We Cannot Afford to Leave Women Out

We Cannot Afford to Leave Women Out

{Women in Malawi are increasingly engaging in sustainable ways to grow household income and end poverty, such as village savings and loans groups. (Photo Credit: Feed the Children / Amos Gumulira)}Women in Malawi are increasingly engaging in sustainable ways to grow household income and end poverty, such as village savings and loans groups. (Photo Credit: Feed the Children / Amos Gumulira)

Follow the conversation at the Commission on the Status of Women:

As we prepare to join the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) next week, where the focus will be on women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work, I am reminded of my visit to Malawi last month.

For many years, women in the country’s remote villages had no access to health care during pregnancy and childbirth, which meant no information on how to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy for themselves and their babies, and no care if and when complications arose, almost certainly resulting in death. But now, more than 90 percent of all women in Malawi go to health care facilities to deliver their children, up from only 53 percent in 2000. The investments in midwifery education and an expanding system to make health care free for the poorest have greatly contributed to better quality of care and improved health outcomes. Women’s participation in village savings and loans associations, agribusiness groups, and livestock activities has increased markedly in the past few years, securing women‘s access to household income and greater engagement in non-traditional roles. 

The evidence is clear: to achieve progress in the world, now is the time to prioritize and invest in women and girls. As key drivers of sustainable development, when women are empowered to fully participate in society, everyone benefits. We know, for instance, that women spend more of their income on their families than men do – prioritizing health care, nutrition, and education, setting up families and communities for more prosperous futures. We also know that when women are empowered to care for themselves and their children’s health from pregnancy through childhood and adolescence, families and communities grow stronger and more productive.

The power of investing in women is paying off.

Today, there’s a new generation of young Malawian women who are finding that family planning tools are helping them take charge of their futures. And there are more women overcoming barriers to education and adding their voices to the workforce and political spheres. By focusing on women and children, the country has also made incredible progress in addressing the HIV and AIDS epidemic, reducing the number of new HIV infections per year by more than half in just over 10 years.

Under the new sustainable development agenda, countries and a variety of development actors have the opportunity to work together to help communities ensure that women and girls have access to a comprehensive range of services promoting their right to health.

Next week at the CSW, MSH will join experts and advocates to call for greater investments in integrated approaches and explore solutions for closing the gap for women’s health and economic prosperity. By helping women drive development to advance their health and well-being and that of their families, their communities, and their societies, we will build lasting change that benefits all.

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