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Delivering good

“WHEREVER inequality lives, there stands a girl or woman able to turn the tide of adversity into a tidal wave of progress. We simply have to commit to her.

“Deliver for Good is a global campaign that applies a gender lens to the Sustainable Development Goals and promotes 12 critical investments in girls and women to power progress for all.

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“Girls and women carry more than babies. Or water. They carry families. They carry businesses. They carry potential. And when we invest in their health, rights and wellbeing, it creates a positive ripple effect that lifts up entire countries.

“Give girls and women access to healthcare, they will deliver more resilient families. Give girls and women the chance to learn, they will deliver stronger economies. Give girls and women opportunities, they will deliver solutions.

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“Deliver for them. Deliver for all. Deliver for Good.”

This is the prologue to a document called “Deliver for Good,” the agenda of the Women Deliver Conference stated in infographics to explain why investments in girls and women are needed, and what the priorities should be.

In 2007, the first Women Deliver Conference was held in London, bringing together a diverse collection of reproductive health groups, family planning advocates and women activists to talk mainly about maternal health. This was born from founding chair Jill Sheffield’s dismay that the number of women around the world dying from causes linked to pregnancy and childbirth—maternal mortality, in the language of health experts—remained high at a time of great medical advances. Even more reprehensible was that the world’s governments didn’t seem unduly worried. Women dying in childbirth was considered merely a part of life, a risk they undertook when they got pregnant (or had sex).

But it was soon obvious that making pregnancy and childbirth safe for women and girls was not merely a matter of providing health services. It was not just a medical or health problem, but also a social, political and gender issue. Until and unless societies and governments, families and schools recognized the worth of girls and their right to a healthy life, and appropriated the necessary funding and political commitment, girls would continue to get pregnant before they were ready for motherhood, and women would continue to die “while giving life.”

* * *

BY the next Women Deliver Conference in 2010 in Washington, DC, the movement had gained enough adherents to “lead the charge” to put Millennium Development Goal 5—Improve Maternal Health—on the global development agenda.

By that time, too, the movement to “make women count” had evolved from a largely health-oriented conference, into a gathering of political, financial, scientific, faith-based and youth leaders.

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By this fourth Women Deliver Conference, the leadership has undergone a transition, with Katja Iversen assuming the post of CEO. But its focus has remained trained on the survival of women. Speaking before a group of 15 media practitioners a day before the conference’s opening, Iversen noted that none of WD conferences closed with a resolution or a pledging session. What it has been, she said, was a “solution panorama.” This is because, she pointed out, “when you treat health only as health, we’ll never solve the issue. We must treat not just the symptoms but also go down to the roots.”

* * *

IN a recent column, I wrote about the need to “protect” the government’s 4Ps program, which the conditional cash transfer program has been dubbed here, from the sticky fingers of politicians now courting the favors of presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte.

All the presidential candidates had aired the assurance that the 4Ps, which had to endure brickbats in the early years, would continue or even be expanded during their possible term. This was a surprise because many of the very same candidates, including those for vice president, had in the early years of the 4Ps implementation criticized the program as a “dole out,” and even accused its leaders of corruption.

Well, a vindication of sorts of the 4Ps has come by way of the World Bank (which formulated the program). It recently recognized Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman for translating “the practice of social accountability and transparency into concrete strategic activities which she implements with great commitment and passion.”

Soliman was among six awardees from government, civil society and the private sector from around the world who were recognized for their work “promoting social accountability and inclusive growth in their respective countries.”

* * *

THE recognition, awarded at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC, was given for the first time by the Global Partnership for Social Accountability.

Motoo Konishi, World Bank country director in the Philippines, noted the challenges that Soliman had to face to implement the program and eventually expand and mainstream it. “Amid dissenting voices and criticisms,” said Konishi, “she opens the door for collaboration, participation and dialogue, inviting people to voice and discuss their concerns.”

Today, the 4Ps covers more than 4 million households, benefiting at least 11 million children of school age who were able to stay in school and have regular health checks. Most recently, the first generation of 400,000 children supported by the program graduated from high school, while the first batch of college-age students who were part of the expanded 4Ps graduated last year.

Congratulations, Secretary Dinky, and our prayers for your successor who will hopefully continue the legacy of dedication and inclusiveness that you leave behind.

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TAGS: `women deliver’ conference, campaign, Deliver for Good, opinion, women, women’s rights
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