Call to in­vest more in women’s health

Viet Nam News - - FRONT PAGE - Nguyeãn Thu Hieàn

KUALA LUMPUR – In­vest­ing in women’s re­pro­duc­tive health is smart economics, thou­sands of world lead­ers, pol­i­cy­mak­ers and ex­perts from 150 coun­tries agreed yes­ter­day dur­ing the Women De­liver con­fer­ence in Kuala Lumpur.

The three-day gath­er­ing aims to en­sure that in­vest­ments in girls and women re­main a global pri­or­ity in the lead-up to the 2015 Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goal (MDG) dead­line and be­yond.

The con­fer­ence was pre­vi­ously held in Lon­don in 2007 and Wash­ing­ton, DC in 2010. This is the first time the in­ter­na­tional gath­er­ing has been held in Asia.

Jill Sh­effield, the founder and pres­i­dent of Women De­liver, a global ad­vo­cacy or­gan­i­sa­tion for the health and well-be­ing of girls and women, said that in­vest­ment in girls and women was not just the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do, as it would lead to stronger com­mu­ni­ties and coun­tries that are more pros­per­ous.

Im­proved re­pro­duc­tive health out­comes could in­crease the fe­male...

... labour sup­ply and pro­duc­tiv­ity be­cause about 40 per cent of the global labour force are women, added Jeni Klug­man, di­rec­tor of Gen­der and De­vel­op­ment for the World Bank.

Ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity and mor­bid­ity also im­posed costs in terms of fore­gone earn­ings and meant that fam­ily mem­bers needed to ab­sorb the work done by the women in­side the home, which might re­duce their own abil­ity to ex­ploit out­side eco­nomic and ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties, she said.

While the most ex­treme im­pacts arise when a woman or her baby dies in child­birth, ma­ter­nal ill-health can also af­fect chil­dren’s well-be­ing and school­ing.

Nev­er­the­less, mil­lions of women lack the means to pre­vent un­wanted preg­nan­cies and to pre­vent and ad­dress com­pli­ca­tions and dis­ease dur­ing preg­nancy. Nearly 22 mil­lion un­safe abor­tions oc­cur an­nu­ally and over half of all abor­tions in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries are un­safe.

There were an es­ti­mated 287,000 ma­ter­nal deaths in 2010, close to 800 per day on aver­age.

More­over, for ev­ery woman who dies, an­other 30 suf­fer lon­glast­ing in­jury or ill­ness.

Lak­shmi Puri, act­ing di­rec­tor of UN Women, said re­pro­duc­tive rights were not only crit­i­cal rights for women and girls, but also hu­man rights that must be guar­an­teed to all women in all cir­cum­stances and all set­tings, she said.

In­vest­ments

Puri also said that it was nec­es­sary for gov­ern­ments, pri­vate sec­tors and all stake­hold­ers to de­liver for women be­cause women de­liver for the world.

Im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion was one way to ex­pand the agency of women and girls, as fe­male ed­u­ca­tion af­fected fer­til­ity, Klug­man pointed out.

She cited the ex­am­ple of In­done­sia, where in­creases in fe­male ed­u­ca­tion are as­so­ci­ated with de­creases in both fer­til­ity and child mor­tal­ity. In Nige­ria, one ad­di­tional year of fe­male school­ing low­ers fer­til­ity by an aver­age of 0.26 births.

Klug­man said le­gal re­forms could also play an im­por­tant role in im­prov­ing re­pro­duc­tive health out­comes, par­tic­u­larly with re­spect to safe abor­tion ser­vices. The 82 coun­tries with the most restric­tive abor­tion leg­is­la­tion are also those with the high­est in­ci­dence of un­safe abor­tions and abor­tion-re­lated mor­tal­ity rates.

Many gov­ern­ments have sought to re­duce the fi­nan­cial bar­ri­ers to ac­cess­ing ma­ter­nal health ser­vices, for in­stance, by pro­vid­ing vouch­ers to en­cour­age the use of ma­ter­nal health ser­vices, she said, adding that in­creas­ing ac­count­abil­ity to pa­tients could help im­prove health ser­vice de­liv­ery and health out­comes.

While the first day of the con­fer­ence fo­cused on the eco­nomic and so­cial value of in­vest­ing in girls and women, the sec­ond day will re­volve around the un­met need for fam­ily plan­ning.

As the con­fer­ence takes place days be­fore UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon re­ceives rec­om­men­da­tions for the post-2015 de­vel­op­ment frame­work, speak­ers dur­ing the third day of the con­fer­ence will call for putting girls and women at the heart of the post-2015 de­vel­op­ment agenda. —

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