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Opinion Pieces Address Issues Discussed At Women Deliver Conference

Women Deliver 2013, an international conference held this week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is focusing on the health and empowerment of girls and women. The following opinion pieces address issues being discussed at the conference.

  • Caitlin Callahan, Sonya Soni, and Hannah Smalley, Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog: Describing the “equitable involvement” of young men and women at the Women Deliver conference, the authors, all Global Health Corps fellows, write, “Ultimately, women and youth are not products of their environment, as we are often mistakenly told, but are outcomes of the expectations that we place on them. If we expect them to be stewards, rather than beneficiaries, of the social change movement, equitable partnerships among youth will not only be subscribed to by a few [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)] like Global Health Corps or Women Deliver, but will be the norm in all international institutions” (5/29).
  • Denise Dunning, Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog: “Following a gradual evolution of development priorities, the global community now recognizes that investing in girls is one of the most successful strategies to alleviate poverty, reduce infant and maternal mortality, and improve health and educational outcomes,” Dunning, program director at the Adolescent Girls’ Advocacy & Leadership Initiative (AGALI), writes. She describes a girl-centered advocacy model developed by AGALI and the United Nations Foundation, and concludes, “Only by investing in girl-centered advocacy for laws and policies that advance girls’ rights will we move beyond the important first step of providing services to thousands of girls, and instead begin transforming the lives of millions of girls” (5/29).
  • Sarah Edwards, Huffington Post U.K.: Edwards, head of policy and campaigns at Health Poverty Action, describes a Women Deliver side event on equity, titled “Ensuring Every Mother and Newborn Counts,” that was organized by Health Poverty Action, Save the Children and WaterAid. She discusses the “lively debate” that occurred over a suggestion to disaggregate data by ethnicity, and she writes, “While it may be appropriate to use proxies such as region in some highly sensitive contexts, in most countries disaggregating data by ethnicity is a prerequisite for exposing the realities of ethnic inequities in health and addressing the health rights of the most vulnerable in a targeted, culturally appropriate way” (5/29).
  • Melinda Gates, CNN: “Empowered women and girls will save lives, make families more prosperous and help the poorest countries in the world build stronger economies,” Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in the opinion piece, part of CNN’s “Girl Rising” series. “One key to empowerment — and an issue that’s a personal priority for me — is letting women decide when to have children,” she writes, adding, “Family planning is just the start. Women who have the power to decide when to get pregnant also must have the power to vaccinate their children, feed them healthy food and pay their school fees. Each of these things is a link in a chain of good health and prosperity.” Gates concludes, “Once these basics are in place, the only limit is women’s ambition for the future” (5/29).
  • Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Huffington Post’s “Religion” blog: “It is crucial to talk about the role religion can play in the effort to empower girls and women in the area of family planning,” but “the role of religion in the reproductive lives of women is also fraught and touches on many of the flash points that religious communities are grappling with today,” Raushenbush, senior religion editor at the Huffington Post, writes. He describes the “Faith and Family Planning” panel he moderated at the Women Deliver conference, and writes, “[E]ven small advances in how religious communities view reproductive health issues can have huge positive effects on the lives of women and girls on the ground” (5/29).