Women Deliver: Celebrate Gains because of Challenges
On the second Day of the Women Deliver conference, ICM and WHO facilitated a panel titled "Midwives: Empowerment, Respect and Quality". The moderator was Edna Aden, Director of the Edna Adan University Hospital in Somaliland. She gave a short overview of the theme of the panel and the four panellists and afterwards did an excellent job at facilitating the question and answer session with the audience. Interest in this panel was very high and the room was packed with many participants sitting on the floor and standing at the back of the room. The speakers were Gajananda Prakash Bhandari, Program Director at the Nepal Public Health Foundation, Professor Lynn M Sibley from the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at the Emory University, USA, Pat Brodie, Miwifery Adviser at the University of Technology in Sydney, and Pashtoon Azfar, ICM Regional Midwife Adviser Asia. Azfar talked about how many partners worked together to develop the midwifery profession in Afghanistan and also shared that midwife in Afghanistan means "competent". Brodie focused on the necessary support midwives should give each other and asked: "Are we nuturing each other?". She recommended a mentorship programme and supportive supervision. The topic of Sybley's presentation was moral distress for midwives and the implications of it. Bhandari demanded more security for midwives and said: "Security and safety of midwives providing care to women is crucial".
Another interesting panel was Global Progress on Family Planning - putting Women at the Heart of the Global Agenda.Women Deliver developed a beautiful Infographic. ICM's Senior Technical Midwife Adviser reports: Panelist Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director UNFPA presented a few statistics to demonstrate the value of Family Planning. He shared that with UNFPA support, Burkina Faso's family planning prevalence rate rose from 8.6% to 20.6% over a few years. Family planning is a human right he said. It is a key that unlocks potential. Sierra Leone was recently given an honorary mention for its family planning work with the support of UNFPA at the Global Health Assembly. Enrique Ona, Secretary of Health, Philippines showed a video clip where one woman had had 22 children and another 16. These women were glad to have finally had access to family planning. A lot of work has been done and after 15 years a bill has been passed which supports responsible parenthood. In Malawi, the 22000 chiefs were mobilised to encourage families to access family planning and take children out of early marriages. UNFPA and DFID have supported the president's initiative. The summary of the session was that community mobilisation plays an importnat part in increasing access to family planning. Governments should allocate domestic resources and domestic responsibility to the increase of access to family panning.
First Day of Women Deliver 2013
The key messages on the first day of Women Deliver were based on the gains and challenges that have been experienced since the first Women Deliver in 2007 and the second one in 2010. During her opening speech, the President and founder of Women Deliver Jill Sheffield emphasised that we should not forget to celebrate gains because of challenges. Since the beginning of Women Deliver, more women are in the labour market. More women are holding executive positions and there are more women in government and policy positions. It has become abundantly clear that investing in reproductive health pays off. Challenges still exist. Inequalities are still prevalent. These need to be tackled one at a time. You can watch the full speech here.
The Malaysian Prime Minister opened the Conference. In his speech the key messages were - togetherness is strength. Together we can assure progress for women and girls. If governments are to progress, they need to embark on policies that are inclusive of men and women, which inevitably will lead to economic growth. Because of such policies, Malaysia's economy saw a 5.5% growth last year. Two keys to economic success, according to the Prime Minister, are health and education. Recognising this, Malaysian government has supported girls so much that now there are more girls (65%) in tertiary education institutions than boys. Maternal mortality has dropped to 29 per 100,000, one of the lowest in the region. To ensure equal opportunities in top policy making positions, Malaysia is going to start a Women Directors Programme- so that when women get into executive positions, they are well prepared for the job.
ICM President Frances Day-Stirk was one of the panelists during the plenary lunch on the Role of Professional Association Leaders in Advocating for Women’s Reproductive Health. A Live-Tweet captured the key messages such as "Associations have a key role in advocating for the health of women and families". But it was not only Frances who had many important messages. Professor Arulkumaran from FIGO said: "Obstetricians do not work alone, partnership is key to achieve improvements in women's health".
ICM’s Senior Midwifery Adviser, Nester T. Moyo attended many plenary sessions and was particularly impressed by the session entitled "Women Lead- Opportunities and Challenges". The panellists included Chelsea Clinton of the Clinton Global Initiative, Tarja Halonen former President of Finland, Cicely Richards, President of Planned Parenthood of America. This panel highlighted the challenges faced by women who get to the top and the factors that influence them to get there. Their key message was that progress is not equal with success as it is possible to be progressive without being successful. Success should be ensured by increasing access and participation.
From the stories the panellists shared it became clear that the environment, in which one grows up, makes a difference. Parents, society and the circumstances that one goes through during youth are important. Those should not be barriers to growth and success