Invest in women - it pays!

Invest in women - it pays!

Women deliver enormous social and economic benefits for their families, communities, and nations. Investing to improve maternal health and save women’s lives—and achieve Millennium Development Goal 5—is the right thing to do. It is also sound economics.

Women’s well-being determines a country’s well-being.[1]

  • Women drive economic development: they operate the majority of small businesses and farms in developing countries
  • Women’s work makes everyone more productive: more of their income goes for food, medicine, education, and other family needs
  • Women contribute to economic growth: their unpaid work at home and on the farm equals about 1/3 of world GDP
  • When women survive, families thrive maternal deaths are preventable.

There is global consensus on these cost-effective solutions:

  • Family planning programs
  • Skilled care for mothers and newborns before, during, and after childbirth, including emergency obstetric care
  • Safe abortion, when and where legal

Delivering these solutions requires that we:

  • Prioritize young people
  • Strengthen national health systems that deliver for women
  • Advance and protect human rights for girls and women

These tragic facts can be changed.

In developing countries each year…

  • 215 million women who want to avoid pregnancy do not use an effective method of contraception
  • Pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death and disability for young women
  • Nearly half of all pregnant women do not receive skilled care
  • About 20 million women have unsafe abortions
  • 10 to 15 million women suffer severe or long-lasting illnesses or disabilities caused by complications during pregnancy and childbirth

Investing in women makes sense right now and is essential for our future.

Investing another US $12 billion a year (for a total of US $24 billion) would fulfill the unmet need for family planning and provide every woman with the recommended standard of maternal and newborn care. The results:

  • Reducing unintended pregnancies by more than 66%
  • Preventing 70% of maternal deaths
  • Averting 44% of newborn deaths
  • Reducing unsafe abortion by 73%
  • Cutting disability-adjusted life years lost to pregnancy-related illness and premature death by 66%

Investing in women brings positive returns. It would also:

  • Return as much as US $15 billion dollars in productivity, now lost to maternal and newborn death
  • Improve public health for all by developing strong, accessible health systems
  • Prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce HIV and other sexually transmitted infections
  • Empower girls and women with greater opportunity for education and employment
  • Strengthen families, communities, economies, nations, and our world

Want more facts on why the return on investment in women is enormous?

  • Investment in educating girls one extra year beyond the average boosts their eventual wages 10 to 20 percent.
  • Investment in female secondary education yields returns in the form of higher wages that range from 15 to 25 percent, according to Yale economist Paul Schultz.[2]
  • Credit extended to women increases household consumption about twice as much as men's borrowing.
  • Providing emergency obstetric services and equipment to save women's lives also creates the capacity to perform operations and transfusions for accidents and other emergencies.
  • In some low- and middle-income countries, hospitals spend up to half their obstetric and gynecological budgets to treat women with complications from unsafe abortions.
  • A 1993 World Bank study found that antenatal and delivery care and family planning were among the six most cost-effective health interventions for low-income countries.
  • Educated, employed and economically productive women are more likely to use health care systems.
  • One study found that unemployed women have more than four times the chance of maternal death than employed women, and a greater chance of maternal health complications and illness after childbirth.
  • Women who use maternal health services are more likely to use other reproductive health services, such as HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, and family planning.
  • Women who use maternal health care services are also more likely to obtain vaccinations for themselves and their children.
  • Job status is more important to improving maternal health than overall household economic status, perhaps because paid work increases women's power over household resources.

The necessary investment is well within reach.

  • Several reports estimate that the package of services essential to make significant improvements in maternal health would cost less than US$1.50 per person in the 75 countries where 95 percent of maternal deaths occur.

1. Figures in this fact sheet, except where indicated, from Focus on Five, New York: Women Deliver, 2010; Adding It Up: The Costs and Benefits of Investing in Family Planning and Maternal and Newborn Health, New York: Guttmacher Institute and United Nations Population Fund, 2009; and K. Gill, R. Pande and A. Malhotra, "Women Deliver for Development," International Center for Research on Women, Washington DC, July 24, 2007, pp. 37-41.
2. These two points on education from B. Herz & G. Sperling, "What Works in Girls' Education: Evidence and Policies from the Developing World," Council on Foreign Relations, New York, 2004, pp. 3-6.


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