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International Women's Day 2012: London Activities

In celebration of International Women’s Day, March 8th, 2012, the Aspen Institute’s Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), to hold a series of events in London to educate UK policymakers about the critical role that access to reproductive health and family planning plays in economic and social development. The events included an intimate strategy dinner of 22 influential policy leaders, a high-level policy dialogue held at the UK Parliament, and strategic communications activities with print, broadcast and social media.

Comprised of high-level leaders across more than a dozen countries, the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health (GLC) is chaired by the Honorable Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland. The Council is committed to achieving universal access to reproductive health as a breakthrough strategy for lasting development and prosperity worldwide.

The International Women’s Day events were designed to build political momentum and popular awareness of global reproductive health issues in advance of the UK government’s upcoming “Gold Moment” for reproductive health. On World Population Day, July 11, 2012, DFID and the Gates Foundation will host an event in bringing together key stakeholders committed to making universal access to reproductive health a reality. This high-level event will support the UK’s commitment to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Global Strategy for Women and Children’s Health, ‘Every Woman Every Child’, which aims to save the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015 by addressing maternal health challenges, including assuring access to family planning and reproductive health services.

Achieving Universal Access to Reproductive Health - The Strategy Dinner

Moderated by UK Under-Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell and GLC member Joy Phumaphi, this forward-looking dinner conversation brought together 22 leaders in global health to identify strategies for accelerating progress toward universal access to family planning. Participants identified key challenges and opportunities for achieving universal access, including building demand on the ground, decreasing costs for commodities, and educating policymakers on the benefits of investing in reproductive health. Aspen GHD will continue this dialogue through follow-up interviews with participants and to develop an outcome report that incorporates key recommendations for future action.

Policy Dialogue at UK Parliament: Investments in Family Planning - Social and Economic Dividends

This panel discussion, held in the UK House of Commons before an audience of nearly 100 British MPs, Lords and civil society leaders, was hosted by the Parliamentary All Party Group on Global Health chaired by Lord Nigel Crisp and the Parliamentary All Party Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health chaired by Baroness Jenny Tonge. The panel featured GLC members and Ministers of Health from Ethiopia, Malawi and Liberia presenting the economic argument for investing in family planning and linking it to water, climate change, and peace and stability. The Minister of Health of Ethiopia provided testimony about his country’s recent success in improving access to family planning, and made recommendations for how donor countries can support recipient country governments’ plans and priorities.

Five members of the GLC traveled to London to participate in the International Women’s Day activities:

  • Ambassador Jan Eliasson, Former President, United Nations General Assembly;
  • The Honorable Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, Former Deputy President of South Africa;
  • The Honorable Joy Phumaphi, Former Minister of Health of Botswana, Former Vice President of Human Development at the World Bank;
  • The Honorable Mary Robinson, GLC Chair, Former President of Ireland, Former President of Realizing Rights;
  • Dr. Fred Sai, Former President of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Former Senior Population Advisor at the World Bank.

Joining the GLC members in London were representatives from Liberia, Malawi and Ethiopia:

  • Dr. Bernice Dahn, Deputy Minister of Health and Chief Medical Officer of Liberia;
  • Dr. Jean-Alfazema Kalilani, Minister of Health of Malawi;
  • Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Minister of Health of Ethiopia.

The following report summarizes input and key recommendations collected during meetings in London and follow-up interviews with key informants.