Nurith Aizenman

So many aid programs in low-income countries have set "empowering women" as their goal. They don't just want to boost women's incomes and health and education level, but to give them the ability to make their own decisions over those aspects of their lives.

But how do you actually gauge how much control a woman has over her life?

A few summers ago in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, an economist named Anant Nyshadham was heading to lunch with some executives at a garment factory.

"We walked through the factory floor on the way to the canteen," he recalls. "And I thought, 'Wow, this is really hot.' "

And this is a man who grew up in the state of Georgia. "But you know, I don't think I'll ever get used to the heat and humidity [there]," he says, laughing. "And India is on a different level."

Every evening after dinner, Herman Agbavor and his 5-year-old son, Herbert, have a ritual. Little Herbert climbs into his dad's lap, unzips his book bag and they go over his kindergarten homework.

The two of them have been doing some variation of this homework routine since Herbert was 1. That's when Agbavor first enrolled the boy in preschool.

They live in a working-class neighborhood of Ghana's capital city, Accra — in a cement block apartment in a multifamily house that has a television and lots of books but no indoor plumbing.

It was one of Donald Trump's first acts as President: a Jan. 23, 2017 executive order that cuts off U.S. support to foreign groups unless they promise not to "perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning." This includes providing patients with referrals or information about the procedure, even if those activities are funded by non-U.S. government sources.

Every Republican president since Ronald Reagan has adopted a variant of the "Mexico City policy" — so called after the city where it was first announced. And every Democratic successor has reversed it.

The Trump administration has released its first assessment of the impact of the president's decision to reinstate the "Mexico City policy," which cuts off U.S. aid to international groups unless they promise not to provide or promote abortion, even with non-U.S. funding sources.

The review finds that so far practically all grantees have agreed to those conditions. But opponents of the policy caution that the administration's statistics offer too incomplete a picture to draw conclusions about the policy's impact.

Pakistan's latest polio eradication drive got off to a tragic start last week when gunmen killed a mother-daughter vaccination team in the Western city of Quetta. Sakina, 38, and her 16-year-old daughter, Rizwana, were administering immunization drops to children when the assailants sped past on a motorbike and shot each woman in the head. (Like many people in Pakistan, Sakina and Rizwana only went by a first name.)

In the Thursday meeting in which President Trump complained about "having all these people from shithole countries come here" — and singled out Haiti, El Salvador and Africa as examples — he also added that, "we should have more people from Norway."

In fact there was a time when we did.

From 1870 to 1910 a quarter of Norway's working-age population emigrated, mostly to the United States. You read that right — one-fourth of its workers left the country.

What are the hidden messages in the storybooks we read to our kids?

That's a question that may occur to parents as their children dive into the new books that arrived over the holidays.

And it's a question that inspired a team of researchers to set up a study. Specifically, they wondered how the lessons varied from storybooks of one country to another.

For a taste of their findings, take a typical book in China: The Cat That Eats Letters.

The loan was tiny. Just $19 to buy a bus ticket. But for Mariful Islam, the difference it made was immense.

Islam is 24. He has lived in the same rural village in Bangladesh his whole life. He doesn't own his own land. So he scrapes out a living working on other people's farms.

"Mostly I plant and I harvest rice in the paddies," he says.

There's new — and shocking — evidence about the toll that health care costs are taking on the world's most vulnerable.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published in August and has been updated.

The national news this week has been dominated by accusations against U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore — both the allegations that he sexually assaulted at least two teenage girls and also that he attempted to date teenagers while he was in his 30s.

Editor's Note: This story was updated on Jan. 2 to include the newly announced initiative aimed at combating sexual harassment in Hollywood.

Women who work in Hollywood are taking a stand against "sexual harassment and assault by powerful people in the entertainment industry."

Rob Vos has been tracking global hunger for years, and he says until recently the mood among his fellow hunger experts was almost giddy.

Since 1990 the world had made so much progress curbing hunger that in 2015, leaders met at the United Nations and vowed to eliminate hunger for good by 2030.

Last weekend's massacre in Las Vegas is only the latest reminder of the persistent gun violence in the United States. And a new set of statistics on the rates of gun violence unrelated to conflict underscores just how outsize U.S. rates of gun deaths are compared with those in much of the rest of the world.

We asked, and you answered.

In a recent series we explored a different way of giving aid to people in poor countries. Instead of handing out seeds or a cow or job training, what if you just gave people cash and let them decide how to use it?

Then we put the call out to you, our audience: Was there ever a time when you got a little cash with no strings attached and it made a huge difference? Or when you wished for a tiny windfall to tackle a problem?

U.S. aid for international family planning would be eliminated.

Programs to combat HIV/AIDS in the world's poorest countries would be slashed by 17 percent.

Efforts to fight malaria would be chopped by 11 percent.

Those are just some of the cuts to global health spending called for by President Trump in the proposed budget he unveiled this week.

On one level the reductions did not come as a surprise. Trump had already made clear in his "skinny budget" proposal, released in March, that he wanted to lower spending on foreign assistance by more than a third.

The Trump administration will withhold $32.5 million in funding that had been earmarked this current fiscal year for the United Nations' lead agency on family planning and maternal health, known as the United Nations Population Fund or UNFPA.

The administration says it's doing so because it has determined that UNFPA helps to support a Chinese government family planning program that forces people to get abortions and sterilizations. The U.N. agency says that is not the case.

At a conference in Brussels on Thursday, more than a dozen nations and private funders pledged a combined total of $190 million for international family planning charities that stand to lose their U.S. support as a result of President Trump's Jan. 23 executive action to block U.S. foreign aid funding of groups linked to abortion.

This week United Nations officials declared that a famine in South Sudan is growing — fueled by a deadly combination of drought and conflict. They estimate that nearly 4 million people are already struggling to get enough food. And officials expect the famine will spread to more areas in the coming months affecting an additional 1 million people.

Meanwhile the threat of famine is looming over three other countries: Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, putting a total of 1.4 million children at risk of death this year.

It's President Donald Trump's first official act on the abortion issue. On Monday, the new president signed a presidential memorandum reinstating the "Mexico City" policy — barring U.S. aid from any group that provides or "promotes" abortion overseas. The policy dates to 1984, when Ronald Reagan unveiled it at a United Nations Conference in Mexico City. The Trump version is even broader than the incarnations that previous Republican presidents have adopted.

What does this mean in practice? To help make sense of it we've put together an FAQ.

This post has been updated to include more information about the evaluation work done by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.

Talking publicly about women's menstruation has long been a taboo. But in 2016 the world made big strides getting over the squeamishness. There was the Chinese swimmer at the Rio Olympics who had no qualms explaining that she was on her period after she finished a race grimacing in pain.

Is Wonder Woman being forced into early retirement?

It's come to light this week that the comic superhero's controversial tenure as the United Nations' honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls will be coming to a close this Friday.

If you live in Kenya there's a jingle you hear on television and radio a lot.

It's a policy battle that has been playing out over three decades.

In 1984, then-President Ronald Reagan imposed an anti-abortion rule — known as the "Mexico City policy" after the city where he announced it. The rule blocked federal funding for international family planning charities unless they agreed not to "promote" abortion by, among other actions, providing patients with information about the procedure or referrals to providers who perform it.

Donald Trump will take office at a pivotal time for the world's neediest.

The world's wealthy countries have, since 2000, been part of a historic partnership with poor countries to eliminate poverty and roll back diseases.

On Friday the United Nations is set to appoint Wonder Woman its honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls. The cartoon character, turning 75 this year, will be the face of a social media campaign that the U.N., will launch at a star-studded ceremony in New York. The actress Gal Gadot — who plays Wonder Woman in the movies these days — is scheduled to be there. So is Lynda Carter, who portrayed the superhero in the 1970s television show.

It sounds like a typical melodrama of a movie — a saga about a big family with issues galore. There's the widowed grandfather who desperately misses his wife. The sensitive younger son who dreams of being a musician. And the daughter who's dipping into the family's stash of cash to pay a con artist who pretends to be a faith healer.

It's almost a year to the day since world leaders committed to meeting 17 "Sustainable Development Goals" by 2030, from wiping out extreme poverty to fighting disease and inequality.

Perhaps they should have added an 18th goal — compiling all the data needed to achieve the other goals.

This data gap has been the talk among advocates for the poor this week as the U.N. General Assembly's current session got underway. It was at last year's General Assembly that the 17 goals were set.

It was one of the worst moments of Durga's life: the morning her father suddenly announced that in about a week's time she would have to get married.

She was 15 years old. Her husband-to-be was in his 40s, had barely been to school and had a reputation as a heavy drinker. Even by the standards of their village in Northern India — where child marriages are still commonplace — this was a singularly bad match.

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