By: Susana Edjang, Project Manager for Every Woman Every Child effort in the United Nations’ Secretary-General’s Global Health Team
As people across the globe deliberate, whose perspective should be sought out and how can their participation be ensured?
I would like to think that everyone – no matter the background, gender, ethnic group or age – stops to think about the value of the lives of those mothers, sisters, friends, partners and daughters, and sons, that someone just like us loses unnecessarily every day due to preventable causes. The good news is that today we are doing more than just thinking or talking about it. The Every Woman Every Child effort, spear-headed by the UN Secretary-General, aims to ensure that we all work together and that our efforts towards saving and improving the lives of women and children, are better coordinated and enhanced putting into action the Global Strategy for Women and Children’s Health.
This is an historic effort.
It tackles one of the biggest challenges of our time, one we have failed to properly address for so many years: the unnecessary deaths of the most valuable in our quest for global progress and also the most vulnerable – women and children. By supporting women’s and children’s access to basic health care we have the opportunity to be the first generation that tackles this terrible injustice. UN agencies, governments, multilateral organisations, the private sector, foundations, civil society, the health professions and academics are all already playing a role.
The 100+ partners of Every Woman Every Child have succeeded in ensuring that women’s and children’s health are at the top of the agenda throughout 2011 and beyond. We have listened to their perspectives and encourage their participation in events around the world where their voices should be heard.
Around the world, the private sector and foundations are sharing and scaling up innovations that improve the lives of women and children – whether through health education of their own female factory workers, by strengthening the distribution of immunisations, or creating models that reduce the cost of delivering a child. Advocacy groups, alongside other partners, help to ensure that we are all accountable to our commitments. Health workers in hard to reach rural areas, with very limited support, contribute to the best of their ability. Heads of State are, for the first time, openly discussing and developing effective policies for the health of women and children. UN agencies with a mandate on women’s and children’s health, known as the H4+, are working together to support implementation of the Global Strategy at the national level.
One thing that we have learned through the Every Woman Every Child effort, is that we cannot afford to miss out on the innovations and diverse perspectives that unlikely partners bring about.
Accountability and sharing results are at the core of the Global Strategy. We know the importance of sharing what we do, how we do it and what we know. This year, the Commission on Information and Accountability, co-chaired by two Heads of State, Prime Minister Harper of Canada and President Kikwete of Tanzania, have delivered a report to make sure that we have the right information so that we can be accountable to each other and, more importantly, to women and children around the world.
But more importantly, once a year, we need to convene our partners and continue to demand that global leaders take a stand and share progress. This is why, on 20 September 2011, the UN Secretary-General is holding a high-level meeting on the implementation of the Global Strategy, where partners from all sectors will stand up and be accountable, announce new commitments and share with global leaders and the public, the status of their achievements. Participation at the global level galvanizes initiatives nationally, regionally and locally.
The global outlook is, of course, far from perfect. Current challenges include conflict, famines, climate change, the recession, and they show us, once again, that women and children are the face of the most vulnerable yet, they are also the face of the solution. This is the first time that we can ensure that our actions mean something not only for ourselves but for others and for our common future. In addition, we cannot afford to leave anyone off the hook this time. This time around, we should continue to demand that global leaders take the podium and commit to implementing and scaling-up solutions and to be accountable for what they have committed to. Our question to them should be why aren’t you part of the Every Woman Every Child effort? It is the 21st century, why haven’t you taken a public stand yet on this issue? How is your commitment to women and children being honoured? And let’s make sure that we are justified to ask those questions because we are doing something already ourselves.
*The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the United Nations.