By: Frances Kissling, a member of the Women Deliver Conference team and is a visiting scholar at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, U.S., orginally posted at Impact, the magazine for PSI
Richard Horton,the editor of the The Lancet, called the 2010 Women Deliver conference “the most significant event for the future of women and children in 20 years.” What, might we ask, would lead Horton, a man not known for extravagant praise, to make such a claim for a conference? Even if it were one that brought together 3,200 experts and advocates including UN agency heads and the Secretary-General, ministers of health, parliamentarians, health workers, young professionals, and women’s and human rights advocates to talk about maternal mortality and raise public awareness about the need for more funding and better strategies to end maternal death and injury? Has not the world heard over and over again that more money is needed for every development and humanitarian cause in the world to the point of donor fatigue?
Women Deliver, however, did more. It presented women as powerful forces for social change, not victims of high-risk pregnancy. At the foundational level, the case was made that investing in women pays off for all of us, not just for the woman, her newborn and more extended family, but for all of us. A productive empowered woman is a critical participant in wealth creation, democratic governance, scientific advancement, ending violence and environmental sustainability.
A productive empowered woman will also lead a full personal life. Women Deliver recognized that women deliver for themselves as well as others. It appealed not just to the head and pocketbook of donors, but to the heart of each woman. Sexuality and reproduction are social, cultural and spiritual matters. And so along with crunching numbers and strategies for meeting Millennium Development Goal 5, and breaking down barriers between issues and interests, Women Deliver made space for women like Africa’s Yvonne Chaka-Chaka to sing and former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, PSI Board Member Ashley Judd, and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett to talk about what it means to be a woman who has power and soul.
It is this combination of heart and head, economics and culture, compassion and respect that made Women Deliver 2010 more than a conference but the expression of a mature movement that seeks the best for all women at all stages of their lives.
Frances Kissling was a member of the Women Deliver Conference team and is a visiting scholar at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, U.S.