The 2016 Women Deliver Conference Emphasized Data-Driven Reasons For Needing Gender Equality

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The fourth tri-annual Women Deliver Conference just took place in Copenhagen, Denmark from May 16-19 and it was the largest turnout they’ve ever had. The conference was founded by its president Jill Sheffield in 2007 with the intent to focus on the global state of girls and women’s rights. Today, is it recognized as one of the largest international gatherings dedicated to focusing on the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women, and the largest gathering of women’s health and rights advocates in over a decade.

The Women Deliver event was also one of the first major global conferences since the launch of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – a directive aimed at alleviating global poverty by 2030 with a major focus on the economic empowerment of women being key to making this happen.

World leaders, journalists, policy-makers, activists, and artists took part in the 5700 person strong event which saw more than 2,000 organizations and 169 countries participate. Child marriage, maternal mortality, violence against women and the reaction to feminism were some of the topics discussed by the various speakers, but the economic inclusion in the gender equality equation is something that is really pushing the movement forward, as the data often speaks for itself.

The Thompson Reuters Foundation compiled a list of some of the most powerful quotes from the speakers present.

DENMARK’S PRINCESS MARY spoke about the need to look at this not just from a woman’s perspective – “When we invest in girls and women society as a whole benefits … This agenda is not a woman’s agenda but a united agenda for humanity that involves men, women, girls and boys.”

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QUEEN MAXIMA OF THE NETHERLANDS, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL’S SPECIAL ADVOCATE FOR INCLUSIVE FINANCE FOR DEVELOPMENT also reiterating the need to include men in the conversation – “Do not forget, whatever you do, to engage men … When we engage men we have much better results … if we do leave them behind we are not doing us women a favor. Let’s work together for the future.”

SINGER AND AIDS ACTIVIST ANNIE LENNOX emphasized the need to men’s voices in modern feminism – “We must keep the word feminism … we all have a role to play … Without men it’s going to be much more challenging to advance our goals.”

MELINDA GATES, CO-CHAIR OF THE BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION spoke to the importance of data driven activism – “If advocacy for women and girls is about giving voice to the voiceless – gathering and analyzing data is about making the invisible visible … We cannot close the gender gap without closing the data gap.”

DANISH PRIME MINISTER LARS LOKKE RASMUSSEN emphasizing the economic argument in gender equality – “Some say growth and prosperity are the best ways to ensure equal gender opportunities. I actually think it’s the other way round.”

UN POPULATION FUND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR BABATUNDE OSOTIMEHIN – “In countries where education has gone up and you see women in the work place and they are doing things for themselves, you see a rise in gender based violence.”

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WOMEN DELIVER CHIEF EXECUTIVE KATJA IVERSEN – “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 well-being, it creates a positive ripple effect that lifts up entire countries.”

WORLD BANK PRESIDENT JIM YONG KIM – “Sexism, ageism and racism are really bad economic strategies … if you exclude women your economic growth is going to be less … At some point we hope that the economic argument, which is just so overwhelming, will force cultures to re-examine themselves.”

MCKINSEY’S UK MANAGING PARTNER VIVIAN HUNT on why the inclusion of women and girls in development policies makes economic sense – “$12 trillion could be added to the global economy by 2025 if every country just matched the country in their own region that was growing fastest in terms of gender participation … the amount would be equivalent to adding a U.S. economy, or perhaps a Chinese economy, incremental to GDP.”

Although she was not physically present at the event, US Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made an appearance via video, citing her landmark speech at the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing, saying although we have come so far, there are still many more barriers to break down before we reach equality, and why it is important to use data-driven measures

“As we chart a course to meet the new Sustainable Development Goals, we have to break down the barriers holding back women and girls around the world. Gender equality, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, must be a core priority. To get there, we need greater political will and resources, and we need to continue to invest in more and better data to measure progress,” she said.

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Actress, mom, and women’s health advocate Jessica Biel stressed the need to eliminate stigma around women’s bodies in order to get accurate information, not myth, to the women who need it.

“I am here because I want to pull the stigma out of female reproductive health. [Education] is what’s going to give every woman and every girl the right to make decisions about their own bodies and decide when and if they want to have a baby,” she said.

It has never been a more crucial time to look at data and medically-accurate facts when it comes to women’s health, especially as the Zika virus threat continues to spread and hundreds of US women are now at risk. Sadly, due to the continued emphasis on pushing laws based on religious ideology which prohibit women from making their own choices in many cases, Republicans in Congress are refusing to release funding for Zika research unless they can have their way and repeal Obamacare. This is the kind of barrier that still exists: where women’s healthcare becomes a bargaining tool which ends up being counter-productive to progress.

In contrast to this, the European Union Commission announced a €19 million initiative to ending all forms of violence against women and girls, including early or forced marriages.

“Put simply, gender equality and global development cannot be achieved until all forms of gender-based violence are ended, said Commissioner Neven Mimica in a statement at the Women Deliver Conference.

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Their financial contribution will benefit women and girls in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The grants will provide support to three projects implemented with the help of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children’s Rights and Emergency Relief Organisation (UNICEF), targeting the sustainable end to child marriage, improving the sex ratio at birth and fighting female genital mutilation (FGM).

During the closing ceremony, incoming Women Deliver president and CEO Katja Iversen praised founder Jill Sheffield for her hard work for women and girls around the world, and the lasting impact it will have going forward.

“Jill, you have moved mountains, you have moved governments, and you have moved millions of people and dollars. Your steadfast belief in the power of partnerships to break down silos and bring people together across issues, geographies and hierarchies has been the recipe for success, the power cocktail of progress…no matter where we look, we will see your mark and the change you have helped to make for girls and women,” she said.

Take a look at some of the Women Deliver Conference speakers echoing the importance of this event, and why the continued emphasis on data-driven measures on the path to gender equality, especially in the area of women’s reproductive healthcare, is paramount.

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