Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stressed the importance of continued support for the efforts of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to empower the world’s women, particularly to improve maternal health and promote gender equality, even in the midst of the economic woes countries are currently facing.
“The global financial crisis is forcing all of us to save and cut costs where we can. But our work for the women of the world must continue undiminished,” Mr. Ban stated last night at the presentation of the 2008 International Award for the Health and Dignity of Women, which is given out by Americans for UNFPA.
The recipients of this year’s award, which honours exemplary contributions to women’s health and the promotion of women’s rights, were four American women from the corporate sector and activists from Madagascar, Mexico and Nepal.
“These honourees all understand a fundamental truth,” said Mr. Ban. “When you empower a woman, you empower a family.”
Empowering women also frees up the most valuable resource for development, as well as increases the chances of an education for their children, and their children in turn, he added.
“In short, when you empower a woman, you change the world,” the Secretary-General said, adding that this is exactly what UNFPA does by striving for maternal health and gender equality.
Too many women live in societies where maternity wards have inadequate medical equipment, or where there is no maternity ward at all, Mr. Ban noted, pointing out that one woman dies each minute from complications related to pregnancy or labour. “We must halt this terrible tragedy.”
Recently the UN teamed up with world leaders to launch a new initiative to strengthen health systems in an effort to reduce the number of women who die in pregnancy and childbirth, one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with a 2015 deadline.
The task force on maternal mortality, which will be co-chaired by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and World Bank President Robert Zoellick, will focus on innovative financing to strengthen health care systems and pay for health care workers.