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Women Deliver Day 3 Roundup

June 9, 2010

The Women Deliver conference (www.womendeliver.org), a global meeting on maternal and reproductive health and the advancement of women and girls, is complete! Read on for the GAB team’s final coverage of the event and some thoughts on where we should go from here.

Oh Canada

During today’s lunch conversation, Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation of Canada, dropped by to provide her thoughts on the importance of the G8/20 conferences and what steps need to be taken to ensure that the MDG 5 goal is met. Dr. Tore Godal, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Norway (who was also on the panel), believed that an additional $150 billion needs to be raised in order for that goal to be realistic. Despite this worrying outlook, both expressed great optimism upon seeing the great energy and enthusiasm over the past couple of days and think that the Women Deliver conference is a positive beginning for the road to 2015.

The elephant in the room, however, was Canada’s notorious reluctance to provide funds to abortions in developing countries. When the moderator began introducing the pending question as ‘a very sensitive, flammatory issue’, you could almost hear the deep intake of breath from the audience. Unfortunately, Beverly J. Oda’s response that Canada was sincerely dedicated to protecting the health of all women left much to be desired. All we can do is wait until the G8/20 conferences to see what actually transpires but props must still be given to Oda for coming to this conference (where were you Mr and Mrs. Harper?).

Quotes from the floor

There’s often so much going on at this conference that all I can do is to write down a quick snippet that seems to encapsulate the message of the wide range of sessions.

So here are a few of those:

Always strive to make an impact. The sky is not the limit.

We live in a perverse system, and we need to change that.

Being a leader is about choosing. You can choose to stand up while everyone else chooses to sit down. And sometimes it comes with a cost.

Let’s not just talk about young people and how we believe in them, let’s actually show it.

No one owns knowledge. It is there for everyone and we should all be sharing it.

Let’s open every doors possible to women in whatever form that takes.

It is not men’s job to empower women, they are already powerful. But we should stand up when there are assaults on women’s empowerment. So men do have a role to play but we can also just get out of the way.

Photos from the floor

(all photos via Women Deliver/Samuel Hurd)

In Closing- Women need a world that delivers

Holding up half the sky is hard on our arms, and it is hard on our feet. Especially when the rug is always being pulled out from under us. – Bachi Karkaria, Columnist, The Times of India

For the final discussion of the conference, the panelists focused on looking forward–specifically, what works and what do we need to change? The moderator asked the panelists what some of the greatest satisfactions in their activism movement were followed by some of their greatest distresses. One distress that had many of the audience members nodding their heads was the inability of the international community to recognize the power of grassroots women. She expressed her distaste in the phrase “We’re bringing in the experts”. These grassroots women already have the local knowledge (that so-called experts don’t have) and ability to make changes–the panelist listed her satisfaction at the fact that she had seen grassroots women rise from their situation and take control.

Annie Lennox spoke of her frustration with the ‘celebrity fixation’–she called on the mass media to take on a moral responsibility that could inform and educate this generation about the issues in the world that matter. On the flip side, she noted her celebrity status’ advantage–she now has a platform in which she can reach more people and act as a voice for many women around the world who have none.

I don’t like the term ‘mother of all problems’ because mothers do not create problems, they only pick up the pieces of other people’s problems. – Bachi Karkaria, Columnist, The Times of India

Though the panelists all believed that the recent Lancet study provides great hope in the struggle against maternal mortality, they made it clear that the job isn’t done. With all eyes now looking toward the upcoming G8/20 conferences, the session ended with a plea to conference attendees and those watching around the world to pressure parliaments, “Women deliver, and now is the time to push”.

We hope you’ve enjoyed GAB’s special coverage of Women Deliver 2010, and we hope to come again for the next one! A big shout-out to GAB Senior Editor Jessica Mack for all her hard work in helping to organize this massively successful conference–it definitely paid off!

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