Invest in women for a healthier post-2015 world

As the expiry date looms for the Millennium Development Goals, advocates are demanding girls and women are prioritised in taking forward the post 2015 development agenda.

As the expiry date looms for the Millennium Development Goals, advocates are demanding girls and women are prioritised in taking forward the post 2015 development agenda.

The new framework presents an opportunity for a more integrated approach to HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights. On 30 May, the Women Deliver conference concluded with a call for continued investments in girls and women to help address unmet global targets on HIV, TB and malaria, as well as child, maternal and reproductive health.

Mary Mwende, partnership manager and global ambassador for Global Give Back Circle is very passionate about sexual and reproductive health and rights for girls. At the conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, she said: “Investing in girls is the best investment in a country. I am telling you, if you invest in girls you are not making a mistake at all. Thirty years from now I want to see girls empowered through education, I want to see more of women’s rights – that would be my key message for the post-2015 agenda.”

Mentoring breaks cycle of poverty

The Global Give Back Circle provides Kenyan girls from disadvantaged backgrounds (many of them orphans) with the skills, savvy and support to escape the cycle of poverty. Mentoring is a key component of this work. Through a circle of empowerment a girl is guided to gain employable skills and then she ‘gives back’ by mentoring someone from the next generation.

Mwenda grew up with hardship and poverty in Kenya and has gone against all odds to defeat the challenges facing many African girls. She said: “I lived in one room with two parents. I worried about education, high school and university. But the most important thing is that my mother believed in me. She believed in the power of women.

“The reason why I am here is because I was mentored and my mentors strengthened my ability to achieve the things I want to do. I am here today because I got a full scholarship and I am still dreaming bigger to make the lives of other girls better than mine.”

Making a noise about sexual and reproductive health

Tarja Hallone, former president of Finland, is in agreement, she said: “We need social mobilisation to address sexual and reproductive health and rights issues. We need to demand these things, change must come from within society. We are in a process where hundreds of thousands are working on what can be done.

“Go home and make noise if you want an aspect of sexual and reproductive health and rights incorporated in the post-2015 agenda. And it is important to reflect economic, social justice and environmental concerns – this is the new trinity.”

As a young leader Mwenda shares Hallone’s vision for the world. She said: “Young women are beginning to talk about access to sexual and reproductive health and their rights. We should believe in all girls. I was empowered, educated and enabled and it is our responsibility to empower other girls.”

Read about Uganda and the post-2015 development agenda

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