Most dire conditions for women in Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan

Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan are the three most dangerous countries in the world for women, according to a panel of gender experts assembled by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Women live perilously in many developing countries today, but on top of the list is Afghanistan, the experts said, with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, minimal access to basic health care and education and scarcely any economic rights for women and girls. Eighty-seven percent of Afghan women are illiterate and one in 11 dies in childbirth, Unicef estimates. As many as 8 in 10 face forced marriages.

In Congo, vastly different threats prevail for women. According to Keshat Bachan of Plan International, a private organization specializing in child poverty, the levels of sexual violence and rape there “are simply the highest in the world.” On an average day, 1,152 Congolese women are raped, according to estimates published in The American Journal of Public Health. A married woman is powerless to sign any legal documents without her husband’s authorization.

The experts ranked Pakistan third, based on religious traditions that are harmful to women. More than 1,000 women a year are victims of so-called honor killings and many more are victims of acid attacks, child marriage and abusive punishments, including stoning, human rights activists report.

Thomson Reuters asked more than 200 aid professionals, academics, health workers, policy makers, journalists and development specialists from five continents to rank countries on their overall perception of danger for women as well as by six risk categories, from health to violence to religious and other factors.


Vaccines best buy for public health in developing nations

Vaccines are considered by many to be one of the best buys for public health in developing nations because they can protect productive lives and cut the costs of health care and treatment.

Millions of children's lives and billions of dollars could be saved if vaccines were more widely available in 72 of the world's poorest countries, according to a series of studies published on Thursday.

In studies in the Health Affairs and The Lancet journals, public health experts and scientists projected that if 90 percent of children in those countries were immunized, more than $151 billion in treatment costs and lost productivity could be saved in 10 years, giving economic benefits of $231 billion.

Some 6.4 million lives could also be saved, they found.

The donor-funded Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and the Results for Development Institute found that poor nations are hard-pressed to pay for vaccine programs without help from outside donors. "Without major assistance from international donors, the poorest countries will be hard-pressed to pay the costs to reach all of their children with life-saving vaccines," said Helen Saxenian of the Results for Development Institute in Washington.

According to the World Health Organization, eradicating smallpox at a one-time cost of about $100 million has saved the world some $1.35 billion a year since it was achieved in 1979.


The reflexive bias against investing in non-profit overhead

The most pernicious problems facing nonprofits: the reflexive bias that many donors have against "overhead."

"There are two kinds of overhead: good and bad," Tom Tierney and Joel Fleishman, authors of Give Smart, explain. "While it's wrong to waste philanthropic dollars on goods and services that aren't needed, it's equally wrong to limit the impact of philanthropic dollars by depriving nonprofits of the funds they need to sustain, improve, and expand their performance ('good' overhead)."

In his book Managing the Nonprofit Organization, Peter Drucker advocated implementing a range of actions aimed at "converting good intentions into results:" conducting deep market research, incubating new ideas, and training and developing staff and volunteers. He also called for devising timely feedback and measurement mechanisms.

None of these undertakings, however, happen magically. They require talented employees, procedures, and technology to accomplish—all of it costly activity that could be classified as "overhead."

In a 2008 study, the "vicious cycle" is highlighted that many nonprofits fall into as they attempt to please donors who "tend to favor organizations with the 'leanest' profiles" or choose to fund only those specific programs that directly serve the needy. Feeling pressure "to conform to funders' expectations," these nonprofits don't invest in their core organizational capacity and otherwise under-report their spending on general management and infrastructure on tax forms and in fund-raising materials. This, in turn, reinforces the donors' misguided notions about "overhead."

Fortunately, some funders are starting to get it. Nothing else will turn all those grades of C that Drucker handed out into solid A's.

--Rick Wartzman, executive director of the Drucker Institute


Millennials contribute to Global Phenomenon of Global Philanthropy

Philanthropy has stepped on the accelerator in terms of becoming a global phenomenon. The amount of charitable donations going overseas and to US-based international programs has doubled since 2003, according to the Foundation Center.

The rise of philanthropy among the world’s wealthiest in the most recent Forbes survey of the top philanthropists now includes individuals from India (Azim Premji), Mexico (Carlos Slim), China (Li Ka-shing), Germany (Dietmar Hopp and Klaus Tschira), and Switzerland (Steven Schmidheiny). This is yet another example of the global nature of philanthropy now.

It is no coincidence that the rise of global philanthropy mirrors the growth of the millennial generation. Millennials are more connected, cognizant, and committed to tackling society’s ongoing challenges of a global scope than any generation before them. Technology and social media certainly facilitates the increase in connectedness and knowledge – and millennials have grown up in an age where the Internet has always existed. Philanthropy increasingly reflects this changing worldview as well.

Global philanthropy is no longer only writing a check or making a grant and sitting back to wait for the results–it is becoming much more involved than that. Global philanthropy is drawing from the best of the sectors, and collaborating to find solutions.

Council on Foundations