|Women Deliver 2010: Invest in Women, it Pays|
Shobha Shukla – Citizen News Service
June 05, 2010
The world's largest conference on women's health and empowerment in more than a decade opens on Monday, June 7, at Washington DC, USA, with a call to increase funding commitments for maternal, reproductive, and newborn health. The conference comes at a critical moment, three weeks before the G8 Summit, where host country Canada has made it a major focus, and represents the return of the United States as a strong partner, in promoting global maternal and reproductive health.
This three days conference would bring together more than 3,000 representatives, including leaders, advocates and officials, from nearly 140 countries, to plan out strategies and call for action against maternal death, in order to save the lives of the 350,000-500,000 women who die from pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes each year, citing new economic rationale for investing in women.
The conference aims to highlight achievements in reducing maternal mortality, breakthroughs in reproductive technology, the role of women’s health in development, and remaining obstacles to improving maternal health around the world. It would call on governments, donors, and multi-lateral organizations to increase their financial commitments to women and girls.
The line-up of first ladies expected to attend Women Deliver includes Sia Nyama Koroma (Sierra Leone), Ernestina Naadu Mills (Ghana), Dame Patience Goodluck (Nigeria), Mama Fatma Karume (Zanzibar), Jeannette Kagame (Rwanda), Mama Salma Kikwete (Tanzania), Azeb Mesfin (Ethiopia), Ida Odinga (Kenya), Sandra Roelofs (Georgia) and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark.
It may be an oft-repeated, but true statement that “the well-being of women determines the well-being of a country. According to Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver, “Women deliver enormous social and economic benefits to their families, communities, and nations. Our leaders need to realize that this issue is at the core of global development, economic well-being, and even national security. When women survive, families thrive.”
There are cost effective solutions to prevent maternal deaths. Ensuring access to modern contraception could prevent up to a third of maternal deaths. An estimated 215 million women worldwide want to avoid or delay pregnancy, but are not using effective contraceptives. Skilled care before, during and after pregnancy and childbirth, including emergency obstetric care, for mothers and newborns, as well as access to safe abortions, when and where legal, will also help to reduce maternal mortality; currently nearly 70,000 women die each year from unsafe abortion.
Delivering these solutions requires that we prioritize young people, delivering comprehensive sexuality education; strengthen national health systems that deliver for women, also providing prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; and advance, implement and protect the human rights of women and girls.
Addressing the current maternal and neonatal mortality rates and massive unmet contraceptive needs with proven interventions would cost US$24 billion per year, or just US $4.50 per capita worldwide, about double the current level of investment. Such an investment would save 70 percent of the women’s lives and 44 percent of the newborn lives currently lost. Benefits would extend beyond health, to improving the stability and economic prosperity of societies and nations.
“We know what needs to be done to save women’s lives, and everyone has a stake,” said Women Deliver conference Co-Chair Dr. Fred Sai of Ghana. “We are calling on governments to double today’s investment in maternal health— a small price to pay that would yield extraordinary return. In a world of difficult problems, here is a major challenge we can rise to, and overcome.”
Hence it is imperative for all governments and societies to uphold the dignity of motherhood by ensuring that no woman dies while giving life. Only then can we meet Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters and ensure universal access to reproductive health by the year 2015.
Invest in women - it pays.
Shobha Shukla is the CNS Editor, Director of CNS Gender Initiative, has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP, and teaches Physics at India's prestigious Loreto Convent. Email: shobha(at)citizen-news.org, website: www.citizen-news.org