2013: A Year of Delivering for Girls and Women

As we near the end of 2013, it’s time to look back on the incredible accomplishments of the past year to drive progress for girls and women. From Women’s Deliver’s biggest and brightest global conference to-date to significant progress made in increasing access to family planning and in developing a new global framework that priorities girls and women, this year has been monumental. Advocates from around the world and across sectors joined together to evaluate current and past efforts, analyze lessons learned, and look towards a brighter future.

1. One Billion Rise to End Gender-Based Violence (February-December)

Worldwide, one out of every three women has been physically assaulted, sexually assaulted, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Stigma and shame often keep survivors of violence from speaking out about their abuse, and few perpetrators are persecuted. This year marked significant progress in efforts to break the silence on violence against girls and women, with people worldwide raising their voices like never before.

  • A report released by UNICEF showed that female genital mutilation/cutting has declined dramatically in recent years, and that successful interventions have helped communities better protect girls and women from this practice.
  • On February 14, one billion people in 207 countries rose to call for an end to violence against girls and women. 
  • This December, the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence effectively spread awareness about gender-based violence on regional and global scales, helped fundraise for projects working to support survivors of violence, and shared innovative approaches to engaging men, artists, and partners around the world.

2. Private Sector Works to Make Contraceptives and Vaccines Affordable (February, May)

This year, private sector partners effectively reduced costs of contraceptive implants and vaccines to make both products more widely accessible to girls and women in developing countries. These reductions follow commitments made at the London Summit on Family Planning and efforts by the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities  to increase girls and women’s access to life-saving products.

  • In February, the Jadelle Access Program reduced the price of the contraceptive implant, Jadelle®, from US$18 to US$8.50 per unit, in more than 50 countries globally.
  • In May, Merck, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other partners announced a partnership to reduce the cost of IMPLANON®– a long-acting, reversible contraceptive implant–and its next generation implant, IMPLANON NXT®.
  • The GAVI Alliance also announced in February that thanks to cost reductions from vaccine manufacturers, more than 180,000 girls in eight developing countries will receive vaccinations against human papillomavirus (HPV).

3. International Women’s Day Brings Global Momentum for Girls’ and Women’s Health and Rights (March)
International Women’s Day has been celebrated every year on March 8th since 1911 in an effort to highlight the issues facing girls and women and to call for increased progress. This year, the official United Nations theme for International Women’s Day was “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”. Across the globe, advocates united to call for greater awareness of and advocacy for girls and women.

  • Sheffield and Women Deliver Board Member Dr. Fred Sai co-wrote an op-ed to mark International Women’s Day, highlighting the significance of maternal and reproductive health. They noted that these are “more than women’s issues; they are everyone's issues.”

4. Social Entrepreneurs Innovate for Change (March-May)

This year, social entrepreneurs were highlighted for their work to bring about change in innovative new ways. On International Women’s Day, online voters reviewed 25 amazing social enterprises that are delivering for girls and women and selected the top 10 enterprises to compete at the Women Deliver Social Enterprise Challenge in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The three winners, New Incentives, Black Girls Code, and Wedu, were announced at Women Deliver 2013 and each received $5000 to continue their important work. The enterprises work to benefit girls and women in a number of ways, from New Incentives’ conditional cash transfer program to Black Girls Code’s technology classes for young girls and Wedu’s mentorship and scholarship model.

5. Global Experts Map the Road Forward for 2015 and Beyond (April-October)
As 2015 draws closer, expert groups have been working to incorporate stakeholder perspectives into their blueprints for the new development agenda. Advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights have been hard at work to ensure that our priorities will be included. This year, three major position papers and a progress report emerged listing priorities and key recommendations for the post-2015 development framework.

  • In April, the High Level Task Force for ICPD released the following policy recommendations: fulfilling sexual and reproductive health and rights; achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health information and services; ensuring comprehensive sexuality education for youth; and eliminating violence against women and girls as key development priorities.
  • This May, the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda presented a report on five transformative shifts recommended for the new development framework: leave no one behind; put sustainable development at the core; transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth; build peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all; and forge a new global partnership.
  • In July, the Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals released a progress report from its first four sessions. The Open Working Group held a series of stakeholder consultations on priority topics, including health and population dynamics. The report highlights the importance of prioritizing sexual and reproductive health and rights, and working to end violence against women.
  • UN Women also released a position paper on post-2015 which proposes a three-fold approach to the new framework targeting freedom from gender-based violence, gender equality in the distribution of capabilities, and gender equality in decision-making power.

6. Women Deliver 2013 Calls for Greater Investments in Girls and Women (May)

Women Deliver’s third global conference, which took place May 28-30 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was the largest conference of the decade focused on girls’ and women’s health and rights.  Check out the conference report for data on participants, sessions, and conference impact. Highlights included:

  • More than 4,500 leaders, advocates, Ministers of Health and Finance, Parliamentarians, private sector executives, journalists and youth from 149 countries attended the three day event.
  • Expert speakers such as Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Chelsea Clinton, Board Member of the Clinton Foundation; Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Foundation (UNFPA); and Malaysian Prime Minister Honorable Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak. 

  • Ministers of Health, Finance, Women’s Affairs and Development Cooperation gathered to share challenges and stories of progress, and released an inspiring Call to Action.
  • The conference background paper, written by the World Bank, made the case that investing in girls and women is a prerequisite for achieving gender equality.
  • FHI 360 compiled news and updates throughout the conference in a series of “Daily Delivery” editions.
  • The day before the conference, Women Deliver held the Middle East and Northern Africa Consultation with 60 experts and advocates from 20 countries throughout the region. Participants developed a series of regional recommendations for promoting girls’ and women’s health and rights today and in the new development framework.

7. Young People Make Their Voices Heard (May-December)
There are currently 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24, making this the largest generation of youth the world has ever known. 2013 has truly been a year of youth. More and more young people have been voicing their needs and hopes for the future on global platforms.

  • In the lead up to and during Women Deliver 2013, we convened 100 Young Leaders from around the world. The Youth sessions at the conference were the most well-attended of any breakout session theme, and young people made their voices heard on Plenary stages, at the Minister’s Forum, in breakout sessions, and at special events.
  • Together with The Lancet and DSW (Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung), Women Deliver compiled young people’s hopes for the future from around the world in the publication We Have a Dream.
  • On this year’s International Youth Day on August 12th, the population of young people under the age of 30 reached 3 billion. 2013 has undoubtedly been the year of young people, with youth finally receiving a much deserved global spotlight and platforms to speak their minds. 
  • In November, youth delegates at the International Conference on Family Planning – many of them young women and men under age 25 – spoke passionately about the need for family planning, demanding that these crucial services and resources reach more of their peers and respond to their unique needs.
  • At the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa, Ministers of Education and Health from 21 Africa countries came together to sign a commitment to increase young peoples’ access to comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly services, and included a promising commitment to end child marriage by 2020. The ICASA YouthFront organized young people to call for strong leadership, systematic accountability and meaningful youth participation to get to zero new HIV infections.
  • Just last month, youth education advocate Malala Yousafzai was awarded the prestigious 2013 UN Human Rights Prize.

8. Catapult Raises More than $5 Million for Girls and Women (June)

Since Catapult launched last year, the crowdfunding platform has raised more than $5 million for more than 300 projects in 81 countries. As the first-ever crowdfunding platform dedicated exclusively to advancing the lives of girls and women, this is an incredible accomplishment for our field. In June, Gucci’s Chime for Change campaign put on a benefit concert, The Sound of Change Live, featuring Beyoncé, Florence + The Machine, John Legend, Jennifer Lopez, Rita Ora, Timbaland, Jessie J and other artists. Funds raised by conference sales provided funding for 210 Catapult projects.

9. Global Advocates Drive Progress on Family Planning (July-November)
Last year’s London Summit on Family Planning had a tremendous impact on efforts to increase access to family planning. The momentum has carried on into 2013, with celebrations of progress, new commitments, and plans for future progress.

10. On the 2nd Annual International Day of the Girl, Girls Call for Action (October)

This October marked the second-ever International Day of the Girl. On this day, a coalition of 500 girls presented the United Nations with the Girl Declaration, a groundbreaking document calling for investment in the 250 million girls around the world living in poverty and facing marginalization. The Declaration highlights goals for girls’ access to education, health, safety, economic security and citizenship.

The International Day of the Girl was also an opportunity to highlight the incredible work being done by girls around the globe. Let Girls Lead held a video contest to feature girls’ leadership and show how girls are transforming their own lives and the world. That same month, UNFPA released State of World Population 2013: Motherhood in Childhood, which highlights how the challenges of adolescent pregnancy can be met head on.

From all of us at Women Deliver, thank you for your incredible work to make the world a better place for girls and women. Best wishes for a happy holiday season, and we look forward to working with you in 2014.

Did we forget a major maternal health event or milestone? What do you think were the highlights of the year? Leave your ideas and answers in the comments below.

Flickr photos via: +Amanda Richards; DFID-UK Department for International Development; United Nations Photo; deinestimmegegenarmut;United Nations Photo

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