Adam Lewis: Wow, Women Deliver is finally here!
Whitney Sogol: Do you realize that this is going to be the largest conference focused on women’s health and empowerment in this decade? But what does that actually mean?
AL: Well, to me it means two things. It means that we clearly have a long way to go on too many issues fundamental to making progress in this day and age. But it also means that we have a global community – thousands of people deep – that is committed to setting this progress in motion. And you know what they say: every journey begins with a single step – or in this case a 20+ hour flight from New York and a week-long conference.
WS: I couldn’t agree more. This is about a group of like-minded people with fierce ambition focusing on a single goal: a world where a conference on women’s health and empowerment no longer exists because it is no longer necessary.
AL: I have a feeling that day is getting closer and closer to becoming a reality. So what are you most excited about – besides the monkeys running around the Batu caves?
WS: I’m excited by the energy that forms when amazing women like Melinda Gates and Graça Machel share a stage and exchange dreams. I feel invigorated by the opportunity to learn from some of the brightest and boldest minds working on women’s issues. In fact, I’m sitting next to one of those minds now, right Adam?
WS: I want to know: what are YOU most excited about as you prepare for Women Deliver?
AL: I’m glad you asked. I have always found that women’s issues are human issues. I believe that issues like women’s empowerment, access to health, education, workforce equality, etc. can only go so far without the voices and actions of all people to help drive the agenda forward. And I’m really glad to see that the topic of male involvement is one that will be discussed in a number of sessions at the conference.
WS: Well put. I concur. And that’s a great segue into some of the themes that are sure to rise to the surface this week. I, for one, am looking forward to hearing about the importance of increasing access to reliable family planning. This topic no longer seems as taboo as it once was – especially in the wake of the London Family Planning 2020 Summit and with the efforts of the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities already underway.
AL: An excellent point. Another topic I see emerging throughout the week is universal health coverage. This has been a priority of the WHO and others as we approach 2015, and it is sure to be debated in a number of forums. I will be interested to see how this topic converges with private health care, which often flies under the radar despite high usage rates in many developing countries. Does a universal health care agenda inherently preclude a role for the private sector, or can private providers and health businesses find their way into this new paradigm?
WS: A great question and one that I am sure others are far better suited than I to address. So, instead of providing an answer, let me offer one additional thought. Women Deliver comes on the heels of the World Health Assembly, where global leaders gathered with the shadow of a 2015 deadline looming over their roundtables. I think the question of whether or not and how we might meet MDG 5 will reverberate in the halls of the convention center.
AL: Luckily, I do think that will be one of the most prominent discussions we’ll hear – and certainly one of the most important. That brings me to what Women Deliver is all about: investing in women. Notice the use of “invest in” rather than “donate to” or “help.” This argument transcends charity and good will. Did you know that women now operate the majority of small businesses and farms in the world? And that every year, maternal and newborn mortality cost the world $15 billion in lost productivity? Finding solutions to tackle the issues plaguing our world’s women must take on a new sense of urgency; and not only because it’s the just thing to do, but because it’s the prudent thing to do – socially and economically.
WS: Thanks Adam. Enjoy the conference.