During an official Women Deliver press conference on Monday, former Presidents Michelle Bachelet and Mary Robinson, actress and activisit Ashley Judd, executive director of the UNFPA Thoraya Obaid and World Bank managing director Oby Ezekwesili offered their views on why it is so critical to increase and improve investments in women and girls.

“Maternal health is not a disease without a cure: there are proven interventions that work. work. Family planning, skilled attendants at birth, combined investments in family planning and newborn services can really deliver” said Michelle Bachelet. She also noted that each dollar invested in contraceptive services saves four dollars in other health expenditures – a powerful reminder of the impact of providing appropriate services for expectant and young mothers.

Bachelet also said that “significant funding streams are available” for countries that make maternal health a priority. Representing the views of funding organizations UNFPA and the World Bank, Obaid and Okonjo-Iweala echoed Bachelet’s comments, and explained that their organizations had priority countries and areas of intervention with manifest political will and commitment, as well as levels of need.

The magnetic former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, pleaded for a human rights approach to maternal health. She deplored the fact that the Joint Action Plan put forward by the UN Secretary-General is “not underpinned by the human rights of women and girls.” Commenting on Ban Ki-moon’s request for comments on the Plan, Robinson said “I’m glad he wants comments, because we believe that a human rights approach is essential to clarify responsibilities, accountability. She added “I urge that we go forward from a strong human rights perspective – a human rights approach is vital and essential.”

Robinson also noted that if we, as a global community, cannot find the financial resources to make the necessary investments in women and girls, “we ought to have our heads examined.” In light of the the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on bank and corporate bailouts, Robinson made it clear that she believes financing great changes was within reach. This reinforces one of the core messages of the Women Deliver conference: MDG 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters and achieve universal access to reproductive health, is by no means a utopia – it is very much an attainable goal.

Each panelist also extolled the virtues of investing in women and girls, and emphasized the broader social and economic gains of doing so. UN Dispatch was there to bring you some highlights of this press conference:

 

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