World leaders called on to make health of women priority

The third Women Deliver conference has opened in Kuala Lumpur with a call on international leaders to make the health and wellbeing of girls and women their priorities and not afterthoughts.

“When our girls and women are educated, healthy and independent, the benefits extend beyond individual freedom… Freed from the unnatural constraint of inequality, women can realise their potential as active participants in the community and in the world.”

Malaysian Prime Minister YAB DATO’ Sri Mohammed Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak made the call when he opened the conference on Tuesday.

The conference, attended by more than 3,000 world leaders, policymakers and advocates from more than 150 countries would focus on themes including: “The economic and social benefits of investing in girls and women, “How to achieve the goal of reaching 120 million more women with voluntary family planning services by 2020, and “The need to place girls and women at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda.”

It would also feature more than 100 sessions with meeting by some of the world’s leading voices on girls’ and women’s issues, including Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Chelsea Clinton, Board Member of the Clinton Foundation.

The Women Deliver Conference, which is held every three years, was first organised in 2007, in London, second in 2010 in Washington DC and the third in Malaysia.

This year’s conference will examine how investments in girls and women result in a domino effect of positive outcomes for girls, women, their families, societies, nations and the world.

It will also highlight the unmet need for contraception and look at how to ensure that women are stigma-free to afford family planning services as well as develop an action plan for ensuring that girls and women are prioritised in the new development framework and lay out clear, measureable roadmap to success.

The Prime Minister noted that Malaysia a couple of years ago had one of the highest maternal mortality of more than 500/100,000 live births, but, “through commitment we have worked hard to reduce it to 29/100,000 live births”.

This he attributed to the fact that the country had a focused, strategic and targeted interventions that ensured that all Malaysian women and children enjoyed a good quality of life to enable them survive.

“To us, if Malaysia’s development is to be sustained, it must afford women the same rights, respect and opportunities as men,” he added.

He mentioned political will and stable policies, investment in health and commitment to improving quality of care as some of the essential ingredients of their success and hope their success would serve as a yardstick for other countries in similar situation.

“Countries can and will be able to reduce deaths and disability of mothers and their newborns. Women and girls must get the care they need and rightly deserve,” he noted.

Ms Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver expressed joy that maternal deaths had declined by nearly 50 per cent since 1990 and had also seen tremendous momentum growing for the health and empowerment of girls and women over the past three years.

She noted that though the tide of change had come for girls and women looking at the commitments and contributions made to ensure that women use contraceptives and continue to access life saving commodity, “your work is far from over”.

Ms Sheffield explained that with few years for the Millennium Development Goals and the International Conference on Population and Development’s Programme of Action to expire there is the need to raise voices in support of the health and empowerment of girls and women to ensure that they are top priority in 2015 and beyond. GNA

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