Monthly Archives: July 2016

Why Attending Women Deliver Matters

I spent five days in Copenhagen, Denmark – “the happiest place in the world for women” – with 6,000 other advocates, donors, decision-makers, providers, and youth.  While everyone had a different focus and background, we were all there for the same reason: to keep the drumbeat for women’s and girls’ health and development going.

Worldwide, there has been a lot of progress in reducing poverty, improving the health of women and children, and engaging civil society in the decisions that impact their future in the last fifteen years but we are far from done. Every three years, Women Deliver offers people from around the world the chance to connect and exchange ideas for impact. When you work in global development, you learn very quickly that collaboration is important because there is no silver bullet that cures all. Maternal health can only be improved if you approach it holistically and consider everything; from health workers and access to essential medicines to the cost of services and the location of community health centers. Women have diverse needs and as the primary caregivers of their families, they have a lot to say about the future. The Women Deliver 2016 conference gave these women a platform to speak directly with elected and appointment decisionmakers and tell their stories.

Crystal Lander, second from left, speaks on one of the Women Deliver panels, sharing successful advocacy strategies for women's and girls' health. Photo credit: Michele Alexander/MSH.

Crystal Lander, second from left, speaks on one of the Women Deliver panels, sharing successful advocacy strategies for women’s and girls’ health. Photo credit: Michele Alexander/MSH.

With the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the work of creating a more equitable world that ensures access to safe, accessible and affordable health services is on everyone’s mind.  Successes in individual countries and regions should be celebrated but as one speaker noted, “one woman dying in childbirth is one too many.”

So, why does attending Women Deliver matter?  Changes can only happen when they are being actively discussed.  We cannot let the world forget what they don’t always see.

Crystal Lander is the Senior Director for Policy, Advocacy and Communications at MSH and a long-time advocate for women and girls.

Integrating NCDs into the Women’s Health Agenda

Since 2010, MSH has been an active advocate for the acknowledgement and inclusion of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the overarching women’s health agenda. We were happy to partner with Nova Nortis and the NCD Alliance for the 2016 Women Deliver conference to address how the maternal health agenda can and should include NCDs. The three sessions emphasized the value in adopting a common agenda for NCDs and RMNCAH and identified key advocacy strategies and youth engagement techniques to make effectively addressing NCDs a key priority in the movement for women and girls’ equality. Speakers included Florence Guillaume, Former Minister of Public Health & Population, Haiti, Maisha Hutton, Executive Director, Healthy Caribbean Coalition, and Bente Mikkelsen, Head of the Secretariat, Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs, WHO.

The first session, Tackling NCDs: The Key to Improving the Health of Women and Girls, explained the public health burden NCDs present for women and girls. Limited access to care, heightened exposure to risk factors, and the sex-specific nature of some NCDs force women and girls to bear the greatest burden of non-communicable diseases. Recognizing that NCDs are the leading cause of death for women globally and kill 18 million women annually, the panel of experts assembled at this session called for the inclusion of NCDs in a comprehensive, life course approach to women and girls’ health.

In light of this call for a more comprehensive approach, the second session centered on joint advocacy strategies to unite the NCD and RMNCAH agendas. Case studies of advocacy initiatives in Brazil, the Caribbean, Uganda, and Rwanda prove that streamlined messaging and joint advocacy can result in the adoption of evidence-based interventions that effectively address NCDs and RMNCAH together. Table discussions led by youth delegates emphasized that an integration of these agendas will ultimately strengthen health systems and promote universal health coverage (UHC).

One of the talented graphic facilitators at Women Deliver captured the second NCD session takeaways. Photo credit: Crystal Lander/MSH.

One of the talented graphic facilitators at Women Deliver captured the second NCD session takeaways. Photo credit: Crystal Lander/MSH.

The final session, Engaging Youth for a Healthier Future: The NCD Perspective, called for greater youth advocacy in the NCD space. Several case studies of youth activism were referenced by panelists as a testament to the critical success youth can have in galvanizing support and action with respect to NCDs.

third panel

The third session panelists engage the audience through yes or no questions using paddles. Photo credit: Michele Alexander/MSH.

Post study tour, Management Sciences for Health continues to advocate for the inclusion of NCDs in the broader women and girls’ agenda through its steering role in the NCD Round Table. It is our hope that by Women Deliver 2019, the NCD and RMNCAH agendas will be integrated and more evidence-based interventions will be devoted to improving women and girls’ health across the life course.

This post was written by Meredith Greene, Summer Policy, Advocacy & Communications Intern with Management Sciences for Health.