October 03, 2011

Vaira Vike-Freiberga: I relate to these issues

John Donnelly

As originally seen at Global Post.

Vaira Vike-Freiberga, former President of Latvia from 1999 to 2007 and the first woman President in Eastern Europe, was in Washington, D.C. this week for a series of meetings, including an Aspen Global Health and Development event titled, “7 Billion: Conversations That Matter ‘Good Governance and the Women Dividend'.” She is a member of Aspen’s Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health. Vike-Freiberga spoke to writer John Donnelly about advancing women’s reproductive health issues, the need for doctors to treat women with more dignity, and about how she got “the scare of my life” as a young girl living in Morocco when an older man tried to persuade her father for her hand in marriage.

Why did you first start to get involved in advocating for women’s reproductive health issues?

During my presidency, I came in contact with a wide spectrum of needs and necessities that were not being taken care of. The women’s question was one among many. But myself being a woman and because of certain life experiences, I related to these issues.

September 28, 2011

Photo blog: A call for resolve for reproductive health

Sarah Lindsay

The Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health (GLC), a sister organization of MLI under Aspen Global Health and Development, brought together many of its  council members in New York for an event held during the 66th U.N. General Assembly meeting. There, council members shared the stories that brought them personally into the work of reproductive health. As evident in the photo blog by Dominic Chavez, passion was not in short supply at the event where there was a consensus that more should be done to ensure universal access to reproductive health. Council member and former president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation Dr. Fred Sai said, "I challenge African leaders—political, religious, and traditional—to get up and do it. To say, 'we can change.'"

September 26, 2011

Robinson: More funds for family planning

Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson, the first woman president of Ireland (1990-1997) and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997-2002, is chairwoman of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health. She was the president of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative which housed MLI until it come to a planned end in 2010. Her op-ed originally appeared at Newsday.

The world's leaders are in New York at the United Nations this week, and global reproductive rights activists are holding their feet to the fire. We're asking them to deliver on promises made 17 years ago at the UN International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, when they agreed to make contraceptive services available for women all over the world by 2015.

At the end of next month, world population will officially hit 7 billion, and more than 200 million women in the poorest nations of Africa and Asia wait with little hope for the family planning services they would gladly use to delay or space their children, if modern contraceptives were available.

September 26, 2011

Dr. Frederick Sai: Family planning reduces abortions

John Donnelly

The Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health (GLC) is a sister organization of MLI under Aspen Global Health and Development. Earlier this month, GLC held an event bringing together many of its leaders in New York where journalist John Donnelly was able to interview many of them for the Global Post.

Dr. Frederick T. Sai, a medical doctor, was born in Ghana. He started working on global nutrition issues in 1963 – 48 years ago – as an advisor to the FAO regional office in Africa. He went on to become an internationally known authority on health, nutrition, population, and family planning, and among his various posts were president of International Planned Parenthood Federation, and Director of Population at the World Bank. He is a member of Aspen’s Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health. Sai spoke about what first got him interested in reproductive health rights issues, why African leaders don’t want to talk about family planning, and how his days as a doctor-coroner uncovered evidence that changed him.

In the 1960s, near the start of your career, the world population was 3 billion. In about a month, it will reach 7 billion. What happened?

What happened is the world knew how to care for mankind better. After World War II, the developing country populations started growing faster than the northern countries. It was due to a range of biomedical interventions, including introduction of antibiotics, and vaccinations. Death rates were coming down. Our ability to develop and to tackle diseases was much better. If it were not for efforts being made in the West and North with development and women’s education that made families smaller, our population would be much larger than 7 billion.

September 23, 2011

Ethiopia and Nepal deliver for maternal and child health

Sarah Lindsay

A little known reality at well-publicized donor pledging conferences is that the pledges sometimes are just empty promises and nothing materializes.

But, a new United Nations spending report released Tuesday had two pieces of surprising news.

Here’s the story: Last year, as the U.N. general assembly was holding its annual meeting, member states pledged more than $40 billion for a maternal and child health initiative known as ‘Every Woman Every Child.’

Now as they are again convening, the U.N. checked to see what happened.  Donors have committed close to $45 billion – exceeding the pledges – and some of the biggest givers have been developing countries.  In fact, developing countries gave $11 billion.