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CTG attends Women Deliver 2023 in Rwanda

By Mia Zickerman-White
It was inspiring to be amongst so many people from different continents and walks of life, who all shared an unwavering commitment to equality and advancing women and girls’ rights for good.

Here she shares more about the experience. 

What is Women Deliver and why was this conference significant?

Women Deliver is a leading global advocate for the health and rights of women and girls across all their intersecting identities. It originated in the US back in 2007 and has hosted a conference every 3 years since then. 

This year’s conference is especially significant because it is the first time it has been hosted on the African continent. The decision to host the conference in Africa turned the tide on accessibility by enabling hundreds (if not thousands!) of delegates based in the surrounding regions to attend. For many attendees that I had the privilege of meeting, it was the first time they had travelled beyond the borders of their home country. 

Why Rwanda?

Rwandan identity is deeply intertwined with the horrors of the Rwandan genocide that occurred in 1994. However, since that dark period in the nation’s history, Rwanda has grown to become a global leader in gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Rwanda is recognised as being in the top 10 countries globally that are the closest to achieving gender parity according to the Global Gender Gap Report, surpassing countries such as Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. More than half of governmental seats in Rwanda are held by women, and some of the nation’s recent successes include significantly decreasing maternal mortality and strengthening women’s access to affordable and quality health care.  

The progress and successes seen across Rwanda may offer a glimpse of hope into the future trajectory of other countries across the continent and beyond, especially those grappling with conflict or fragility.    

Spaces, because it’s only when we create inclusive spaces that we can get to the heart of our challenges; Solidarity, because it’s only when we work together and take collective action that we can create the Solutions needed to advance gender equality and improve the wellbeing of girls and women, in all their intersecting identities.

Maliha Khan, Women Deliver CEO discusses the Conference’s theme of Spaces, Solidarity and Solutions. 

Major Themes and Issues

Bringing together so many stakeholders from different backgrounds meant that the conference and its discussions would address an abundance of different issues. Many, if not all of the issues addressed are significant to the countries where CTG operates. Here we provide a summary of two of the major issues covered and touch upon how they relate to contexts of fragility and conflict. 

Sexual and Reproductive Health

Promoting the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls is one of the key mandates of Women Deliver. Given this, there was no surprise that a huge number of discussions addressed the issue across all sub-topics from access to services, preventing maternal death, female genital mutilation, contraception, abortion rights and bodily autonomy.

Ensuring access to quality sexual and reproductive healthcare saves lives, yet millions of individuals, especially those residing within conflict-affected countries do not have access to these essential services.

For example, South Sudan, Chad and Nigeria rank the worst three nations in the world for Maternal Mortality, each country of which suffers over 1,000 maternal deaths per 100,00 live births. Many women suffer serious complications as a result of pregnancy or child-related illnesses. Despite this, the majority of these deaths are entirely preventable.

Women Deliver reinforced the notion that without women’s health, societies cannot function, and communities across the world are significantly more productive when women and their families are healthy. 

Redefining Who Leads

Women Deliver called for a fundamental shift in the distribution of power across global aid and development. Many humanitarian and development actors expressed their concern over today’s international development system holding its roots in colonialism and the Global North’s oppression and exploitation of the Global South.

Not only is this legacy inherently tied to violence and conflict across many regions, but today this legacy continues to perpetuate power imbalances between the Global North and the Global South. As a result, power and resources must be shifted to liberate and empower local communities to redefine their own trajectory.  

One major solution reinforced the need to empower local female and youth leaders and their organisations. For decades female and youth organisations in low-income nations have been underfunded, yet their leaders possess the strongest knowledge of solutions their communities need to address the most pressing gender equality challenges.

Increasing funding and redistributing resources to these local women’s organisations will not only enhance the impact they deliver but will also reduce their dependence on disconnected decision-makers.  

Sustaining Momentum

Leaving Kigali after four positively intense days at Women Deliver, one could not help but feel invigorated and inspired. Enabling the gathering of individuals to share ideas and foster connection on a human level is essential in driving and sustaining momentum for gender equality.

CTG is deeply committed to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, especially in fragile and conflict-affected countries and continues to look for ways we can elevate and enhance our positive impact.  

If you are a like-minded organisation, especially one operating within similar contexts, we’d love to hear from you. Please reach out to me by emailing mia@ctg.org.