Empower women to help save Africa from climate change

Africa must unlock the power of its women and girls if it is to adapt to climate change, cope with disasters and build its green energy sector

That is the message from African delegates as the world prepares to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change in Katowice, Poland, this week.

Research shows that when women are involved in decision making, agreements on the environment are more likely to be ratified and projects around natural resources, such as water, are more likely to succeed. 

If given access to education and finance, African women can contribute to finding technological solutions and driving the continent’s renewable energy industry too. 

“When you empower women in the context of climate change you empower a family, a community and a country,” says Dana Elhassan, senior gender expert at the African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org), which allocates international funds to development projects. 

“You cannot solve a problem with half the team. A lot of the unpaid work that women do, such as collecting firewood and water, and caring for the family, are massively affected by climate change – so we have to make sure adaptation initiatives address their needs, vulnerabilities and potential.”

Women as agents of change

Studies show that when women are part of decision making, ratification of multilateral agreements on the environment are more likely, adds Mafalda Duarte, head of the $8.3 billion Climate Investment Fund, one of the largest climate financing instruments in the world. 

There is also strong evidence that women play a vital role in dealing with disasters by mobilising communities – something that will become increasingly important as climate change advances, she says.  

“Discourse is quite tilted to considering women as victims of climate change – but we are agents of change and if we are perceived as such this will make a big difference,” says Ms Duarte. 

“Our empowerment represents greatly under-utilised opportunities to build our economies and tackle climate change.”

When women are empowered – given access to finance, assets and decision making – there are big impacts across sectors, she adds. 

“Renewable energy is traditionally seen as a male sector but if you are deliberate in giving access to women, they become entrepreneurs and help us push forward that agenda,” says Ms Duarte. 

Women can drive business and technology solutions

When women are empowered equally to men there is a massive leap forward in economic gains: a recent McKinsey study found that if women were participating economically as much as men, they would be adding 28 trillion dollars to global GDP by 2025.

In Africa, lack of access to finance has resulted in an estimated $42 billion financing gap

for women entrepreneurs across business value chains.

Yet unlocking African women’s ingenuity and giving them access to finance could generate technological advancements that help deal with climate change, believes the African Development Bank. 

As mobile phone technology has proven, Africa is capable of leapfrogging into an era of digitisation, which minimises risks and cuts costs of doing business. 

African women have shown potential to compete in this digital work-space – Mfarm, AppsTech, JuaKali, Nandimobile, Hehe Ltd, Obami, DotNxt, are only a few of the women-led tech startups in Africa listed by Forbes.

“If we women are given the right platforms, we will achieve the change we wish to see in the world,” says Ms Duarte. 

Unlocking investment in African women holds incredible return and transformational impact

potential. Women form the backbone of African economies, accounting for a majority of small- and medium-sized businesses and dominating the agriculture sector as primary producers and food processors,

COP24 is the 24th conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This year countries are preparing to implement the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit the world’s global warming to no more than 2C.


Happy birthday wishes to Mrs. Aziz Kamara

The management and staff of Specimen News wish happy birthday to Mrs. Isatu Aziz Kamara!

This medium joins the friends and family in Sierra Leone and the United States of America in congratulating Mrs. Kamara as she celebrate her natal-day today.

BLACK TUESDAY! Asmaa James Foundation Calls for Black Tuesday in Support of Abused Girls

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

The Asmaa James Foundation is urging Sierra Leoneans from all walks of life to wear black on Tuesday,4th December, 2018 to collectively protest against the increase in incidents of rape and abuse against girls below 12 years of age in the small West African country.

ASMAA JAMES: “Wecan no longer watch in silence, it’s time to take action!”

This comes in the wake of an alleged rape through anal sex of a five-year-old girl by her 28-year-old male relative.

“This is getting out of control; it’s insane, horrible and sickening…We must do something about it and urgently too,” says Madam Asmaa James, Founder and President of the Foundation.

She continues: “If you are a frequent listener to our (Gud Morning Salone) program on Radio Democracy 98.1 FM you must have noticed that there’s a daily bulletin on alleged rape cases of minors by adult men allover the country. This is a worrying trend for the future of our women folk in particular and our country in general. We need to unite to put a stop to this now.”

The Foundation is pursuing the case of the five-year-old with the help of L.A.W.Y.E.R.S (Legal Access through Women Yearning for Equality Rights and Social Justice), an organization of female legal practitioners who use the law to protect and promote the rights of women and girls in Sierra Leone by providing free legal advice and court representation on a range of matters including matrimonial disputes,maintenance, sexual and domestic violence.

“If offenses of such nature are committed with impunity, then we have failed our children and generations unborn. We want justice under the law for this little girl and every other victim of sexual penetration. We at L.A.W.Y.E.R.S will not relent,we shall pursue the course of justice for this child,” says Mrs. Fatmata Sorie, President of L.A.W.Y.E.R.S.

Madam James visited the girl at the hospital and found her on her bed with a catheter (medical tube) to help her get comfort. She learnt that the girl couldn’t walk because her spine has been damaged allegedly due to the forceful penetration of her anal. Doctors say she has little chance of ever walking again.

“I was dumbfounded,devastated and enraged for the whole day,” recounts Madam James. “How could a man have anal sex with a girl of five? was the question I kept asking myself.This is sad, selfish, barbaric and inhuman and requires all of us – men and women, young and old- to speak up against this dastardly act. The future of this poor girl is ruined for life. As I watched her struggle on her bed with her innocent looks, I cannot fathom that we still have men like this parading our communities in this 21st Century.”

The parents of the five-year-old girl are more devastated and they couldn’t even muster the courage to speak about the incident.

According to the hospital management, this is the fourth case of alleged rape involving girls below 10 years that they have to deal with in the last 10 months or so. 

“Sexual violence against minors is a national problem, a problem that is bigger than what we think, and needs urgent attention. We need collective and urgent action now. It is in this spirit that we are calling on everybody to wear black on Tuesday, to register a resounding protest and to raise awareness against rape and violence against women, especially minors,” appealed Madam James.

In 2007 Sierra Leone enacted 3 landmark gender laws and Child Rights Act, and a subsequent Sexual Offences Act in 2012 to protect and promote the rights, welfare and dignity of the country’s women and girls, who constitute slightly more than half of the national population.

As the international campaign of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence to challenge violence against women and girls gets underway, Madam James notes that such horrible acts against girls must also be looked into through the lenses of gross human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, the Asmaa James Foundation, under the hashtag #16DaysofActivism#ProtectourGirlsnow, is appealing to Sierra Leoneans and well-meaning organisations for their moral,financial and social support in its campaign for urgent action against abuse of girls.

“We can no longer watch in silence, it’s time to take action,” Madam James challenges her compatriots. 

Experimental treatment for preeclampsia effective in animals, NIH-funded researchers show

Preeclampsia affects the blood flow to the placenta, often leading to smaller or prematurely born babies.

In studies of mice and nonhuman primates, researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have used a technique known as RNA interference to reduce high levels of a protein that can cause preeclampsia, a potentially fatal high blood pressure disorder of pregnancy.

The study appears in Nature Biotechnology and was supported by NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the NIH Common Fund.

Preeclampsia can result from overproduction of the protein sFlt1 in the placenta. The protein circulates in the bloodstream and acts like a decoy—binding to compounds that would otherwise attach to receptors on blood vessel walls. Deprived of these compounds, the blood vessels deteriorate, leading to the dangerously high blood pressure in the woman and depriving the fetus of essential oxygen and nutrients. Although preeclampsia often can be treated, it has no cure, other than immediate delivery of the fetus.

In the current study, researchers used snippets of modified RNA to block the messenger RNA needed to produce sFlt1. Using the technology, the researchers reduced circulating sFLT1 levels in pregnant mice by 50 percent. Similarly, the researchers used this RNA interference technique to reduce sFLT1 levels in pregnant baboons with a laboratory-induced form of preeclampsia, restoring the animals’ blood pressure to normal levels and eliminating the abnormal quantities of urinary protein that occurs in the condition. Offspring of the mice and the baboons showed no apparent ill effects from the treatment. The researchers add that additional studies to refine the technology in baboons are needed before studies in humans can begin.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): NICHD conducts and supports research in the United States and throughout the world on fetal, infant and child development; maternal, child and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

Merck Foundation marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com), the philanthropic arm of Merck Germany, on Monday marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and also marks the start of the “16 Days of Activism” that precedes Human Rights Day on December 10 each year.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation with Jackline, the victim of infertility stigma and her baby, during her visit to her house

Through their “Merck more than a Mother” campaign, Merck Foundation wishes to empower infertile women against all sorts of discrimination, abuse and psychological & physical violence due to their inability to bear children.

“Together with our partners and our ambassadors, we can create a culture shift to sensitize all communities to respect women whether they are mothers or not. Women are more than Mothers, this is what we stand for. No for violence against women and #NoForInfertilityStigma. Merck Foundation marks the International Day for Elimination of Domestic Violence against Women today and every day as part of our daily activities to empower infertile women through access to information, health, change of mindset and economic empowerment so that they can be independent and stronger” emphasizes Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President of Merck more than a Mother.

Watch the story of Merck Foundation CEO visit to Jackline Mwende, the victim of infertility Stigma. She was abused and accused of being unable to bear a child. Although she was not the one with the infertility problem – it was her husband. Yet he refused to get treated and abused her. He chopped off both her hands trying to kill her. Merck Foundation empowered and helped her to start her new life, new home and a new supermarket to lead a good life. She became the “Merck more than a Mother” heroine.

World leaders pledge US$1 billion to transform health and nutrition of world’s poorest women, children and adolescents


The Global Financing Facility (GFF) in Support of Every Woman Every Child on Tuesday announced US$1.005 billion in contributions from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Burkina Faso, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire the European Commission, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Laerdal Global Health, the Netherlands, Norway, Qatar and the United Kingdom.

This will help the GFF partnership on the pathway toward expanding to as many as 50 countries with the greatest health and nutrition needs and contribute to saving and improving millions of lives by 2030. The event today was an important milestone toward the goal of raising as much as US$2 billion to expand to a total of 50 countries; the GFF is expecting additional pledges from new and existing investors who are considering new multi-year commitments.

The GFF is a catalyst for health financing that is helping countries to transform how they invest in women, children and adolescents because for too long, their health and nutrition has been chronically and persistently de-prioritized and underfunded—resulting in the preventable deaths of 5 million women and children every year. The GFF helps countries in three specific ways: developing an investment case and implementation plan prioritizing reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition and a strong primary health care system;  strengthening a country-led platform that aligns all key stakeholders around a prioritized health and nutrition plan; and  working with countries to mobilize and coordinate the financial resources needed to accelerate progress for the most vulnerable populations in the hardest-to-reach regions.

“Today there is great hope that the world’s poorest countries can build healthy, vibrant futures where no woman, child or youth is left behind. The GFF partnership is effective and efficient—working with countries to develop the capacity to build and sustain the health systems their women and children need to survive and thrive,” said Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and Co-Chair of the Sustainable Development Goals Advocates.

More than 2 billion people live in countries that spend less than $25 per capita on health. This is less than a third of what is needed for countries to provide basic, life-saving health services for their people. Through working with the GFF, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and other GFF-supported countries have shown that it is possible for all countries to improve their future and invest in the most vulnerable people in their societies by increasing investment in health. It also demonstrates that generous, but relatively small financial contributions can—when aligned and spent catalytically and efficiently in support of national investment cases—have exponential impact by mobilizing additional financing and saving millions of lives.

Ten new investors—Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Denmark, the European Commission, Germany, Japan, Laerdal Global Health, the Netherlands, Qatar and an anonymous donor—have joined since the launch of the Global Financing Facility replenishment. They join existing funders the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada, MSD for Mothers, Norway, and the United Kingdom to fund the GFF to improve the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents.

– US$1 billion pledged to the GFF Trust Fund in Oslo today is expected to link to an additional US$7.5 billion in IDA/IBRD resources for women, children and adolescents’ health and nutrition.

– Burkina Faso reaffirmed its commitment to allocating at least 15% of its annual budget to improve health; Côte d’Ivoire committed to increasing its health budget 15% annually; and Nigeria recommitted to investing US$150 million per year from its budget to sustainably finance health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents.

– US$1 billion will help the GFF partnership on the pathway toward expanding to as many as 50 countries with the greatest needs, to transform how health and nutrition are financed. Alongside other global health initiatives, this can contribute to saving and improving millions of lives by 2030.

In Oslo, Burkina Faso reaffirmed its commitment to allocating at least 15% of its annual budget to improve health; Côte d’Ivoire committed to increasing its health budget 15% annually; and Nigeria recommitted to investing US$150 million per year from its budget to sustainably finance health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents. Increasing domestic resources is an integral focus of GFF-supported countries.

“The GFF is about country-ownership—working with countries to set priorities, and drive domestic resource mobilization. These are the GFF’s great strengths. It makes the most compelling case for why countries must lead and put their own money on the table, and it reinforces the prioritization of resource allocation for basic social sectors, particularly the health sector,” said Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, President of Burkina Faso.

Donors and countries today responded to an urgent need for countries to transform health financing in order to accelerate progress on universal health coverage and to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets of ending preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths and improving the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents.

“In 2018, all mothers should be able to protect their own health, and the health of their babies and children. But each day, 830 women die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth and 450,000 children under five die needlessly every month,” said Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank. “The GFF brings bold new thinking that aims to end this injustice through smart interventions and coordinated finance that can transform the health, wellbeing and life-chances of women, children and adolescents in developing countries.”

Today the World Bank, which hosts the GFF, announced that in just the last three years, US$482 million in funding from the GFF Trust Fund had been linked to US$3.4 billion in funding from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). The US$1.005 billion pledged to the GFF Trust Fund in Oslo today is expected to link to an additional US$7.5 billion in IDA/IBRD resources for women, children and adolescents’ health and nutrition.

Additionally, in partnership with the GFF, the World Bank announced that the World Bank Treasury had launched a series of Sustainable Development Bonds to raise awareness among investors of the significant and long-lasting benefits of investing in the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents, and that these have raised US$935 million since June 2018. These bonds bring private capital into the IBRD financing pool and serve as an entry point for investors to become aware of the growing opportunities in sustainable investments. To reduce barriers for countries to access these funds, the GFF provides co-financing and loan buy-down grants that enable governments to catalyze public and private funds for investing in the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents.

A recent peer-reviewed study published in The BMJ Global Health—reflecting the combined efforts that contribute to bending the curve on maternal, newborn and child mortality rates, including by the GFF; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; UNAIDS; FP2020; and other partners—estimated that countries can save as many as 35 million lives by 2030 if global health investment continues to grow at current rates and if other global health initiatives hit targets, and if the GFF partnership can extend its reach and help all 50 countries with the greatest health and nutrition needs. It also estimated that the GFF Trust Fund financing had the potential to mobilize as much as an additional US$50-75 billion for women, children and adolescents’ health and nutrition, 70% of which would be from countries’ domestic resources.

“Healthy women, children and adolescents contribute to a virtuous cycle,” said Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “With health comes the ability to go to school and learn, which helps people prosper as adults, who are then able to raise empowered children who continue the cycle. That’s why the GFF is such a great investment.”

With the commitments announced today, a total of $US1.005 billion in commitments has been raised for the 2019-2023 replenishment period, which aims to raise US$2 billion in total to expand the GFF to reach a total of 50 countries.

“Today we are on the cusp of transformative change in global health when no woman, child or adolescent will be left behind. The GFF partnership is helping countries to transform the futures of their people by embedding the prioritization of health culturally, politically and financially. Supporting leaders around the world to make these changes is vital and we are thrilled today to have the support of so many to make this vision a reality,” said Mariam Claeson, Director of the GFF.

The GFF was founded in 2015 by the World Bank, the governments of Canada and Norway, the United Nations and other partners. As a pathfinder for innovative financing of the SDGs the GFF is helping to address the unfinished agenda of women, children and adolescents’ health and nutrition and to close the financing gap.

African Union Chairperson Appoints African union Youth Envoy

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, on Thursday appointed Ms. Aya Chebbi from Tunisia as his Envoy for the Youth.

DpDV2UuV4AAlE08This appointment is a follow-up to the relevant decisions of the African Union policy organs and part of the continental efforts to harness the demographic dividend, empower young people across Africa, and further mobilize them in pursuit of the aspirations outlined in Agenda 2063.

Ms. Chebbi was selected following an open and rigorous process involving the review of hundreds of applications by a Panel made up of representatives of the African Union Commission, the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, Regional Economic Communities and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. She brings with her a proven track record in advocacy and youth mobilization, with a view to effecting positive change.

As part of her mandate, and in support of the Commission’s efforts, the Youth Envoy will serve as spokesperson of the African youth to the relevant African Union decision-making bodies. She will advocate, and raise awareness on, the implementation of the Demographic Dividend Roadmap, which was adopted by the 2017 African Union Heads of State and Government Summit, and the 2006 African Youth Charter.

She will work in close collaboration with nine other members of the Youth Advisory Council designated by the Chairperson of the Commission, taking into account gender and regional representation requirements. She and the Advisory Council will engage with, and be supported by, relevant Departments of the Commission and other African Union entities, as well as youth organisations across the continent.

The Chairperson reaffirms the determination of the Commission to work towards the effective implementation of all African Union instruments relating to the youth. In January 2019, the Commission intends to organize a forum that will mark the formal launching of the activities of the Youth Envoy and the Advisory Council.