Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Abstinence doesn’t do the trick

This blog, written by Wikichild co-ordinator Melinda Deleuze, discusses the negative impact that adolescent pregnancies can have on the child, the mother and all of society. It is a contribution to the last day of the Wikiprogress spotlight on the Wikigender Network.

When I was 16 years old, I had one week of sex education required by my American high school. However, my state’s curriculum revolved around abstinence as the preferred means of birth control, along with fear as the method to encourage restraint until marriage. In my class, at least one girl, aged 15, already had an abortion before taking the course, and one boy, also aged 15, was a father. The course provided too little, too late. YES, abstinence has a 100% success rate. YES, it is the best way to avoid catching a sexually transmitted infection. NO, I’m not surprised that the US ranks second to last among the rich countries for number of teen births: 36 per 1,000 births among 15-19 year old girls (read more in this blog). 

Rich countries vs. the US in teen births (per 1,000 15-19 years old)
*Legend: In the lefthand graph, the UNICEF 
colors  represent the first, second and third 
Teen births per 1,000 15-19 year olds
Data from UNICEF's 11th Report Card and KIDS COUNT Data Book

tiers of countries' ranking. In the graph on the right, the colors match states with the country tiers. In this case,  the darkest blue indicates the 21 states which have a higher rate of teen births than the lowest ranking country (i.e. Bulgaria).

This year’s UN World Population Day focused on adolescent pregnancies, a persistent occurrence in both developing and developed countries. Around 16 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 give birth each year, according to the WHO. While there may be varying opinions on this issue, the fact is that adolescent pregnancies gravely affect the teen mother, the child and the rest of society (i.e. you and me). Despite misleading perceptions, these consequences can occur among married and unmarried adolescents in developed and developing countries for both intended and unintended pregnancies.

 How does it affect the well-being of the child?

The immediate health of children born to adolescent mothers is at risk, and the younger the mother, the higher the risk. This WHO Report states that “in low- and middle-income countries, stillbirths and death in the first week and first month of life are 50% higher among babies born to mothers younger than 20 years than those born to mothers aged 20–29 years.” Also, babies born to adolescent mothers are more likely to be pre-term, have a lower birth weight and have asphyxia, which all increase the baby’s chance of death or future health problems. Substance abuse during pregnancy is higher among adolescent girls, which contributes to a higher percentage of low birth-weight babies and infant mortality, along with other health issues.

How does it affect the well-being of the young mother?

First of all, the health of young mothers is severely compromised, as pregnant teenagers face double the risk of dying from pregnancy-related complications relative to women in their 20s.* This UNFA report summary states that “across developing countries, complications from pregnancy and unsafe abortion are the leading cause of death for girls aged 15-19.The younger the mother, the more she is at risk of maternal complications, death and disability, including obstetric fistula. Up to 65% of women with obstetric fistula developed this during adolescence, says this WHO Report. Additionally, adolescent pregnancies are at higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases. Younger girls are less likely to practice safe sex and make up 64% of all new infections among young people worldwide, states this UNFPA factsheet.

Additionally, adolescent pregnancy contends with secondary education. In developed countries, motherhood during adolescent years increases girls’ chances of dropping out of school. In the United States, teen mothers are 10% less likely to obtain a high school diploma, as shown in this UNFPA report summary. Whereas in developing countries, the longer girls remain in school, the less likely they are to become pregnant in their teens. In Timor-Leste, for example, total fertility rates vary from 6 to1 ratio births per woman with no education to only 2 to 9 ratio births for women with secondary schooling or above, as indicated in this Women Deliver background paper. Delaying childbearing also increases chances of obtaining a higher income and better careers, among with other aspects of well-being, such as mental and psychological.

How does it affect the overall well-being of society?

Adolescent pregnancies concern us all as they negatively impact the development of a society. This UNFPA report summary states that “investing in family planning helps reduce poverty, improve health, promote gender equality, enable adolescents to finish their schooling and increase labour force participation.” In the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for this year’s World Population Day, he stated that “when we devote attention and resources to the education, health and well-being of adolescent girls, they will become an even greater force for positive change in society that will have an impact for generations to come.”

I’m grateful that the World Population Day addressed adolescent pregrancy. While we often talk about maternal and infant mortality rates, as well as low birth-weight babies, we overlook at times this major proponent. I hope that there can be more open conversations with teens in order to overcome some of the obstacles to preventing teen pregnancies. And believe me, teaching abstinence just doesn't do the trick.

Melinda Deleuze

* Gennari, Pamela, J. 2013. “Adolescent Pregnancy in Developing Countries.” International Journal of Childbirth Education 28:57

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Five ways to a happy childhood?

This blog is written by Saamah Abdallah, a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Well-being, and is part of the Wikiprogress Series on child well-being. It explains how the Children's Society used nef's Five Ways to Well-being to children in its Good Childhood Report 2013, as well as highlights some of the key findings.

Five years ago, nef launched the Five Ways to Well-being – five easy evidence-based things individuals can build into their daily lives to improve their well-being – as part of the Foresight Review of Mental Capital and Well-being produced by the Government Office for Science. They are Connect, Be Active, Take notice, Keep Learning and Give. The five ways have had a phenomenal success across the globe from Norway to New Zealand, and can be found on billboards in South London, and on the NHS Choices website.

But the Five Ways evidence was mostly based on studies on adults. So, the Children’s Society, who have set the standard for the well-being agenda for children, asked nef to help them explore the relevance of the Five Ways for those under 16. They used a combination of survey data, asking around 1,500 children about their behaviour (to see whether they engage in the five ways) and their well-being, and focus groups, directly asking children to explore how the Five Ways might improve their lives.

Last week, the Children’s Society launched the Good Childhood Report 2013, which presents this data for the first time (take a look at chapter 4). Overall, the evidence showed the Five Ways to Well-being to be important to children – those carrying them out reporting high levels of well-being. In regression analyses, certain activities seemed to be particularly important: noticing one’s surroundings (Take Notice), talking to family members about things that matter (Connect), playing sports (Be Active) and teaching yourself new things (Keep Learning). For example, children who reported noticing and enjoying their surroundings all of the time were on average in the top 25% of well-being scores, whereas those that reported never doing so were on average in the bottom 20%.
As telling as the relationships we found to be strong, are those that weren’t so strong. For example, whilst seeing friends was very important to well-being, chatting to friends on the phone or through social websites, had no effect whatsoever on well-being. Might Facebook’s intention to allow children under 12 to use the website encourage more to carry out this well-being neutral activity? Meanwhile, the evidence on Give was mixed – helping around the house was associated with higher well-being, but volunteering (which few kids did) wasn’t.
In a more detailed report which the Children’s Society and nef will publish later this summer, we will also present findings on the relationship between the Five Ways and socio-economic status. Preliminary evidence suggests that children in the bottom income quartile carry out fewer five ways activities than those in the top income quartile, despite the fact that most of the activities can be free or very cheap (e.g. reading books or playing sports).
The evidence from the focus groups suggested, however, that the biggest barrier to children carrying out Five Ways activities was lack of permission from parents or guardians. The Children’s Society have already highlighted the importance of autonomy and independence for children, and these data show how a society of over-protectiveness may be preventing children from doing things which could improve their well-being, such as seeing their friends, cycling to school, or simply kicking around a football in the park.

This blog first appeared on the nef blog 22 July, 2013.
Click here to view the full Good Childhood Report 2013.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Les inégalités au cœur du développement (non) durable

This blog, written by Rémi Genevey and Laurence Tubiana, is part of the Wikiprogress series on Post-2015. The blog stresses the need to integrate the reduction of inequalities into the Sustainable Development Goals' agenda in post-2015, because doing so is the key to making our development trajectories more sustainable.

Dans un peu plus de deux ans, les gouvernements de la planète devront définir des objectifs de développement durable « orientés vers l’action, concrets, concis et faciles à comprendre, en nombre limité, ‘aspirationnels’, d’envergure mondiale et susceptibles d’être appliqués universellement dans tous les pays », selon l’engagement pris au sommet de Rio en juin 2012. Le délai est extraordinairement serré au regard de l’ampleur de la tâche et de l’acuité des enjeux. Quels objectifs de développement durable seraient susceptibles de rallier tous les suffrages dans un délai si court ? Un problème commun à tous les pays émerge depuis dix ans, avec des conséquences néfastes sur la soutenabilité des modèles de développement : le creusement des inégalités. D’une manière ou d’une autre, le développement durable devra intégrer la réduction des inégalités dans son agenda. Non comme une fin en soi, mais comme un moyen de rendre nos trajectoires de développement plus durables. 

 Les effets du creusement contemporain des inégalités font l’objet d’un intérêt croissant des économistes. L’édition 2013 de Regards sur la Terre* rassemble quelques contributions saillantes sur la question. D’abord, l’évolution des inégalités de revenus dans le monde connaît un grand retournement depuis un peu plus de dix ans. Pendant deux siècles, les inégalités entre nations se sont accrues, tandis qu’elles se stabilisaient, voire déclinaient à l’intérieur des pays. Cette histoire pluri séculaire a pris fin au tournant du siècle : désormais, les inégalités de revenus entre pays se résorbent et les inégalités internes s’accroissent. 

Ce renversement sans précédent a des conséquences considérables sur l’état de notre planète et de nos sociétés. Le rattrapage économique s’accompagne d’une hausse des revenus et des salaires moyens, ce qui considéré sans plus de détails est évidemment une très bonne nouvelle ; mais il exerce également une pression accrue sur nos écosystèmes. La planète a ses limites qu’ignorent encore nos instruments de mesure tels que le PIB. À modes de consommation et de production inchangés, la course à la croissance - peu importe ici qui la gagne - est une course à l’épuisement. 

Ce renversement modifie également les rapports de force entre pays et les modalités des négociations multilatérales. On ne négocie plus entre quelques puissantes nations de l’OCDE, mais entre coalitions de pays du Nord et du Sud, de l’Est et de l’Ouest, à revenus convergents. Maintenant que les rapports de force s’équilibrent, négocie-t-on mieux ou moins bien l’infléchissement de nos trajectoires de développement ? Voici l’une des questions ouvertes par ce « grand retournement », qui reste sans réponse claire pour l’instant. Une chose est certaine,  ce rééquilibrage favorise des modes de coordination faibles, où l’autonomie des choix nationaux l’emporte sur la recherche de normes globales.

Les  conséquences des inégalités internes sont d’un autre ordre. Les modèles de croissance très inégalitaires semblent bel et bien les moins résilients, dans la mesure où ils affaiblissent le consensus des citoyens autour des biens communs au profit de l’appropriation privée. A l’opposé,  les modes de consommation des derniers déciles de revenus ont un effet d’entraînement mimétique sur les classes moyennes, la plupart du temps défavorable à l’environnement. La consommation accrue d’eau, d’énergie, d’aliments ou de biens matériels, quel qu’en soit le bénéfice réel, est perçue comme positive, tandis que la recherche d’efficacité, de découplage entre la croissance économique et la consommation de ressources, apparaît comme potentiellement régressive. Enfin, les inégalités et le sentiment d’injustice freinent ou rendent illégitimes les politiques environnementales, perçues comme un fardeau supplémentaire par les oubliés de la croissance.   

La question des inégalités occupe aujourd’hui une place centrale dans les débats sur le développement durable et ce que l’on nomme l’agenda de développement « post-2015 ». L’ignorer au nom du réalisme (réduire les inégalités est complexe…) serait se priver d’une de ses vertus essentielles : elle offre une clé au développement durable. Car elle n’est pas qu’une question sociale, elle a des conséquences sur  la résilience de nos modèles de croissance, sur notre capacité à protéger la biodiversité ou à mettre en place une transition énergétique et écologique. En bref, sur notre capacité à tenir nos engagements. 

Rémi Genevey, directeur de la stratégie à l’Agence française de développement (AFD)
Laurence Tubiana, professeur à Sciences Po Paris , directrice de l’Institut du développement durable et des relations internationales (Iddri)

This blog first appeared in Tribune on 18 July, 2013. 

* Regards sur la Terre 2013, de Rémi Genevey, Rajendra Kumar Pachauri et Laurence Tubiana, éditions Armand Colin, paru le 10 avril 2013, 384 pages.

Friday, 26 July 2013

WIR Africa: land grabs; FGM/C; MDG Report; tropical disease

This Week-in-Review is part of the Wikiprogress Series on its Networks, highlighting Wikiprogress Africa.

Hello everyone and welcome to another Africa-themed review of progress articles, reports and initiatives. Among this week’s highlights:
  • Securing Africa's Land for Shared Prosperity. This World Bank publication on land administration and reform in Sub-Saharan Africa provides simple practical steps to turn the hugely controversial subject of "land grabs” into a development opportunity. Poor land governance perpetuates and traps people into poverty, according to the report, which stipulates a ten point program to scale up policy reforms and investments in a way mutually beneficial to land owners and investors.
  • Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change by UNICEF shows that female genital mutilation/cutting is a declining phenomenon globally. Teenage girls are less likely to have been cut than older women in more than half of the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where it is concentrated. The paper identifies intriguing trends in who is performing the cutting, the severity of it and people’s attitudes toward it. Extracting data from the report, the Guardian produced an interactive map of female genital mutilation/cutting, showing where in the world it is most prevalent and what the main variations are between countries. 
See video below on FGM/C in the Côte d'Ivoire.
Romina Rodrigue Pose, one of the authors, highlights the main points of the report in this blog post 
and shares her personal experience of the field research through this slideshow (below).

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
  • The Skoll World Forum asked a handful of speakers their reflections about the timely issues in international development and how they can be addressed. Among them, Mthuli Ncube, Chief Economist of the AfDB, states in this post how governance and country ownership are important for development progress. He argues that there is consensus that good governance should build on effective states, mobilising civil society and efficient private sectors – three factors which are critical for sustained development.
  • How Africa's natural resources can lift millions out of poverty. In this article, Caroline Kende-Robb, Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel report, bases her points on the recently released Africa Progress Report 2013: Equity in Extractives. She states that natural resources can lift millions of African out of poverty through transparency in the concession deals, tackling tax avoidance and evasion, and inclusion of citizens in the decision-making process. The revenues of these natural resources when spent on education, health and job-creating policies can sensibly improve the quality of life of individuals, as was the case with Botswana, which passed from a poor to stable, democratic and upper middle-income country in 40 years.

We hope you enjoyed this review. Stay tuned the same time next week for another read on the week that was.

Yours in progress,