Oslo Conference Shines a Spotlight on Girls’ and Women’s Health

By: Lindsay Menard-Freeman, Women Deliver

Norway held a high-level conference in Oslo City Hall on June 1, 2012 to showcase its efforts to promote global health and gender equality, including women’s and children’s rights and health. This conference, entitled “A World in Transition; Charting a New Path in Global Health” brought together prominent politicians and experts in a joint effort to eliminate the tragic and preventable deaths of women, mothers and children around the world.

A panel discussion was followed by a speech by Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre and keynote address by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Prior to the meeting, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) held four workshops.  One workshop, Scaling and Sustaining New Technologies for Health” aimed to identify issues and solutions regarding scaling and sustaining new technologies for health within low-income countries, using cases of scaling e- and m-health solutions as examples.

The workshop entitled “Economic benefits of investing in Women’s Health” highlighted the strong indications that investing in women’s health not only is a value in itself, but also may result in economic growth. Demonstrating the broader societal returns of investment in women’s and children’s health can be a critical tool in mobilizing additional resources. But what evidence exists to prove the investment is worth it? One example is work by WHO to show the social and economic effects of maternal and newborn ill-health where all studies indicate that health impacts economic growth. Twelve global, multilateral and bilateral organisations and foundations also produced a study that shows that 30-50 % of Asia’s economic growth between 1965 and 1990 can be attributed to reduction in infant and child mortality, fertility rates and improvements in reproductive health.

Norway has taken an initiative to address the knowledge and evidence gap to feed into policy decisions. This is expected to show the importance of investment in women’s health to sustainable economic development. The initiative is under the auspices of a network of global leaders chaired by Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, and includes work to be carried out by Washington University and Harvard School of Public Health.

The workshop “Saving Mothers, Giving Life” highlighted a project launched with the goal of aggressively reducing maternal mortality in places where women are dying at alarming rates during pregnancy and childbirth. SMGL, a public private partnership under president Obama’s Global Health initiative of which Norway is a founding partner, focuses on low income countries and builds on the PEPFAR programme with its extensive health sector support in recipient countries to fight HIV/AIDS.

“Sexual violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Areas” centered on the serious health and human rights issues affecting millions of people, primarily women and girls. International efforts to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence have been considerably strengthened since Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security was adopted in 2000. Norway was one of the first countries to develop a national action plan for implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (SCR 1325).

For more information on the conference, please click here

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