Recently more than 4,500 global leaders and advocates representing over 2,200 organisations from 149 countries gathered for Women Deliver 2013 — the largest conference of the decade focused on the health and wellbeing of girls and women. The conference was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from May 28-30, 2013.
The opening sessions of this three-day event highlighted the critical need to invest in girls and women to spur development worldwide with the welcoming remarks from Malaysian Prime Minister Honorable Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak.
The World Bank and the Guttmacher Institute quantified the economic and social benefits of investing in girls and women. Their new research made clear that gender inequality and gaps in reproductive and maternal health hinder global development.
The World Bank report demonstrates that addressing the reproductive health needs of women is critical to achieving gender equality and improved development outcomes.
The Guttmacher Institute report provides new regional data on the unmet need for maternal and newborn care. Although there have been improvements in access to medical care during pregnancy and delivery, tens of millions of women and newborns in developing countries still do not receive the care they need. Each year, an estimated 287,000 women worldwide die from pregnancy-related causes, and approximately three million newborns do not survive past the first 28 days of life. The report finds that additional investments in reproductive and maternal health would generate immediate returns in terms of reducing disability among women and newborns, and saving lives.
The global leaders called for accelerated progress on family planning at Women Deliver 2013. They announced new commitments toward expanding contraceptive access for women in developing countries. They also outlined plans for sustaining this momentum in the years to come.
“Putting women at the center of development and delivering solutions that meet their needs will result in huge improvements in health, prosperity and quality of life,” said Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair Melinda Gates.
The global leaders addressed the importance of placing girls and women at the center of the next development agenda, and discussed advocacy strategies to keep girls’ and women’s needs in focus.
In her remarks, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark called for a global development agenda “which gives priority to gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women to make their own decisions about the lives they lead.”
Women Deliver 2013 concluded with a united call to invest in girls and women. World leaders and advocates demanded girls and women are prioritised in lead-up to 2015 MDG deadline and beyond.