By: Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver; Originally posted on the Huffington Post
Today, on the 101st anniversary of International Women's Day, we celebrate girls and women, and the tremendous contributions they make to families, communities and the world. As my friends Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have so profoundly said, women do hold up half the sky. They contribute up to one-third of global gross domestic product, and their health and education create a domino effect of positive outcomes. In turn, the world needs to ensure that girls and women have access to the information and services they need to stay healthy.
There could not be a more urgent time for the global community to focus our efforts on maternal and reproductive health. Each year, more than 358,000 women die from pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications. Approximately 99 percent of these deaths occur in the developing world, and the vast majority are entirely preventable.
That these deaths are preventable means that solutions exist -- and that we need to work together to spread information, replicate success stories and celebrate new, lifesaving innovations. Women Deliver, in honor of this year's International Women's Day, announced our list of the 50 most inspiring ideas and solutions that deliver for girls and women.
The "Women Deliver 50" list showcases advocacy campaigns, health interventions, technologies, educational initiatives and leadership programs around the world. The initiatives, which range from grassroots to global, are led by social entrepreneurs, civil society, governments, international agencies and private companies. We hope this list inspires action, commitment and, most importantly, excitement for what we can accomplish together moving forward.
One of our winners, Traffina Foundation's Let's Save Our Mothers campaign, takes an innovative approach to health advocacy and education in Nigeria. Many women are not aware of the importance of antenatal care or the complications that can arise after delivery. Let's Save Our Mothers addresses this by using mobile antenatal services to disseminate lifesaving information about antenatal care and maternal death in rural communities.
Sixty-three percent of the 137 million illiterate young people in the world are female, and women are often uninformed about critical issues relating to their health. In Pakistan, the Chanan Development Association (CDA) uses youth- and women-led theater programs to educate communities. CDA has staged 1,000 plays throughout Pakistan on issues traditionally considered taboo, including sexuality, HIV/AIDS, family planning and sexual education.
Another powerful advocacy initiative among our finalists is the United Nations Foundation's Shot@Life campaign, which works in the United States to raise awareness and champion vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries.
These are just a few of the amazing solutions we highlight on our "Women Deliver 50" list. As a community, we have made tremendous progress over the past few years through the work we've done together.
Our work does not end here, however. Let's join together to celebrate girls and women every day by making their health and empowerment a top global priority.