The state of civil registration and vital statistics systems remains poor; Global public goods are inadequately financed;
  • Fragmented financing and governance cause high transaction costs, hindering progress at country level.

This Concept Note argues that a Global Financing Facility (GFF) in support of Every Woman Every Child can help drive the transformative change needed to prepare the road to convergence on RMNCAH. The overall goal of the GFF will be to contribute to the global efforts to end preventable maternal, newborn, child and adolescent deaths and improve the health and quality of life of women, adolescents and children. It is estimated that compared with current trends, an accelerated investment scenario would help prevent a total of 4 million maternal deaths, 107 million child deaths, and 21 million stillbirths between 2015 and 2030 in 74 high-burden countries.

The GFF will mobilize and channel additional international and domestic resources required to scale up and sustain efficient and equitable delivery of quality RMNCAH services. Additionally, the GFF will support the transition to long-term sustainable domestic financing for RMNCAH. A special focus area for the GFF will be to support the scale up of civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems to contribute to the universal registration of by 2030.

The GFF has five objectives:

1) Finance national RMNCAH scale-up plans and measure results;
2) Support countries in the transition toward sustainable domestic financing of RMNCAH;
3) Finance the strengthening of civil registration and vital statistics systems;
4) Finance the development and deployment of global public goods essential to scale up;
5) Contribute to a better coordinated and streamlined RMNCAH financing architecture.

The GFF will facilitate a clear strategy for fully-scaled and smart financing of RMNCAH services in different countries. This strategy will be articulated in a financing roadmap informed by a rights-based, results-focused, fully costed RMNCAH national plan linked to national strategies for health and other sectors. The roadmap will provide a comprehensive picture of a country’s immediate and longer-term RMNCAH resource needs and will outline strategies to mobilize the requisite domestic (public and private) and international (bilateral and multilateral) funding over time. The aim is to harmonize funding for RMNCAH plans through a common country financing framework which is linked to clear results and backed by common accountability and reporting mechanisms. The financing roadmaps will be linked to longer-term planning that strengthens domestic resource mobilization and diversifies modalities of development assistance in line with a country’s rate of economic growth.

The GFF will also position itself as a major investor in the financial roadmap through mobilization of development assistance. Specifically, it will build on the existing Health Results Innovation Trust Fund (HRITF) at the World Bank that offers excellent leverage of International Development Association (IDA) and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) resources, good value-for-money in terms of achieving RMNCAH results and low administrative costs. In addition, through a dedicated financing window, the GFF will support the strengthening and scaling-up of CRVS plans contributing to the universal registration of every pregnancy, every birth and every death for every woman and every child. Other financing windows are also envisaged for “multi- sectoral”, “multi-lateral” and “market-shaping” investments.

Three discrete governance capabilities need to be put in place for the further development of the GFF. One relates to the need for effective convening around the development and implementation of the country financing road maps. A second relates to the operations and further development of the GFF windows. And a third relates to the need for an umbrella stewardship that convenes stake-holders, forges consensus amongst domestic and international financiers, reviews progress, and recommends actions to accelerate the achievement of results. With an agreement on the objectives and functions of the GFF, a collaborative business planning process is anticipated in the coming months. The World Bank will play a convening role for the GFF working with partners to further design and operationalize the GFF leading to a formal launch in mid-2015.

A Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health

How are the health workers?

Health workers are “all people engaged in actions whose primary intent is to enhance health” (WHO – World Health Report 2006). This includes physicians, nurses and midwives, but also laboratory technicians, public health professionals, community health workers, pharmacists, and all other support workers whose main function relates to delivering preventive, promotive or curative health services.

Health workers typically operate in collaboration with the wider social service workforce, who is responsible to ensure the welfare and protection of socially or economically disadvantaged individuals and families; a closer integration of the health and social service workforce can also improve long-term care for ageing populations.

Why are health workers important?

Health workers are the core of health systems: without health workers there is no health care. National and global efforts to achieve the health targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the United Nations in 2000 are thwarted in many countries by shortages of health staff, their often inequitable distribution, and gaps in their capacity, motivation and performance. Similarly, the ambitious targets under consideration by the United Nations as part of the Sustainable Development Goals that will replace the MDGs (which include for example eliminating preventable maternal and child deaths), will only be achieved if dramatic improvements are made to strengthen the health workforce.

Isn’t this a problem just for the poorest countries?

Low- and middle-income countries face the most severe challenges in ensuring a sufficient, fit- for-purpose and fit-to-practice health workforce. A recent analysis conducted by the Global Health Workforce Alliance and WHO estimated a gap of 7.2 million professional health workers in 2012, set to rise to 12.9 million over the next decades. The Ebola epidemic in West and Central Africa demonstrates how weak health systems with insufficient health workers are unable to respond to emerging needs. But countries at all levels of socio-economic development face the challenge of how to sustain the human capital required to guarantee universal access and universal health coverage. High-income countries in particular are often over-reliant on migrant health workers from developing countries, and have to plan for the growing needs of their ageing populations.

Goal & Objectives

“How many people were born last year? How many died … and what were the main causes of death? What were their names? How much do health systems cost and what services should they include? How can technology be used most effectively to collect information? How can the global health community manage large volumes of data? Who is responsible for ensuring that all people have access to health care?”

The answers to these and related questions rely on systematic measurement of health data, collaborative partnerships between members of the global health community and an articulation of shared purpose and responsibility.

To that end, the United States Agency for International Development, the World Bank and the World Health Organization are convening a global summit, Measurement and Accountability for Results in Health: A Common Agenda for the Post-2015 Era, in Washington DC at the World Bank Headquarters in June 2015.

Bringing together decision makers and thought leaders representing governments, multilateral agencies and civil society, the Summit will define a new health measurement and accountability strategy, which will articulate a common agenda for the global health community and result in the Roadmap for Health Measurement for the Post-2015 Agenda. The Roadmap will clearly outline smart investments that can be adopted at the country level to strengthen basic measurement systems and align partners and donors around common priorities.