A Focus on Women's Issues May Be the Key to Achieving the Millennium Development Goals
Last week I was in New York for the Women: Inspiration and Enterprise (WIE) Symposium, a new effort sponsored by the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood. The symposium was hosted by Sarah Brown, Arianna Huffington, and Donna Karan and brought women from the politics, philanthropy, media, fashion and the arts together to focus on the theme “Women Inspiring Women” and direct energy towards women’s issues in the wake of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit. Although tuberculosis is the third leading cause of death for women of reproductive age, it is rarely thought of as a ‘women’s issue’. During the course of the day I had the pleasure of meeting women who worked in a variety of areas, from finance to maternal health. Each woman I met voiced a concern that the MDGs would not be met if issues affecting women were ignored. MDG 5 (a reduction in maternal deaths) was a good starting point to address women’s issues; however we must broaden our scope to include education, disease and economic empowerment.
One panel did just that. Moderated by Sarah Brown, the session titled, “Advocacy, Philanthropy and the MDGS — Meeting our promises to women and girls,” allowed high-powered panelists to touch on numerous problems affecting women. Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Maria Eitel, and Ashley Judd spoke eloquently on their commitments to improving the lives of women and girls by improving access to health care and education. The most inspiring statements, however, came from twelve-year-old Nthabiseng Tshabalala of South Africa. Nthabiseng was born with HIV and lost her mother by the age of seven, but received hope and encouragement through a program which allowed her to attend school. “I am here because I am educated,” she declared. “You are here because you are educated. We are all here because we are educated. I am here to represent the sixty-nine million children [who are unable to receive schooling around the world].” Nthabiseng’s comments made me realize that everything discussed at the WIE Symposium was tied to one underlying issue: poverty.
70 percent of the world’s poor are girls and women. Poverty puts girls at risk of being sold into prostitution, refuses girls a proper education and puts them at an increased risk of contracting diseases such as HIV and TB. The Symposium gave me a better outlook on how RESULTS’ programs and campaigns relate to one another and made me confident that if we address the underlying issue of poverty we will succeed in advancing the health and education status of girls and women.