Over 4,500 world leaders, advocates, call for continued investment in girls and women

Black WomenHer Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Former President of Finland Tarja Halonen, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark and African Women’s Development Fund CEO Theo Sawa were among over 4,500 leaders who today called for continued investment in girls and women.

Taking turns to speak at ‘Women Deliver 2013’ the largest conference of such nature in the decade held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, all the afore mentioned leaders addressed the importance of placing girls and women at the centre of the next development agenda, and discussed advocacy strategies to keep girls’ and women’s needs in focus.

The conference, which was held from Tuesday, May 28, 2013 to Thursday, May 30, 2013, focused on girls’ and women’s health and rights, and brought together more than 4,500 leaders and advocates representing over 2,200 organisations and 149 countries.

Specifically, the final day of Women Deliver 2013 focused on the critical need to prioritise girls and women in the lead-up to the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) deadline and beyond.

Incidentally, the appeal for action came one day before the United Nations’ High-Level Panel is expected to announce its recommendations for the post-2015 development framework. With progress lagging on the MDGs relating to women, policymakers and activists provided insights about how the next set of development goals can adequately and effectively address women’s health and empowerment.

In her remarks, UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark, called for a global development agenda “which gives priority to gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women to make their own decisions about the lives they lead.”

In the conference’s closing plenary, Women Deliver President Jill Sheffield and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair Melinda Gates, also recognised the next generation of leaders for girls and women and presented the first-ever Women Deliver Rising Star Awards to three emerging voices in the field of women’s health and rights.

The award recipients were Senator Pia S. Cayetano, the youngest woman elected in the history of the Philippine Senate, a champion of the rights of women and children and a staunch advocate for health, Imane Khachani, MD, MSc. – a Resident in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Maternity Hospital Les Orangers in Rabat, Morocco and Remmy Shawa works at Sonke Gender Justice in Cape Town, South Africa, and coordinates a project to strengthen work with men and boys in the promotion of gender equality and in ending violence against women in Africa.

Armed with the training of a lawyer, discipline of an athlete and heart of a mother, Senator Pia S. Cayetano also excelled in her first term as legislator and was re-elected to a second term in 2010, while Imane Khachani has extensive experience in sexual and reproductive health research and advocacy, particularly for adolescents and young women; and has collaborated with several UN agencies, including UNFPA, WHO and UNAIDS.

She also currently sits on the Women Deliver and the Guttmacher Institute Boards of Directors.

Jill Sheffield and Melinda Gates also recognised the Women Deliver 100 Young Leaders, an international group of activists under 30 who received scholarships to attend the conference because of their work on behalf of women and girls.

While the need to engage and include youth in the next development framework was a key theme throughout Women Deliver 2013, young people’s voices and perspectives were also highlighted throughout the meeting.

Commenting at the end of the conference, Women Deliver President Jill Sheffield said: “This week at Women Deliver 2013, we have changed history for girls and women everywhere. We renewed our commitments, shared lessons learned, and listened to those leading the way on women’s health and rights, including young people who will carry this important work forward for years to come.”

“Most importantly, we have joined together to raise our voices in a single call to action—girls’ and women’s health and rights must be prioritised today, tomorrow, and every day until our work is done. Because we know, when girls and women survive, all of us thrive,” she added.

Women Deliver is a global advocacy organisation that brings together voices from around the world to call for improved health and wellbeing for girls and women. Launched in 2007, Women Deliver works globally to generate political commitment and financial investment for fulfilling Millennium Development Goal five – to reduce maternal mortality and achieve universal access to reproductive health.

Building from the ground-breaking conferences Women Deliver convened in 2007 and 2010, Women Deliver harnesses commitments, partnerships and networks to help prevent the approximately 350,000 deaths of girls and women from pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes that occur every year.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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