By: Asim Nawaz
KIGALI, RWANDA: The Women Deliver Conference 2023 (WD2023) kicked off in Kigali, Rwanda, bringing together more than 6,000 individuals from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise worldwide. The conference aims to drive progress in achieving gender equality and promote the sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls and women across the globe. Women Deliver, a prominent global advocate, is leading the charge in championing these crucial causes.
During the opening press conference, Dr. Maliha Khan, President and CEO of Women Deliver, highlighted the substantial challenges facing gender equality, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and the rising anti-rights movement worldwide. Dr. Khan emphasized the need for intensified efforts and collaboration to overcome these obstacles, stating, “The time has come for us to unite against the global rollback of rights – change is inevitable, progress is not. We have to work at it.”
In response to concerns about countries like Pakistan preventing a significant number of women from participating in the workforce, Dr. Maliha Khan addressed the issue by highlighting the holistic approach taken by Women Deliver. She acknowledged the importance of economic upliftment for women and emphasized that when Women Deliver advocates for women’s health, education, and rights, it encompasses a commitment to improving their economic lives as well. Dr. Khan stressed that everything is interconnected, and by focusing on the overall well-being of women, including their economic empowerment, Women Deliver aims to create a comprehensive framework for gender equality.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Chair of the Women Deliver Board and former Deputy President of South Africa, emphasized the crucial role of free and open democracies in the advancement of gender equality. Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed that open democracies provide an enabling environment for women’s political participation, policy and law shaping, the protection of women’s rights, and the creation of equal opportunities. These democratic systems also facilitate improved access to education and healthcare for girls and women while establishing effective mechanisms to combat gender-based violence.
The WD2023 conference was co-created from the start, incorporating thousands of public insights through community consultation and the involvement of a 60+ member Advisory Group from various sectors. Notably, 60% of the participants represent feminist and gender equality organizations and entities in the Global South.
Under the theme of “Spaces, Solidarity, and Solutions,” WD2023 aims to identify and implement evidence-based solutions. Dr. Khan emphasized the collective purpose of all delegates and speakers, stating, “This week centers on creating empowering spaces for the feminist movement, holding leaders accountable, and generating a groundswell of voices for gender equality. This groundswell of collective action is critical to urge political leaders to act.”