Leaders of top international organizations underscored the importance of increased investments in gender equality, women empowerment and maternal health at the opening of the Women Deliver 2010 conference in Washington on June 7.
“Invest in women, it pays,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his opening remarks. “This is one of the best investments we can make for this and future generations.”
The secretary-general’s message was reiterated by speakers of the conference’s opening plenary session, which featured World Bank officials and the head of the U.N. Population Fund among others.
U.N. Development Program Administrator Helen Clark also supported Ban’s call for more investments in women. These investments are necessary to achieve all eight Millennium Development Goals, Clark said in an article published by the Huffington Post.
“Development progress is lagging where the needs and status of women and girls are given low priority. Women’s reproductive health needs remain hugely underserved,” the UNDP administrator said.
Ban called for better collaboration to address issues faced by women around the world, especially health concerns. He urged world leaders, civil society, nongovernmental organizations and other international development stakeholders to support the U.N.’s joint action plan, which seeks to put maternal and child health high on the international development agenda.
The action plan was introduced by Ban in April and formally launched during the conference.
The international community should seize upcoming events, including the G-8 and G-20 meetings, the International AIDS conference and the African Union summit on maternal, infant and child health, to map decisive actions toward curbing maternal death, according to Ban.
“We must fight for women’s health, with all our resources all the time,” he added.
The secretary-general noted the importance of simple clinical procedures in reducing pregnancy-related deaths. Blood tests, consultations with qualified doctors, provision of antibiotics and safe facilities can help eliminate the risk of maternal death, Ban explained.
Maternal health and reproductive rights should be at the center of the political agenda at the local, national and global level, according to the participants of the conference’s opening plenary, which included top officials of the World Bank and the U.N. Population Fund, the U.N. Dispatch says.
On top of maternal health, Clark said there is also a need to broadly address women empowerment.
“My message today in Washington is that, with support from developed and developing countries alike, we can achieve the MDGs, substantially improving the lives of millions of people,” Clark wrote. “But we can only fully succeed if we commit to a focus on women’s empowerment.”
New commitments to the global effort to address maternal deaths were announced during the conference. Melinda Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged USD1.5 billion over the next five years to help accelerate maternal health efforts in India, Ethiopia and other countries with high maternal death rates.
Meanwhile, UNFPA and CARE International agreed to enhance their collaboration on maternal health initiatives in more than 25 developing countries.
The Women Deliver 2010 conference runs from June 7 through 9 in Washington. It is sponsored by Women Deliver, a global advocacy organization that seeks to general financial investment and political commitment for MDG 5.