KR: It is easy to focus on economic empowerment issues—especially education—and lose sight of the fact that only a healthy girl can become a productive member of society. How do we combine economic initiatives with health projects to get the maximum bang for the buck?
JB: You've said it! We need holistic solutions that aren't "one-offs!" We need to combine low-cost safe spaces where girls can come together and receive valuable information, education, skills training and financial assistance combined with healthcare and information. No one prospers in his or her life from just one intervention. The Nike/NoVo portfolio of grants is full of combinations of interventions mixing health and economic investments in girls in places that are low cost and highly effective.
ME: There is a significant relationship between adolescent health and a broad range of social outcomes. "Start with a Girl: A New Agenda for Global Health" offers substantive recommendations to the global health community that will have a transformative impact on the healthcare landscape. Place adolescent girls at the center of international and national action and investment on maternal health. Support research on the risk factors and translate evidence into programming to reduce mortality. Earmark funding for girls. Focus HIV prevention on adolescent girls. Support efforts to transform harmful social norms. Educate girls about avoiding HIV/AIDS, and work with boys and men to change their behaviors. Make secondary school completion a priority for adolescent girls—secondary school is a key determinant of good health. Governments, the private sector and donors must extend facilities, offer scholarships or cash transfers to disadvantaged girls and create open-learning programs.
KR: What are both of you looking forward to in 2010?
ME: The foundation has spent the past six years finding, funding, designing and refining the best models of investments in girls. In 2010, it will be about reaching scale. One way we're doing this is through innovative partnerships. This is an issue owned by all of us and we won't make progress unless we work together. The foundation has established key partnerships that bring investing in girls to the center and focus on bringing programs to scale to impact real systemic change. These include the World Bank's $20 million Adolescent Girls Initiative and the U.K. Agency for International Development's $20 million Girl Hub initiative.
JB: It takes time to be very sure and clear about your particular role and assess the unique opportunities right for you as a funder. It also takes time to be strategic in one's choices and able to know that you can commit to these areas for the long term. We are finally there and have a sense of clarity that we hoped for. We value humility and this will be a continuous and organic process of learning every day that we have the opportunity to work through the NoVo Foundation. I am looking forward to the deepening and broadening of this work and seeing millions more girls and women worldwide safe, prospering and empowered.
PSI is a leading global health organization with programs targeting malaria, child survival, HIV and reproductive health. Working in partnership within the public and private sectors and harnessing the power of the markets, PSI provides life-saving products, clinical services and behavior-change communications that empower the world's most vulnerable populations to lead healthier lives. Learn more at PSI.org.
Kate Roberts is PSI's vice president of corporate marketing and communications, where she oversees internal and external communications strategies, corporate partnerships and branding. She founded YouthAIDS and Five & Alive, two marketing campaigns that aim to raise funds and awareness about PSI's HIV/AIDS and child survival programs.
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