I don’t want a world where all children are healthy, happy and safe to be just a dream. I want it to be reality: Hannah Godefa

Canada mobilizes support for innovation, integrated action for youngest children

#EveryNewborn

Mother and child at Wukro Clinic
Improving newborn and child health also depends on better accountability — and more thorough accounting. Wukro Clinic, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2009/Tuschman

Toronto/Addis Ababa, 29 May 2014 – Every minute, 10 babies die or are stillborn across the world, a staggering 5.5 million lives ended every year just as they start.  The majority of those deaths are from preventable causes, including prematurity, childbirth complications and newborn infections.

While child death rates have been reduced by almost half since 1990, newborn mortality has increased as a proportion of overall of child mortality, as highlighted by papers published in The Lancet earlier this month.

“We are succeeding in rapidly reducing child mortality because we have made it a global priority, with a commitment to innovation, partnership, and equity,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.   “We need the same global commitment, and the same political will, to reduce newborn mortality — working together to find new ways of reaching every family.”

Poorer families bear the greatest burden of newborn deaths.  If current trends continue, it will take over a century before a baby in the Central African Republic has the same chances of survival as a baby born in Canada.

Lake hailed Canada’s leadership in galvanizing global support to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality.  The Toronto Summit will explore the most effective ways to speed up progress on newborn, child and health.

“The fact that not all children and young people around the world have access to critical health care is unacceptable. It must change,” said UNICEF Ethiopia National Ambassador, Hannah Godefa, who was the only young person to speak at the Summit. “I hope we can redouble our efforts and be catalysts for change. I urge all of you today to renew your promise to the women and children of the world and commit to taking concrete action to ending the preventable deaths of women and children. Because I don’t want a world where all children are healthy, happy and safe to be just a dream. I want it to be reality.” she added.

Improving newborn and child health also depends on better accountability — and more thorough accounting.

In 2012 alone, around two out of five births worldwide were not registered. Around the world, nearly 230 million children under age five have never been recorded – meaning they do not have the legal identity they need to access health, education and other services. And the numbers will rise unless action is taken.

But increasing the number of children registered at birth enables governments to improve the planning and budgeting of life-saving interventions, and to summon the political will and civil society support that is needed to meet targets.

“This year we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Millions of children are still being deprived of the most precious right — the right to survive,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.  “We must reach every family, every woman, every child, and every newborn.”

 

Teach a girl, enrich the world

By Erna Solberg and Hannah Godefa, Special to CNN

See original content on CNN

Editor’s note: Erna Solberg is prime minister of Norway and co-chair of the U.N. Secretary General’s Millennium Development Goals Advocates. Hannah Godefa is UNICEF National Ambassador for Ethiopia. The views expressed are their own. This is the latest in a series of articles ahead of a special GPS show from Davos this Sunday.

As the humanitarian crises in South Sudan and Syria and Central African Republic continue to unfold, girls are once again caught in the cross-fire. Murdered by soldiers, killed or sexually assaulted as they flee, their lives are being ravaged by wars they did not start. Once again, they are the victims of somebody else’s dispute, subjected to sexual violence by those hoping to achieve their military and political goals.

How much more are we willing to stand?

Currently 28.5 million children in conflict-affected countries are out of school, more than half of them are girls. It is not just their security, but their education and hope for a better life that are being ruined.

But these girls don’t need to be faceless, voiceless statistics. They can be victors, like Malala, who captivated us when she bravely stood up for her right to education, changing the way we think about young girls and their rights.

The key is investing in girls’ potential, something that can be a win-win for everyone – enabling female participation in local economies can accelerate the fight against poverty, inequity and gender disparity. When you educate a girl, you educate a nation.
This is one of the key messages we, the prime minister of Norway and a 16-year-old UNICEF National Ambassador for Ethiopia, will deliver this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos as we encourage those gathered to “reshape the world” by putting young girls first. We will raise our voices to galvanize the crucial support needed to change attitudes and transform the lives of the countless Malalas, standing together to ensure that these girls are neither invisible nor forgotten.

We are two very different women from different generations, cultures and countries, but like millions of other women and men out there, we agree on this: invest in girls. The question is, is anyone really listening to such calls? After all, we’ve been talking about giving girls equal access to education, employment and healthcare for the past three decades. Will the international community – government, business and the general public – finally take much needed action?

Educated girls and women have smaller families and healthier children, are less likely to die in childbirth, are more likely to see their children survive past the age of 5, are more likely to send their children to school, and are better able to protect themselves and their children from malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, trafficking, and sexual exploitation. Education empowers women, multiplying their economic choices and contributions, and increasing their political voice and influence across the board.

The numbers don’t lie. For every year a girl stays in school and learns, her future earnings increase hugely. An extra year of primary school education, for example, boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. A one percentage point increase in female secondary education raises the average level of GDP by 0.3 percentage points. Does anyone need more convincing?
In today’s hyper-networked world, we are witnessing unprecedented shifts in traditional power dynamics, and we will all end up impoverished if we remain complicit to girls being denied their right to a better future. Denying girls their rights – whether it be for social, cultural, or economic reasons – means that half the world’s population is prevented from fully contributing to its own economic growth and well-being and to that of local communities.

The voices calling for action are not just ours, but have been heard echoing around the world in the United Nations’ MY World survey on people’s development priorities, as well as in the action agenda laid out in the Girl Declaration. When girls and women across the developing world have been asked what they want for their future, the resounding answer is: education, jobs, healthcare and security.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been critical in galvanizing progress around gender equality and women’s empowerment, but we must build on this success. The clock is ticking: with close to 700 days to go until the MDGs deadline, the targets we set ourselves won’t be reached unless greater investment in girls’ empowerment is made. Without this, girls will continue to drop out of school for lack of safe and supportive learning environments. Women will still marry young, and will still die in childbirth each day for want of simple medical interventions.

As the old adage goes, you can teach a man to fish to feed himself for a lifetime. But if you invest in a girl, she feeds herself, educates future children, lifts up her community and propels her nation forward – charting a path that offers dignity for all in the process.

Investing in Girls for MDG Acceleration

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With roughly 700 days left until the target date for the Millennium Development Goals, the Secretary-General, along with the two co-chairs and several members of his MDG Advocacy Group, will participate in a moderated luncheon discussion to accelerate progress on the MDGs focusing on girls as a critical investment.  The Secretary-General and the two co-Chairs, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Prime Minster Erna Solberg of Norway, will open the programme and Hannah Godefa, a 16-year old UNICEF National Ambassador for Ethiopia and Sumaya Saluja, a member of the Global Education First Initiative’s Youth Advocacy Group, will lead an inter-generational dialogue with the Advocates. The programme will include interventions from other governments, businesses and media leaders, including Tina Brown.

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, on his recent influencer piece on LInkedIN said “Today, there are 57 million children out of school – and most of them are girls. While disturbing, this represents a huge opportunity – because we know, from indisputable experience, the benefits of investing in girls. And there is no more valuable investment than in a girl’s education.”

The growing momentum around girls as catalysts for development is undeniable. Malala Yousafzai, whose voice resonated around the world as a champion for girls’ education, has helped advance the importance of addressing this often overlooked issue in philanthropic and core business strategies.

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Hannah Godefa, UNICEF Ethiopia National Goodwill Ambassador, will participate at the World Economic Forum event focusing on girls education. Hannah impressed  many when she made a speech at the highly successful International Day of the Girl Child at UNICEF Head Quarters in October last year on “Innovating for Girls’ Education” and when she moderated the event where Katy Perry was named UNICEF’s newest Goodwill Ambassador. Read biography of Hannah Godefa.

Investing in Girls’ Empowerment for MDG Acceleration session at the World Economic Forum will highlight specific approaches that enable girls and women worldwide to learn, earn, thrive, and control their own destinies. The focus will be on replicating and scaling-up successful quality programmes, promoting innovative approaches including quick adoption of broadband and ICTs for education and health, and encouraging collaboration to ensure the best outcomes for girls and their communities.

Event Details:
Investing in Girls for MDG Acceleration
Luncheon with the SG and MDG Advocates hosted by the UN Foundation
Thursday, 23 January 2014, 12:30 – 2:30 pm
Salon Atlantis, Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvedere, Promenade 89,
Davos, Switzerland

More on event website

Watch the MDG Advocates event live on 23 January (coming soon)

Follow Tweets about “#investingirls” or @UNICEFEthiopia

Commiting to Children is Commiting to The Future – Angélique Kidjo

While visiting UNICEF Ethiopia in November, Angélique Kidjo UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador,  asked the public to join her and UNICEF and commit to ensure that children have adequate food, shelter and clean water; every boy and girl has access to education and primary health care and  protect children from all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

She said: Committing to children, is committing to the Future!

The story of a girl activist – Ethiopia

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When I was seven years old, I visited my parents’ rural hometown of Axum, and was staying with my grandmother. There was a young girl around my age there, and I became very good friends with her. Before I left, I wanted to keep in touch with her as a pen pal, but my parents explained to me that she did not have the pencils or materials to do so.

I knew in that moment that advocating for girls like me to have equal opportunities in education would be an important part of my life. I created a resource mobilisation project called Pencil Mountain that has delivered over half a million school resources to Ethiopian children.

Girls living in rural areas of Ethiopia are treated as an asset. A family values a girl for her ability to work. Girls do not have equal access to education with boys. There is a great disparity in literacy and if a parent has an opportunity to choose between sending a boy or girl to school, it is almost always the boy that is chosen.

The most difficult challenge I’ve faced is promoting this idea to rural communities where it a conflict of interest for community leaders. Tradition dictates that young girls at my age should be married, or stay home and support the family. It is not always easy to break through this mentality. However, the leadership in Ethiopia, and several NGOs have committed themselves to changing this longstanding mindset.

Biggest challenge: It’s been hard to balance my school and my advocacy work. I have learned to put my own education first, so that I can create a bigger impact later on. I strongly believe that every action for change, no matter how small, counts.

Proudest moment: I met Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper and the Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn. They are in a great position to implement change in educational rights.

My greatest achievement was being named Unicef goodwill ambassador for Ethiopia, because I have had an opportunity to bring a girl’s voice to an international level and raise awareness about education issues. Read Full story on The Guardian

Read more about Hannah Godefa