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When women survive, families and nations thrive – Jill Sheffield

AHEAD of the Women Deliver 2013 International Conference which opens in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia May 27, the health, wellbeing and survival of girls and women the world over, have been identified as critical factors for global development.

In a call for improved and sustained investment in the health and wellbeing of girls and women all over the world, Jill Sheffield, President/Founder of Women Deliver – a global advocacy organisation working to generate political commitment and financial investment for fulfilling Millennium Development Goal 5 – asserts that investing in girls and women pays.

Sheffield, in a chat with Sola Ogundipe, said girls and women are critical for development without which the health and wellbeing of society cannot advance. Exerpts:

Investing in girls, women

We have seen time and time again that investing in the health and wellbeing of girls and women benefits development broadly. We know that when women have access to maternal and reproductive health services, they can plan their pregnancies, stay in school longer, contribute to the workforce, and are better able to care for their children. Communities thrive, societies stabilize and economies flourish.

We must ensure that the High-Level Panel develops a 2015 post-MDG framework that recognizes girls and women as the agents of change that they are. Girls and women are critical for development and we cannot advance the health and wellbeing of society without them.  When women survive, families, communities and nations thrive.

Driving force behind Women Deliver

All girls and women, everywhere, should have access to the maternal and reproductive health services that they want and deserve – and at Women Deliver, we strive to make this reality. It’s simple really: investing in girls and women pays dividends.

Girls and women as global priority

Effective advocacy encourages people from all backgrounds and sectors to come together for a common cause. First in London and then in Washington, D.C., Women Deliver did just this by gathering countless of advocates and global leaders to pledge their commitments to girls’ and women’s health and rights. This May, we will host our third and most influential global conference yet – Women Deliver 2013 – in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Women Deliver 2013 will convene thousands of advocates, policymakers and civil society members from over 140 countries to ensure that girls and women remain priorities for years to come.

Together, we will call on global leaders to increase political and financial commitments to girls’ and women’s health. We will encourage grassroots organizers and community leaders to advocate for greater access to the quality reproductive and maternal health care and family planning services that all women deserve. And, most importantly, we will call on international leaders to make girls’ and women’s health and wellbeing priorities in the post-MDG framework, which will be decided within days of Women Deliver 2013.

Uniqueness of Women Deliver 2013

Women Deliver 2013 is the only international conference to focus solely on girls’ and women’s health and rights. It is expected to be the largest and most influential gathering of the decade – particularly because it is taking place at such a critical time. The 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) deadline is quickly approaching and the High-level Panel on the Post-MDG Agenda will finalize its framework just days after the conference.

At Women Deliver 2013, we will have one last great opportunity to take action and ensure that girls and women are top priorities in the Post-MDG framework.

Additionally, Women Deliver 2013 will be taking place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This is the first time one of our conferences will convene in Asia and in a predominantly Muslim country, which will be a unique opportunity to engage regional and religious leaders on issues of maternal and reproductive health.

Pushing agenda of women and girls’ health
Women Deliver 2010 provided a global stage for participants to share new strategies, workable solutions and announce major commitments to girls’ and women’s health. Melinda Gates made an unprecedented $1.5 billion pledge to maternal and child health. In 2010, we were able to deliver solutions for girls’ and women’s health and wellbeing and we expect to do the same in Kuala Lumpur this May.

As we learned in 2010, our conferences have the potential to empower advocates, motivate global leaders and generate new commitments to girls and women’s health. Our goal at Women Deliver 2013 will be to use our collective energy and power to call on leaders and ensure that girls and women remain priorities in the post-MDG framework and beyond.

Priority for 2015 post-MDG framework
The MDGs have advanced development and spurred unprecedented investments in girls’ and women’s health and rights globally. In many cases, the MDGs galvanized governments to prioritize girls and women in their development plans and, most importantly, budgets.

As a result, we’ve made tremendous progress across the MDGs, including MDG 5, which aimed to reduce maternal mortality and improve access to reproductive health services. Remarkably, the MDGs have contributed even more to girls and women than this – they’ve changed minds. Now, more than ever before, global leaders are recognizing that girls and women are essential for development. I’ve always said:  ‘Invest in women, it pays,’ but now, global leaders are listening and acting.

MDGs and future of girls’ and women’s health and rights
The MDGs gave the world universal targets with tangible, measurable goals, but missing these targets does not mean that these countries have “failed.” Because of these targets we have initiated investments in girls’ and women’s health that would not have been made otherwise. While there is much more to be done, we have laid the foundation to ultimately achieve these goals – and we won’t stop until we do.

Continuous advocacy
We must continue to advocate for policies and commitments that accelerate the progress we’ve made, especially in countries that have met the MDGs. The future for girls and women depends not only on what we have done, but what we will continue to do in the coming years. Our work will not be finished until every woman, everywhere, is living a safe, educated and healthy life.


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