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Women Deliver: Press conference- Invest in Women!

June 7, 2010

The Women Deliver conference (www.womendeliver.org), is running June 7-9 2010 and the GAB team is present! It is a global meeting on maternal and reproductive health and the advancement of women and girls. Tune in today, tomorrow, and Wednesday for live updates directly from the conference floor.

by Kyle Bachan and Erin Rickard

Following the opening discussion, we made our way to the first official press conference–whose mandate was thus:

Global leaders and advocates will converge to insights into how and why we must invest in women to deliver a brighter future. Speakers will discuss the human rights, funding, political, and programmatic issues that are key to investing in women.

The panel discussed topics such as religion vs. safe abortion, encouraging men to more actively participate in maternal health matters and more:

Note:  the below dialogue is abridged or paraphrased.

Victor Zonana (Moderator)

Opening statements:

Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director, UNFPA: We have to work outside the health sector to protect the rights of women and children. We need to double the investment of $12 billion a year.

President Michelle Bachelet, former President, Chile: It is somewhat easier to be a man instead of a woman in many parts of the world. We have to struggle for equal opportunities for men and women—we have to talk about achieving MDGs by improving maternal health—we need to end widespread violence against women and children. We also need to invest in adolescent education. Political indifference is often linked to a lack of resources—education, housing, sanitation.

Ashley Judd, actress and board member, Population Services International: We need to place women’s health at the centre of global agenda where it has always belonged. Economic empowerment is essential to achieve all MDGs.

President Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland: We’re now where we should have been at least five years ago if we were going to seriously achieve these goals. Human rights of girls and women are central to what we do. The Joint action plan doesn’t encompass a human rights approach. Even if countries are reaching the 3/4 of maternal deaths, we still have to look at poorer parts of the country (where the death rate is still high). Global funds for MDGs after 2015–most poor countries will not have achieved the standard that is necessary (economical empowerment and leadership needed). Women rights are human rights.

Oby Ezekwesili, Vice President for Africa, World Bank: Investing in women is smart economics. To expand opportunities, remember that knowledge is at the heart of the capacity—heart of dialogue. Stress the importance of policies (economic opportunities). We are seeking a breakthrough in reproductive health; we are emphasizing knowledge.

Question: Will there be special funds set aside for countries that record the poorer results? How we do we prioritize countries that are falling behind?

Thoraya Obaid: We have prioritized countries by their load of maternal death. We have mapped countries to look where are the maternal deaths. There is a focus to push them up the scale.

Question: How do you plan to overcome the cultural and religious barriers?

Thoraya Obaid: We need to continue working with community and religious leaders, show them the scientific information and work to change the mindset. When religious leaders talk to each other they do a better job than when we talk to them. We need to start engaging community men to engage in solidarity with women.

President Mary Robinson: We need to engage religious leaders in that they should be the champions for these women. We must also engage adolescent boys.

Question: Consequences of Haiti earthquake. Suggestions?

President Michelle Bachelet: Women have to be an important part of rescontruction—Women need funding; they need a better institution.

President Mary Robinson: (on helping pregnant women): Access to emergency care in case of accidents—world health assembly is finally focusing on health workers. (Abolishing user fees, better served, better services)

Question: How do we encourage the boys to step up to bat?

Oby Ezekwesili: We work with countries as partners to determine the best possible way of messaging—diaspora program allows us to expand knowledge from doctors who have left home (there are few incentives to keep what few doctors there are from leaving the towns/villages for places where they will be better compensated–ex: United States).

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