Jill Sheffield, president and founder of Women Deliver, shares some exciting news on women and girls ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.
This week, Women Deliver announced the “Women Deliver 100,” a list of the top 100 people in the world -– men and women, young and old -– who are delivering for women. When I read the stories of the individuals honored, I am overcome with inspiration and gratitude. These are some of the most intrepid and committed people in the world, who are dedicated to improving the lives of girls and women…at many costs. These are people who get that girls and women make the world go round, and that investing in them -– prioritizing them, protecting their rights, telling their stories -– pays.
Last year was truly a momentous year for girls and women, as we saw new donor commitments, new policy decisions, and an overwhelming swell in support for protecting their well being. It was beyond fabulous, but it also raised the stakes considerably. Looking ahead into 2011, we are under even more pressure to keep this momentum going.
The Women Deliver 100 is part of our effort to do so. First and foremost, it is our offering of gratitude and recognition to one hundred heroes. We will celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day next week, and it’s a time to really celebrate the leaps and bounds we’ve made, and how hard it’s been to get there. Many of the Women Deliver 100 honorees work amidst incredible adversity, without much fanfare, and often without a light at the end of the tunnel. They are committed in their efforts to improve the lives of girls and women -– whether through scientific discoveries, human rights campaigns, or the delivery of health services –- because they believe in the value of women and girls. They don’t count on recognition and they don’t count on an easy road, though they deserve it.
On this International Women’s Day, it is my wish that the world will sit up and pay attention to those who prioritizing girls and women, and offer a giant, global THANK YOU. Change for the better is happening every day in every corner of the globe, and it is thanks, in large part, to the work of these individuals and individuals just like them. These efforts are paying off with progress such as fewer maternal deaths worldwide, and greater participation of women in parliaments, environmental efforts, and small business ownership.
But it’s not all rosy, as of course it never is. Even today as I write, budgets for women’s and girls’ health programs are being cut by some policymakers in the US House of Representatives. And around the world, girls are still undervalued and women still die in pregnancy and childbirth in unconscionable numbers. We have so much left to do.
So on behalf of girls and women everywhere, consider the Women Deliver 100 list a gauntlet thrown: what more can you do to deliver for women? That means you, policymakers and donors, you global and local leaders, you community members and civil society. The point is that we can all deliver and deliver much more for girls and women, and we must. I want this list to be a challenge, but more importantly an inspiration to those who have yet to “see the light,” and understand how critical girls and women are to a healthy, prosperous, and stable future for all of us.
But what does it mean to “deliver” for girls and women? It means respecting girls and women. It means placing the rights of girls and women at the center of your work, whatever that may be. It means raising your voice and telling girls’ and women’s stories. It means focusing on achieving positive results, and continuing to move onwards and upwards with progress on our issues, even in the face of setbacks.
International Women’s Day is the perfect moment to take a moment to appreciate progress, while putting our nose to the grindstone to demand even more.
Here’s to a more enlightened next hundred years, where girls and women will continue leading, inspiring, and delivering, and where, in turn, we will do a better job of delivering for them. Congratulations to the Women Deliver 100 honorees, who are doing just that, and to everyone out there working on behalf of girls and women worldwide. To everyone else -– and I mean this with all due respect –- get a clue and join us! You will not regret it.