What it means to create a ‘women’s health development army’

Health extension worker Alemitu Markos
Health extension worker Alemitu Markos talks with women from a community in Durame, Ethiopia. How can the international development community help achieve a better future for girls and women? Photo by: UNICEF Ethiopia / CC BY-NC-ND

I attended the fourth Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, two weeks ago. I listened to fascinating stories of thousands of impassioned advocates, policymakers, researchers and young people in attendance and shared the lessons from my own experience nationally and globally. Throughout the conference my consistent message was that we need to work together as conscious disruptors of the status quo.

Over the next few years, the Sustainable Development Goals will offer us a unique opportunity to deliver results in integrated and collaborative way. They will enable us to tackle the many global challenges we are facing — from conflict and forced migration, natural disasters and climate change, to pandemics and antimicrobial resistance. It is only through collaboration that we can achieve peace, security and positive health outcomes for all.

We will achieve a better future for girls and women if we make them the center of our actions and decisions. To do this, we need to respect country ownership and assure enhanced sustainable domestic financing.

In order to prioritize women and girls, countries should increasingly own their development priorities and ensure domestic financing. From 2005 to 2012, during my leadership in Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health, I saw the importance of making it clear to partners and donors that the need to honor domestic priorities and work through our country’s systems, rather than creating parallel structures.

For example, the Ethiopian government instituted a pooled Millennium Development Goal Health Fund, which gave the ministry the right to determine how that money could be most effectively used. Instead of meeting pre-set objectives, the funds were directed to areas where they had the most impact based on our priorities. This allowed us to identify our needs and respond appropriately by using the funds to cater to the health needs of our society better.

Read more at devex.com

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