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Raising the Age of Marriage in Malawi

by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Children play at a school roughly 50 km south of Malawi's capital Lilongwe, March 2009 (Courtesy Antony Njuguna/Reuters). Children play at a school roughly 50 km south of Malawi's capital Lilongwe, March 2009 (Courtesy Antony Njuguna/Reuters).

Last week, the government of Malawi took a big step toward protecting its girls and strengthening its families: it increased the legal age of marriage to eighteen. Previously, girls in Malawi were allowed to marry at sixteen or, with parental consent, at fifteen.

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White House Summit Embraces Women’s Rights to Counter Violent Extremism

by Catherine Powell
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in Washington, DC, February 2015 (Courtesy Joshua Roberts/Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in Washington, DC, February 2015 (Courtesy Joshua Roberts/Reuters).

Last week, the White House sponsored an international summit on strategies to counter violent extremism (CVE), focusing on groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. Among the strategies suggested to mitigate radicalization, President Obama listed an increased emphasis on human rights and democracy: “That means free elections where people can choose their own future, and independent judiciaries that uphold the rule of law, and police and security forces that respect human rights, and free speech and freedom for civil society groups.”

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UN Reports Rising Attacks on Girls’ Education

by Catherine Powell
A girl reads from the board in a home-based school in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 2001 (Courtsey Damir Sagolj/Reuters). A girl reads from the board in a home-based school in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 2001 (Courtsey Damir Sagolj/Reuters).

Attacks on girls’ schools and female students have appeared in the headlines regularly in recent years, from the abduction of schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria, by Boko Haram to the assassination attempt on student and girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai.

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John Kerry and Pakistani Counterparts Must Look Beyond a Narrow Terror Framework

by Catherine Powell
Girls carry their school bags as they walk along a road while heading to their school after it reopened in Peshawar, Pakistan, on January 12, 2015 (Courtesy Reuters/Khuram Parvez). Girls carry their school bags as they walk along a road while heading to their school after it reopened in Peshawar, Pakistan, on January 12, 2015 (Courtesy Reuters/Khuram Parvez).

As Pakistan continues to reel from December’s horrific school attack, its government has initiated a crackdown on terror across the nation and instituted new security measures at schools. Last week, the Army Public School in Peshawar—site of the massacre that left over 150 dead—was reopened to students.

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Despite Pakistan School Attack, Malala’s Dream “Will Never Be Defeated”

by Catherine Powell
Schoolchildren cross a road as they move away from a military run school that is under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Paksitan, December 16, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Khuram Parvez). Schoolchildren cross a road as they move away from a military run school that is under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Paksitan, December 16, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Khuram Parvez).

This morning, Pakistani Taliban militants armed with guns and explosives stormed a school in Peshawar. After an eight-hour battle with security forces, over 140 students and teachers were dead. This terrorist attack is the largest Pakistan has seen since 2007—when 134 people were killed at a rally for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. However, it is also part of a larger trend of Taliban attacks on Pakistani schools, school children, and teachers.

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Malala’s Nobel Prize Highlights Girls’ Education

by Catherine Powell
Pakistani schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai poses for pictures at the United Nations in New York, New York, August 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Carlo Allegri). Pakistani schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai poses for pictures at the United Nations in New York, New York, August 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Carlo Allegri).

This morning’s awarding of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, along with children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi of India, comes at an important moment.

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Women’s Achievements and Continued Challenges in Afghanistan

by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Afghan women take part in a literacy class at the Organisation of Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities (OPAWC) center in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Zohra Bensemra). Afghan women take part in a literacy class at the Organisation of Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities (OPAWC) center in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Zohra Bensemra).

Early this summer, a group of congresswomen returned from a visit to Afghanistan. Their takeaway: “Women are now participants—and in many cases, leaders—in a society that once systematically subjugated them.” Indeed, women in Afghanistan have made great strides in recent years, but many challenges remain—especially in the face of imminent U.S. withdrawal from the country.

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Empowering Female Entrepreneurs in Rwanda

by Guest Blogger for Terra Lawson-Remer
Artisan entrepreneurs receive business training from Indego Africa at their cooperative, Covanya, in Nyamata, Rwanda, 2011 (Courtesy Benjamin D. Stone, copyright Indego Africa). Artisan entrepreneurs receive business training from Indego Africa at their cooperative, Covanya, in Nyamata, Rwanda, 2011 (Courtesy Benjamin D. Stone, copyright Indego Africa).

Emerging Voices features contributions from scholars and practitioners highlighting new research, thinking, and approaches to development challenges. This article is from Benjamin D. Stone, director of strategy and general counsel at MicroCredit Enterprises, CFR term member, and vice chairman of Indego Africa; and Karen Yelick, CEO of Indego Africa. Here they discuss how Indego Africa’s Leadership Academy for female artisan entrepreneurs in Rwanda aligns with the country’s twenty-year history of empowering women leaders.

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Education, Employment, and Youth Today

by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
A teacher talks to students at a public school outside of Juba, South Sudan. One in four people are literate in South Sudan. April 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Andreea Campeanu). A teacher talks to students at a public school outside of Juba, South Sudan. Only one in four people are literate in South Sudan. April 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Andreea Campeanu).

Last week, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released the eleventh edition of its Education for All Global Monitoring Report, an annual update that reviews the status of access to education around the world and highlights the crucial role that education plays in achieving development goals. This year’s report, titled “Teaching and Learning: Equality Achieved for All,” finds that even after a decade of increased resources and commitments dedicated to achieving universal access to education, many—if not all—of UNESCO’s goals will not be met by 2015.

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Expanding Financial Access and Education

by Isobel Coleman
A man dressed in traditional attire speaks on a cell phone in Ludzidzini, Swaziland, August 2010 (Courtesy Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko). A man dressed in traditional attire speaks on a cell phone in Ludzidzini, Swaziland, August 2010 (Courtesy Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko).

For several decades, the exciting promise of microfinance has been to provide the world’s poorest with access to financial services. But along the way, microfinance has too often become conflated with micro-credit. This is not surprising, given that most of the first microfinance institutions (MFIs) were non-profit organizations that took grants from donors and recycled them as loans. Now, however, many MFIs have reincorporated as banks with the ability to accept savings, and the full promise of microfinance is beginning to be realized. Read more »