NEW YORK — “Devote 30 seconds of your five-minute high-level speech to women and girls at the UN General Assembly’s Special Session.” This was the clear messages to 250 UN delegates, from Safiye Cagar, Director of UNFPA’s External Relations Division, on the eve of the Millennium Development Goal Summit and the UN General Assembly.
The message was delivered at the first official UN side event yesterday, ‘Accelerating Action on the MDGs: Delivering for Girls, Women and Babies’. It was organized by Women Deliver and 16 co-hosts, including UNFPA.
Safiye Cagar underlined the importance of focusing on women in development.
“When women are healthy and survive, families, communities and countries thrive. Please say it and say it again. It pays to invest in women! We are counting on you to bring the message to the world,” she said.
The importance of women was also emphasized by Graça Machel, the renowned international advocate for women’s and children’s rights. Going of script, she said in a very passionate speech: “It pains me that women and girls always come last. It is as if our lives are less valuable than men’s. The MDGs were adopted 10 years ago, but it is first now that leaders remember, that women and maternal health are important.”
She also offered suggestion to the way forward, focusing on accountability and the need for national and local ownership: “People have to own this agenda, and leaders need to be told that they are failing to deliver for women and girls, especially when it comes to reproductive health. We must keep them on track and constantly remind them of their promises and what they need to do.”
Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, noted the importance of integrating the AIDS response with other health and development movements, such as maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, and women’s rights. “For me, it is clear: no progress on the MDGs without integration,” he said.
The event was held at the Waldorf Astoria, on which grounds there used to be a fistula hospital. In her closing remarks Safiye Cagar reminded the audience:
“Now fistula and high rates of maternal deaths are a thing of the past here in the United States. And together we can make them a thing of the past everywhere. UNFPA is committed to this cause.”
Other speakers at the event included: Dr. Fred Sai, a Ghanaian family health physician and women’s health advocate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, managing director of the World Bank, and Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen, CEO of the Group, Vestergaard Frandsen, a leading innovator of emergency response and disease-control textiles.
All the participants received UNFPA’s new publication: “How Universal is Access to Reproductive Health? A review of the evidence", which focuses on the MDG 5b indicators.