March 18, 2015

Women and Children at the Center of Development


Originally appeared on Girls’ Globe

305526-EWEC_Progress_Report_FINAL_3On March 10th, as part of the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the UN Secretary-General hosted a high level event titled “Saving Lives, Protecting Futures” at the United Nations and launched the Progress Report on his Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, which has been carried out since 2010 as part of the Every Woman Every Child movement to accelerate progress towards Millennium Development Goals 4, 5 and 6.

“Let us therefore resolve to build on the progress we have made so we can end the preventable deaths of women and children within a generation. Together, let us make history and leave no one behind.”

– Ban Ki-moon

Every Woman Every Child was launched by the Secretary-General in 2010, during the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit. It is a global movement that has pooled together support and resources from governments and partners form all around the world to address some of the greatest health challenges faced by women and children globally. On Tuesday, the Secretary-General along with a panel of distinguished speakers addressed the progress that had been achieved so far since the launch of the movement, addressed the remaining challenges and discussed what needs to happen to forge the way forward. Since its launch, the Global Strategy has garnered over 400 concrete action-oriented commitments form governments, civil society actors, private sector, foundations, academics and international organizations.

Tuesday’s event included remarks from Melinda Gates from the Gates Foundation, Professor Nkandu Luo, Minister of Gender and Child Development of Zambia, and Emelin Cabrera, a 15-year old youth representative from Guatemala. Their remarks were followed by a panel discussion that included Hon. Julia Duncan-Cassell, Minister of Gender and Development, Republic of Liberia; Mr. Kenneth Frazier, Chairman and CEO of Merck; Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez, Assistant Administrator for Global Health and Child and Maternal Survival Coordinator at USAID; Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA and Ms. Vera Brezhneva, UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

While all the speakers recognized the notable progress that has been made with improving the health and wellbeing of women and children, such as a 45% reduction in maternal deaths since 1990 and 6.4 million fewer children dying in 2013 compared to 1990, it remained clear throughout the discussion that the road ahead continues to be long and challenging. The importance and role of innovative and new partnerships was recognized my many panelists as one of the key drivers of success, and the importance of ensuring that we have measurable, ambitious targets and reliable and timely data to measure progress was also brought up multiple times.


“The other piece of the agenda that is really clear is reproductive health. — Families are healthier and wealthier when they can space the births of their children.”

– Melinda Gates

The event brought together all the key players in the quest to improve the health and lives of women and children around the world: governments, private sector, NGOs, civil society – and youth. New partnerships and a more holistic, integrated approach to addressing the major health issues still faced by women and children will surely be key drivers of progress and development – but at the center of all of it should be those whom this strategy and movement aims to serve: Women and children. There should be no more programs for women and girls without women and girls not just as beneficiaries, but as planners, developers and implementers of those programs. No more talking about what women and girls need, without asking women and girls. No more of seeing women and girls as passive recipients of aid and development – it is time to bring them to the table as active changemakers, agents of development and drivers of progress. Out of all the speakers at this great event, no one said it better than 15-year old Emelin:

“We are the present and the future of our countries – we have a voice and we are going to use it.”

-Emelin Cabrera


Want to join the conversation?

Join Girls’ Globe on Tuesday, March 17th at 10am EDT for the Youth Voices: Let’s talk about Adolescent Health Google+ Hangout. The interactive hangout will engage thought leaders, youth and strengthen youth voices in a discussion around adolescent health priorities as they relate to the Global Strategy.

Click here for a video recording of the Saving Lives, Protecting Futures event.

To learn about Emelin and other incredible girls like here, please visit Let Girls Lead and find out more about the incredible work they are doing.