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.
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.