White Ribbon Alliance

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Transforming promises into reality

September 4, 2013

Betsy McCallon, Executive Director of  the White Ribbon Alliance, argues that women’s health must stay at the heart of the post 2015 development agenda, not only to save lives and advance economic development, but to protect environmental sustainability, and to advance wellbeing, equity and social justice.

The White Ribbon Alliance welcomes the recent  report from the Task Team on Health for the UN Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda – and especially that it highlights the need for the international health goals  (MDGs 4,5, and 6) to stay in the spotlight.

Significantly fewer women are now dying in pregnancy and childbirth, but it remains a scandal that half of women giving birth in Africa still do so without skilled care. The rate of decline in maternal deaths is just over half that needed to reach the MDG5 target by 2015.

As the leading global grassroots network pushing for change for mothers, White Ribbon Alliance is calling for a more integrated and rights based approach from donors, politicians, government departments, private and public sector organizations and civil society.  We have to tackle national problems, identified at the national level, to make sure that national commitments are delivered.    

The next global framework should have girls at its heart, firm in the knowledge that change can happen in one generation. Its timeline should be 15 years, with mid-point goals at 5 and 10 years. 

Maternal health means more than curbing preventable deaths; it means upholding the rights of women to quality, respectful care.  Poverty eradication is absolutely critical, and for this to work, women’s health must not only be the cornerstone of the framework but must also be the central focus of the agenda for poverty eradication, for we all know that healthy mothers contribute greatly to economic prosperity.

The global health community and the Panel should push for accountability mechanisms that include rigorous data collection at more regular intervals and widespread publication of that data. Leaders in every sector must be kept aware of progress, while citizens must have access to this information so that they know their rights and can unite to demand change.

While the debate continues, White Ribbon Alliance members across Africa and Asia are advocating for the delivery of their governments’ promises, building powerful coalitions to make the voices of communities heard. For in the words of Abraham Lincoln, ‘commitment is what transforms a promise into reality’.