May 2016 has been an important month, with a number of key summits and meetings accelerating action towards tackling the critical global challenges that face us today. These include the World Humanitarian Summit to mobilise action to prevent and tackle humanitarian crises, the World Health Assembly to encourage Ministers of Health to adopt necessary resolutions for improving health of the global population, and the G7 summit which brought together the Heads of States of the G7 countries to address key challenges such as food and nutrition insecurity, anti-microbial resistance, universal health coverage, and conflict and peace.
Amidst all these important events, the ACTION team got to attend another heavily charged and inspiring conference in Copenhagen- the Women Deliver conference. The conference which debuted in London back in 2007 saw over 5000 participants from different parts of the world and walks of life, come together to discuss the challenges which limit women from surviving and thriving. It discussed the opportunities that need to be seized in order to further women’s rights, health, and wellbeing. After all, as Melinda Gates aptly summed up ‘“Empowered women and girls absolutely transform society”.
This year’s conference focused significantly on the massive data gap that needs to be filled if we are to address the gap in gender equality. Lack of good data makes it difficult to accurately assess the burden of socio-economic and health challenges faced by women all over the world. It makes it difficult to track their contribution to society through paid and unpaid work, and consequently to design strong policy and programmes to empower them. In this regard, there was a resounding applause when the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation announced USD 80 million over the next three years to bridge the gender gap through investments in good quality data.
There was also a strong focus on improving education and learning, health and nutrition outcomes through universal health coverage, stronger health systems, access to family planning services, and safe and secure sanitation provisions for women and adolescent girls. In addition, there was unambiguous support in favour of upholding women’s rights, providing equal economic opportunities for women, and social protection from economic shocks.
Across all the issues that impact the health and development of women, a key theme emerged, bringing together all of these diverse yet closely linked priorities – ‘equity’. Women from the remotest, poorest and most marginalised communities are unquestionably worse off, and without meeting their requirements we cannot hope to see the progress we want in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
ACTION also conducted a session on ‘Making investments in nutrition and health work for women and girls”. An interesting discussion ensued from panellists who joined us from the World Bank, the Micronutrient Initiative, the Generation Nutrition campaign, and the famous artist and humanitarian, Yvonne Chaka Chaka on the multiplier effect that women and girls had on sustainable development. They emphasised the need to invest in grey matter’ i.e to facilitate cognition and learning through improved nutrition, health and education for young children and adolescent girls, and the role of donors, national and local governments in taking concrete actions to improve health and nutrition.
There was so much to learn from the conference, and yet so little time to learn some more. Having returned from it we now have an even stronger impetus to focus our efforts in all our areas of work: child health, nutrition, TB, education, and climate change, to bring about a positive change for all, especially for women and girls.
You can catch some of the interviews and more updates from the conference here.