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Doe-eyed and frail, with a mellow voice and a cheery smile, nothing about Sara (not her real name) suggested she had been through ordeal after ordeal in her 22 years. Forcibly married at 15 to a much older man, she discovered after the marriage that her…
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Around this time last year a friend sent me a link to the hilarious "Mother of the Year Award" online video from Momsrising.org. I was on maternity leave, and laughed until I cried at the witty lines about mothering.  I watched it with my two little boys…
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A vibrant democracy with raging debates about health care. A country that prides itself on pioneering medical treatment but continues to see shocking disparities between the wealthy, who can afford expensive, quality care, and the poor, whose access to…
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I gave birth in the developing world, in South Africa, to be precise. South Africa was in the spotlight recently when a government-commissioned report showed a 20 per cent increase in the number of deaths from pregnancy-related causes between 2005 and…
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Ignorance is not bliss - certainly not for a government trying to explain the repeated failure to avert an estimated 100,000 preventable maternal deaths each year. Last month I traveled through rural India to try to understand why so many women there die…
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Moving from guesstimates to information about maternal mortality

When 20-year-old Ranibai, from a poor family in Uttarakhand, began hemorrhaging during pregnancy, the path to treatment was not easy. Her family carried her on a charpai down hilly terrains to a health facility, but she bled to death before they got…
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Ads screaming "Girl or Boy?" are banned in India. Major internet search engines Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have been put on notice to ensure that they do not provide advertising platforms for sex-determining technology. Yet, efforts by prospective…
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The news of the opening of a hospital-based crisis center in Kabwe, Zambia, to address the complex needs of women survivors of sexual and gender-based violence was music to my ears; given that in 2007 I listened to heart-wrenching accounts by Zambian…
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For years now, women’s groups in Southern Africa have campaigned tirelessly to ensure that the Southern African Development Community adopt the Protocol on Gender and Development. Yesterday, the SADC finally took that historic step. Member states will be…
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The Human Rights Council reviewed Zambia’s report under its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism in Geneva last Friday (9 May), and adoption of the report took place this week on Wednesday (14 May). Here in Lusaka, women, including those who…
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As the international Aids conference continues in Barcelona, there is a special and urgent need to protect young girls and women from HIV infection

Aids in Africa ravages millions of lives, those infected as well as those affected. Increased international mobilization, particularly the XIV International Conference on AIDS in Barcelona, is crucial, but one acutely vulnerable group continues to suffer…