The Population Reference Bureau provides periodic highlights of recent activities among its portfolio of projects. We greatly value all of our sponsors and strive to highlight the newest and most recent project activities. However, we will not likely report on all projects in every edition.

IDEA Project (USAID)

Zero Tolerance Day 2012

On Feb. 16, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hosted a high-visibility event at the State Department to add powerful U.S. voices to the ongoing global efforts for the abandonment of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Organized by the State Department, USAID, and PRB, the event featured panelists from around the world and across sectors working on the issue. In addition to Secretary Clinton, speakers included Rep. Joseph Crowley (NY), Ambassador Melanne Verveer of the Office of Global Women’s Issues, and Molly Melching of Tostan. More than 200 people attended, including ambassadors and representatives from Djibouti, Kenya, Gambia, and Mali.

Thanks to extensive publicity and notification to embassies and missions, the event had global reach. This included livestreaming of the event to U.S. embassies in Senegal, Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso, where it was used to launch in-country participation and dialogue. Webchats enabled a global audience of over 100 participants from 15 countries to engage in the FGM/C commemoration speech and panel discussion, including two questions asked from the embassies in Bamako and Dakar. Publicity efforts also paid off in the use of social media. USAID set up a Twitter hashtag (#EndFGM) that generated thousands of tweets, while Facebook posts garnered a total of 645 likes, 12 comments, and five shares.

To further disseminate knowledge about Zero Tolerance Day 2012, PRB created a web package of materials that included links to data, an online discussion, a policy paper, a PowerPoint presentation on FGM/C, and articles, including ones written by many of the Women’s Edition journalists following a trip to Tostan villages in Senegal, where FGM/C has been abandoned. This PRB website feature was provided as a link in all the publicity sent out before the event by the State Department and USAID. And PRB publicized the event to our dozens of international reporters and editors who have taken our media training over the years, generating even more articles and blogs.

FGM/C in Liberia

In March, a Women’s Edition reporter’s article decrying FGM/C ignited a firestorm in Liberia that prompted the government to confirm its efforts to stop the practice. FGM/C is known to be practiced by a secret women’s society in Liberia but is not talked about publicly. The stories on the health risks of FGM/C that followed the journalist’s article broke the silence on the issue. The reporter said she was inspired by a Women’s Edition seminar in November-December 2011 in Senegal, where journalists visited villages that had abandoned FGM/C. The uproar created by the article sent one reporter into hiding, made international headlines, and prompted the reporter to arrange protection for her daughter. It also brought to light the Liberian government’s previously undisclosed efforts to stop the practice, and the Gender Minister confirmed that an agreement had been reached with the women’s secret society that cuts girls to suspend the practice indefinitely.

Malawi Reporting Leads to Action

A Women’s Edition journalist’s work on violence committed by nurses against pregnant women during labor and delivery has raised awareness about the issue in Malawi and moved policymakers into action. Her investigative report and editorial in The Nation spurred a meeting of the National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives, and the Ministry of Health is conducting its own investigations to identify the nurses responsible for the violence. Her reporting focused on Queen Elizabeth Central, the biggest referral hospital in Malawi, but reliable sources confirm that this type of violence is a widespread problem in public hospitals.

Kenya’s National Council for Population and Development

On Feb. 14, the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) organized a key meeting with the government of Kenya, USAID/Kenya, and UNFPA/Kenya to relaunch the country’s focus on family planning as a key strategy to achieving Vision 2030. This event was also used to share NCPD’s new strategic plan and website. In addition, the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation updated their guidelines for family planning and disseminated a new resource outlining the roadmap to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which includes family planning.

During the meeting, the government of Kenya pledged 580 million Kenyan shillings for family planning commodities, an increase of more than 10 percent over the previous year. NCPD has received funding from UNFPA and UNDP to continue radio and TV spots on family planning for the month of March to increase knowledge and demand. NCPD confirmed that the support received from PRB through the Kenya Leading the Way presentation and published materials such as policy briefs played an important role in lobbying for funds to be increased not just to the Ministry of Health but also to NCPD.

Lake Victoria Basin Project

As a key supporting partner of the Health of People and the Environment—Lake Victoria Basin (HoPE-LVB) project, PRB has been actively engaged in providing technical assistance to project staff in policy communication planning, the creation of advocacy materials, and monitoring and evaluation assistance. With input from the project staff and partners, PRB developed the project logo and brochure, and an advocacy presentation on the Lake Victoria Basin, the PHE approach, and the HoPE-LVB project, with the goal of producing tools the team can use and adapt for policy communication.

On March 20-21, 2012, 10 members of the HoPE-LVB advocacy team from Kampala, Kisumu, and Nairobi, as well as two PRB facilitators, gathered for strategic planning for the HoPE-LVB advocacy activities. PRB, using its framework for policy change, facilitated the development of a communication strategy, refining policy communication objectives, outcomes, audiences, and activities for the coming three years. Audiences and activities were specified at the regional, national, and local levels, and were reconciled versus a previous list of advocacy activities that the project had developed.

Media Study Tour in Uganda

From March 22-24, 2012, PRB supported a population, health, and environment media study tour organized by Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) in Bwindi, Uganda. On the tour were eight journalists from various Ugandan print and television outlets, two staff members from the Uganda Health Communications Alliance (UHCA), and one PRB staff member. CTPH staff introduced the group to various aspects of its population, health, and environment program, including the Gorilla Research Clinic, the aquaculture community livelihood project, the Bwindi Community Hospital, the Kayonza Government Health Center, and the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices.

Tour participants also visited the households of community conservation and health volunteers who are trained as community-based distributors of family planning (including Depo-Provera) and attended a volunteer community meeting to hear about community perceptions of the PHE program. UHCA will follow up with the journalists to track all stories that result from this media tour, and to produce a CD with the stories that will be supplied to both CTPH and PRB.

Population and Food Security

A new policy brief examines trends in population growth, fertility, and family planning in sub-Saharan Africa. Population and Food Security: Africa’s Challenge makes the case that investments in women and family planning are necessary to fulfill future food needs. Accompanying the policy brief is a video presentation featuring Jason Bremner, PRB’s program director for Population, Health, and Environment, and a web article entitled “How Changing Age Structure and Urbanization Will Affect Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Population and Economic Development Data Sheet

PRB’s new Population and Economic Development 2012 Data Sheet, with 21 indicators from 140 low- and middle-income countries, presents a complex picture of countries still struggling with economic challenges and inequalities, while others are making significant headway. Data on population, health, and the economy are featured, and there is also a section devoted to internal disparities by wealth. Also included are a PowerPoint presentation and an infographic.

PRB Co-Chairs Youth Coalition

In conjunction with Pathfinder International, PRB is serving as the new co-chair for the Youth, Health and Rights Coalition (YHRC), comprised of advocates and implementers who, in collaboration with young people and adult allies, are working to advance the sexual and reproductive rights and health (SRRH) of adolescents and youth around the world. The YHRC advocates with key decisionmakers to prioritize funding and support for comprehensive adolescent youth SRRH policies and practices.


Policy Communication Workshop in Cairo

In March, PRB’s Middle East and North Africa Program and UNFPA Arab States Regional Office facilitated a seven-day policy communication workshop in Cairo, with 14 participants from Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. The workshop responded to the needs expressed by a number of countries on strengthening their capacities to communicate about reproductive health and supported UNFPA’s mandate to achieve Millennium Development Goal 5—improve maternal health.

The workshop was designed to help participants identify the policy implications of survey data and research findings, understand how research can influence the policy process, and learn skills for data dissemination and communication. Specific activities included: exploring the research-to-policy gap and the fundamentals of the policymaking process; developing a policy-level communication strategy and action plan based on participants’ own research and data; preparing a concise policy brief that summarizes research findings and presents clear policy recommendations based on a case study; learning techniques to communicate to policymakers in both oral and written formats; and creating and delivering oral policy presentations using PowerPoint slides and visuals.

The participants represented a variety of institutions, including NGOs, ministries of health, and academic organizations. Workshop highlights included an enthusiastic group discussion on the assumptions about researchers and policymakers, a lively interactive session with participants delivering a 60-second elevator speech to a “minister” (played by UNFPA’s Maha El-Adawy), a hands-on training exercise to improve the skills of the participants to design effective PowerPoint slides, and an individual policy presentation from each workshop participant.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Population and Poverty Research Network (PopPov)

The Sixth Annual Conference on Population, Reproductive Health, and Economic Development, which was hosted by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, PRB, and the University of Ghana, took place in Accra, Ghana, from Jan. 18-21, 2012. Prominent scientists from around the world gathered to learn about ongoing and completed research on population, reproductive health, and economic development. Participants attended several plenary sessions and meetings, including a panel session that focused on PopPov researchers’ experiences in communicating research to policymakers.

Participants also attended two preconference workshops: a communication workshop that focused on developing and presenting effective oral presentations about research to policy audiences, and a methods workshop that introduced participants to the limitations of correlation-based studies and highlighted various causal inference methods used for cross-sectional data analysis. PRB hosted and organized the PopPov Annual Conference for the first time since assuming the Secretariat responsibilities. A summary of the conference is on the PopPov website.

Call for Proposals

In collaboration with the Hewlett Foundation, PRB issued a call for proposals jointly with the NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development in the Netherlands, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC, UK), and the Research Council of Norway (RCN). The aim of the joint call is to support high-quality scientific research that strengthens the evidence base for policy and practice on how population and reproductive health (P/RH) affect poverty and how investments in P/RH might contribute to reducing poverty and fostering economic development and equity.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

MENA Working Paper Series

Two new working papers focus on sex education in the Middle East and North Africa. Minding the Gap in Alexandria: Talking to Girls in Schools About Reproductive Health presents key findings of a recent study conducted by the Alexandria Regional Centre for Women’s Health and Development, in Egypt, highlighting gaps between female adolescents’ needs for appropriate reproductive health information and what they actually have access to, as expressed by the girls.

Quality Sexual Education Needed for Adolescents in Egyptian Schools presents key findings and some recommendations based on a recent study conducted in three governorates of Egypt: Cairo, Giza, and Gharbia. The study shows that students find what they learn in school about sexual and reproductive health issues to be insufficient, and moreover, teachers and students are shy and embarrassed during these lessons.