Women Deliver 2010: Women and Power

On the 1st day of Women Deliver 2010 conference, taking place in Washington DC, USA, leaders from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and CARE International announced an agreement to enhance collaboration on maternal health programs in more than 25 countries, by working with national governments and by engaging local communities. However for women to deliver, they need power. Successful women change makers have to deal with their power --getting it, keeping it and using it wisely. Read more
Helen Clark, Administrator, and the first woman to lead the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) believes that “achieving gender equality is not only morally right, but also catalytic to development as a whole, creating political, economic, and social opportunities for women, which will benefit individuals, communities, countries, and the world. With women currently comprising only eighteen per cent of the world's legislators, we are far from parity. Initiatives like legislative quotas, civic education drives, and voter registration campaigns which seek to boost the numbers of women legislators need to be applauded and replicated.”

On the economic front, women are joining the workforce in increasing numbers, but still, almost two thirds of women in the developing world work in vulnerable jobs where they are either self-employed or work as unpaid family workers.

This increases the responsibility of women in power, as they are the inspiration as well as aspiration of millions of their ‘not so fortunate’ sisters. Helen rightly feels that women have to work with men, (as well as with other women) and not against them. Inclusive leadership is the crying need of today.

Building alliances, forming networks and working together will give women leaders the strength to work more and live up to the expectations reposed in them by millions who still lack the basic access to maternal health. Sharing experiences not only restores confidence, but also results in better outcomes.

Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post, feels that the quest for power should bring more balance and wisdom. She finds a lot of intelligence around her but very little wisdom. In a lighter vein she remarked that if ‘Lehmann Brothers ‘were ‘Lehmann Brothers and Sisters’, then they might still be standing. She laments that today’s young women are beset with the fear of failure. Young girls are stressed to the maximum as they are scared of dealing with failure. But then failure is the stepping stone to success. The author of several books, she cites her own example when her 2nd book was rejected by 36 publishers before seeing the light of the day.

There should not be an unbridled hurry to achieve all that we can and wish to. Perseverance is the key to success. And to be powerful in a wise manner one needs to be healthy. Very often women undermine their own need for a healthy and joyous existence and succumb to the traditional role of keeping family happiness above everything else. But if they have to deliver to the world they need to use their creative abilities to the maximum. A good night’s sleep is essential to be able to enjoy each waking moment of life. At this point of inflexion, when women are coming out of their well (and veil), it is important for them to exercise the power they hold as a mother, sister and wife, in a wise manner in order to make this world a more just and humane place to live in.

Ashley Judd, actress and activist, feels that ‘what comes from the heart goes to the heart, and what comes through the head, goes over the head’. So it is important to have passion, as well as compassion in our quest for power and in exercising that power.

Investing in women and girls will be critical for achieving the goals. Development progress is lagging where the needs and status of women and girls are given low priority. Women's reproductive health needs remain hugely under served. More than half a million women die every year from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Moreover, 25 years into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, gender inequality and unequal power relationships expose women to great risk. While about half of all people living with HIV/AIDS globally are female, in sub-Saharan Africa, approximately sixty per cent are female.

Women Deliver is an initiative which works globally to focus attention on fulfilling what is called "Millennium Development Goal #5." This goal calls for a reduction in maternal mortality and universal access to reproductive health globally. We must not forget that "Women are at the economic heart of the developing world. And to do all this work, they need to be healthy”.

Shobha Shukla
(The author is the CNS Editor, has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP, and teaches Physics at India's prestigious Loreto Convent. Email: shobha@citizen-news.org, website: www.citizen-news.org)

Published in:
The Colombo Times, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Citizen News Service (CNS), India/Thailand
Bihar and Jharkhand News Service (BJNS)