Throughout the world, women face remarkable challenges, from gender inequities in education to complications around pregnancy and childbirth. Many women in Africa know the challenges of poverty, limited access to health care, and lack of access to education well, and have shown immense inner strength, resourcefulness, and selflessness in confronting these challenges. African women are participating in entrepreneurial efforts, microfinance, technology, education, and health venture; others devote their time and resources to supporting their families and providing opportunities for their children. Regardless of their paths in life, all deserve to be celebrated.
The African Union has designated Sunday, July 31st, as African Women’s Day, to honor the women of a continent rife with challenges but also brimming with possibility and progress. Women are proving themselves to be the future leaders and pioneers across Africa, including Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia and the first elected female country president in Africa, and Kenyan blogger and Ushahidi founder Ory Okolloy who serves as the Google Policy Manager for Africa. In Rwanda, more than half of the seats in parliament (56%, World Bank 2010) are held by women. These are but a few examples of the remarkable achievements African women have made.
Improving health outcomes among women, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, has been a focus for all of the agencies and organizations working to meet Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 (improving maternal health and survival for all women). The USG Global Health Initiative also focuses attention on women and girls, as investing in these populations has proven successful in achieving results across health and development programs. Unfortunately, despite these efforts, the number of women dying in childbirth is not declining rapidly enough to meet MDG targets in many countries, and women continue to suffer from systemic inequities, disrespect, and abuse, particularly in the health arena.
As USAID’s global integrated maternal and child health program, MCHIP works in more than 20 African nations to improve the quality of and access to health services for women during pregnancy, at birth, and throughout life. To address the leading causes of death for women in childbirth, MCHIP brought together leaders from 22 African nations to develop action plans to address how to reduce the number of preventable deaths during childbirth. Women who are able to access MCHIP-supported services are healthier, better able to care for their families or hold a job, and empowered to contribute to their local communities or broader networks, ultimately promoting long-term social and economic progress. Around the world, advocates, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals are coming together to support the empowerment of women, including access to health services.
We hope you will join us in celebrating African women, both living at home and in diaspora groups abroad, and advocate in your own way for the health, well-being, and empowerment of this dynamic and innovative community.
Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP)