In Kenya, improving sexual health education and providing girls and women with control over their own fertility are crucial in preventing maternal deaths.
The sight of young mothers in Busia is not uncommon. Poverty and rape account for the high number of unintended pregnancies in the region.
Most women in Niger marry at the onset of puberty and are expected to continue having as many children as their bodies will allow until they reach menopause.
Victims of domestic violence, mental and physical abuse, and child marriage have a sanctuary in the only shelter of its kind in Niger, a country of 17 million.
The challenges of population growth, environmental degradation, food security, and even violent extremism can be traced back to issues with girls’ health, education and human rights.
The teacher at the Koranic school described the young woman as “calm and obedient,” ideal marriage material. Samira Abdoulaye, 19, did not return the sentiment.
Poverty and politics are two of the biggest challenges impacting the health of women and children in Guinea.
With inadequate facilities and funding, Donka National Hospital houses Guinea’s only neonatal unit and struggles to provide maternal and infant care.
The greatest challenge in providing maternity care for one Guinean NGO clinic is not that it must make do without electricity or water, but that women don’t attend regular prenatal appointments.
In Nicaragua and El Salvador abortion bans prevent termination of pregnancies under any circumstances, including rape or incest. The governments are ill prepared to offer services young mothers need.
At age 16, Ana Luisa was raped. But by seeking an abortion to salvage her life, she became the criminal in the eyes of Salvadoran law, which bans abortion.
In deeply Catholic Nicaragua and El Salvador, where abortion is seen as murder, activists struggle to make the case for therapeutic termination in cases of rape or to save the life of the mother.
"We will illuminate dark places and, with a deep sense of responsibility, interpret these troubled times."
JOSEPH PULITZER III (1913-1993)