Newswise — In a recent Washington, D. C. meeting, policymakers and researchers with the Center on Gender Equity and Health GEH) at UC San Diego School of Medicine came together to lend their voices to the issues women and girls face globally
The event was led by GEH researchers to recognize a recent $1.6 million grant they received from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to improve the measurement of worldwide issues, such as partner and sexual violence, which affects one in three women, and child marriage, which affects 15 million girls each year.
“I have witnessed firsthand the lifelong effects of mistreatment and violence against women and girls across the world. At the Center on Gender Equity and Health, we envision a world where all individuals and communities are empowered to reach their full potential and contribute to society,” said Anita Raj, PhD, director of GEH and a professor in the Department of Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “This new grant will allow us to improve our measurement strategies to actually make the changes needed to improve lives.”
These efforts come after initial investments to GEH from the BMGF and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, totaling more than $1 million over the past three years.
“We need to fill data gaps that keep people, and particularly women and girls, invisible in much of our research and policies,” said Katherine Hay, deputy director at BMGF. “To know if things are working or bringing change, we need to know what that change looks like in different settings and how to measure it.”
The BMGF funds will also support a new GEH office and staff in India, considered a hub of the GEH research, as well as opportunities for UC San Diego students to train on multidisciplinary research.
“This grant will help our work in India in a critical way by supporting measurement and data quality as it relates to gender equity on a broad range of issues, including health, education, violence, political participation and economic empowerment,” said Raj.
Launched in 2013, GEH’s mission is to improve health and safety of women and girls globally. The center focuses on child marriage, gender-based violence and on reproductive, maternal and child health research. To achieve a vision of creating sustainable and large-scale change, the center maintains partnerships with governmental and non-governmental agencies.
“A social justice framework is utilized by the GEH across all efforts, and innovative technologies are employed to facilitate and accelerate change at individual, community and national levels,” said Raj.
GEH’s research has included collaboration with UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute (formerly Calit2) to develop and employ apps for survey data collection in rural areas of India. GEH has also been partnering with health systems in India for family planning and child health and to improve clinical care at childbirth, where Raj’s research team found high rates of provider mistreatment of patients.
“The approach of partnering with researchers on the ground in India will help to build stronger professional relationships that will contextualize measures and emphasize field-based learning that will serve the field beyond that country,” said Hay.
The announcement of the latest award comes on the heels of the World Health Organization’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence — a movement to end violence against women and girls globally.
In addition to the India-focused research, faculty within GEH also have active studies on partner violence and HIV risk in Uganda, adolescent reproductive and maternal health in Niger and Honduras and sexual violence and exploitation of women and girls in California and at the US-Mexico border.
“Our team has learned that there is a lot of effort, interest and a hunger from our partners around the world and in our local community in San Diego and at UC San Diego to change this situation for women and girls,” said Raj. “We are very excited to provide scientific support for broader change.”