Sarah Degnan Kambou

Sarah Degnan Kambou

It's Time to Unleash Girls' Potential


Girls have the power to transform the world, but they face many barriers along the way, including violence and early marriage. In this blog for Devex, ICRW's President, Sarah Degnan Kambou, writes about several initiatives that are working to break down barriers and lift up girls for generations to come. 

Girls have the power to transform the world, but they face many barriers along the way, including violence and early marriage. In this blog for Devex, ICRW's President, Sarah Degnan Kambou, writes about several initiatives that are working to break down barriers and lift up girls for generations to come. 

Half the Sky

Mon, 05/14/2012

ICRW is proud to be part of the Half the Sky movement, which seeks to turn oppression into opportunity for women worldwide.

Inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book, the Half the Sky movement seeks to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide. Half the Sky recently launched its new website, which brings together videos from experts to raise awareness of issues affecting women and girls and provide concrete solutions to turn their oppression into opportunities.

In this video, ICRW President Sarah Degnan Kambou talks about reproductive rights. ICRW is a partner in the Half the Sky movement.

Commentary: Generation Girl

It’s time to end child marriage
Mon, 12/19/2011

Every day an estimated 25,000 girls are married off against their will, which leads to tragic consequences for girls and their societies. It doesn’t have to be this way. With growing global momentum to stop this harmful practice, the time is ripe to ensure no girl is forced to marry too young and give up her dreams.

Every day an estimated 25,000 girls are married off against their will. Some are as young as eight years old. Others have just entered puberty. No matter their age, the moment the wedding ceremony ends, so do the girls’ dreams of becoming a teacher, a health worker, a lawyer.

It’s a tragic scenario, but not just for girls. It’s tragic for all of us who desire an economically stable, healthy world. Instead of growing up to be women who can contribute to the overall well-being of their families and communities, most child brides will drop out of school. From Yemen to Nicaragua, many girls will give birth while their own bodies are still developing, leading to terrible health problems. Most will live in servitude and suffer abuse. These are common outcomes of child marriage that perpetuate the cycle of poverty, lack of education, poor health and gender inequity in low-income societies.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Investing now in girls at risk of early marriage can yield lasting social and economic benefits not only for the girls themselves, but their families and society, too. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the smart thing to do.

ICRW has been advocating for the past decade on the need to end the harmful practice child marriage from a development, human rights and gender equity perspective. We have been putting ideas to practice in countries like Ethiopia and India. And now we find ourselves in the midst of an unprecedented growing movement to end child marriage: The Elders, an eminent group of former leaders like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson, this year launched Girls Not Brides, a global campaign to raise awareness of the ills caused by child marriage. Other influential individuals also are shining a spotlight on the practice, such as award-winning photographer Stephanie Sinclair whose images documenting child brides have brought the issue into the mainstream. And news outlets such as The Daily Beast, National Geographic and many more are finally bringing much-needed attention to the poorest, most remote parts of the world where child marriage persists.

We must rush to take advantage of the global attention and harness this collective will so that girls are valued for being girls, rather than being considered economic burdens on their families. On the contrary, if they remain unmarried and are allowed to finish high school, girls at risk of child marriage can contribute to a future generation that could break free of the painful grip of acute poverty.   

Indeed, in societies where early marriage is most common, girls are not valued in the same ways as boys. This is not to say that their families don’t love them. Many girls’ parents want to delay marriage, but with scant resources and social pressures, they feel they are left with no alternative.  

But there are alternatives. Harmful social norms can – and do – change. The promising practices ICRW has uncovered are a starting point for creating a more equitable environment for girls. And what’s more, there is evidence that they are working.

Some approaches that address the multiple causes and consequences of child marriage include: Arming girls with information, skills and support networks so they gain confidence and know themselves, their world and their options; educating parents on the long-term economic benefits of delaying marriage; mobilizing communities to adopt social norms that support those willing to buck the custom of early marriage; and offering economic incentives for girls and their families, who often are motivated by poverty and the lack of viable income-generating options.

More than any other time in recent history, this is the moment to redouble our joint efforts and work toward ending the harmful practice of child marriage so no girl is forced to wed too young and give up her dreams. Let’s do just that by making more investments and demonstrating the political will to create the first generation of girls who will rightly worry about finishing their homework, instead of feeding their husbands.

Sarah Degnan Kambou is president of the International Center for Research on Women.

Sarah Degnan Kambou Appointed ICRW President

Former Chief Operating Officer to Lead
Mon, 06/14/2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The board of directors of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) announced today that it has appointed accomplished social scientist Sarah Degnan Kambou president of the organization, effective immediately. Degnan Kambou served for two years as ICRW’s chief operating officer (COO) under Geeta Rao Gupta, and then as interim president and COO after Rao Gupta stepped down in April this year.

Degnan Kambou is ICRW’s fourth president in its 30-year history.

Sarah Degnan Kambou ICRW president“After meeting with many accomplished individuals from around the world, the board unanimously decided that Sarah was the best candidate,” said Jeanne Warner, ICRW board chair. “Sarah’s deep knowledge of the institution, her expertise in gender and development and her innovative vision for the organization will ensure ICRW’s continued leadership in empowering women and promoting gender equality.”

A 25-year veteran in the field, Degnan Kambou joined ICRW in 2002. As COO, she led the organization’s research and programs, finance and human resources departments as well as ICRW’s Asia Regional Office in New Delhi, India. Before that, she was vice president of health and development, overseeing research in HIV and AIDS, reproductive health and nutrition as well as in gender, violence and women’s rights.

Degnan Kambou came to ICRW after more than a decade living in sub-Saharan Africa, where she managed signature programs for CARE, a humanitarian relief and development organization. Among her notable achievements, Degnan Kambou established the CARE country office in Cote d’Ivoire during the civil conflict and designed community-led reproductive health programs in post-conflict Rwanda, Sudan and Somaliland.

She also worked for eight years as a director of international health in the School of Public Health at Boston University. While there, Degnan Kambou directed intensive trainings for international health professionals, managed collaborative programs in China and Nepal and consulted widely across South and Southeast Asia.

Degnan Kambou recently was appointed by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to represent ICRW on the U.S. National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“I am honored to lead ICRW,” Degnan Kambou said. “I believe in ICRW and its unique ability to influence the global discourse on gender and development. All people – women and men, boys and girls – deserve a safer, more equitable and just world. Informed by the breadth of ICRW’s research, the energy of our experts and our unfailing commitment to empowering women, I believe that achieving meaningful social change in many parts of the world is within our grasp.”

Related Link:
Q&A: ICRW President Sarah Degnan Kambou »

Media Contact: 
Jeannie Bunton, 202.742.1316,
Mission Statement: 

ICRW's mission is to empower women, advance gender equality and fight poverty in the developing world. To accomplish this, ICRW works with partners to conduct empirical research, build capacity and advocate for evidence-based, practical ways to change policies and programs.

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