By Roselyn Odeh
The beautiful landscape, warm sunsets welcomed the world from the 17th to 20th of July to the 2023 edition of Women Deliver conference: the world’s largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women in the 21st century. The momentum, hype and commitments by advocates, policy makers, programmers, donors from around the world focused on catalysing conversations to break barriers, address challenges, and identify opportunities to advance gender equality, including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), to improve the health, and wellbeing of girls and women for greater transformation reverberated all through the conference.
This year’s Women Deliver was particularly remarkable being the first time to be hosted in the continent of Africa. The conference held in a spirit of unity and solidarity, provided a platform for global leaders, activists, policymakers, and change-makers to come together and discuss pressing issues facing women. The event resounded with impressive visuals, powerful voices, insights, and commitments that echoed far beyond Kigali, with a promise of lasting impact on the future of women’s rights.
Reflections on Progress: Women Deliver 2023 offered an opportunity to reflect on the progress made over the years. Inspirational stories of resilience and triumph demonstrated how women have been driving transformative change in their communities, despite facing numerous challenges. The event celebrated these successes while acknowledging the long road ahead to achieve true gender parity.
Amplifying Voices: Women Deliver 2023 captured the very essence of empowerment and inclusivity by giving space to women from all walks of life to voice their stories. Diverse narratives, ranging from advocating for maternal health to young girls, speaking up about education rights intermingled to create a unifying message of change. Themes around power, progress and change resonated from session to session as well as an urgency to address gender disparities and redefine power structures.
Intersectionality of Women’s and Girls’ Rights: Another important aspect emphasised during Women Deliver 2023 was the intersectionality of women’s and girls’ rights. It recognised that their experiences are influenced not only by gender but also by factors such as race, ethnicity, and socio-economic background. Intersectionality was a recurring theme in the discussions, leading to a deeper understanding of how different aspects of identity can compound the challenges women face. Development programmes must regard the overlaps and interdependencies systems that continue to fuel discrimination and keep women and girls at a disadvantage. By recognizing these complexities, the conference encouraged more inclusive and holistic approaches to advancing women’s and girls’ health, rights and empowerment.
The Power of Youth: Youth participation was a major highlight of Women Deliver 2023, with young activists making their voices heard on global platforms. Their passion and determination were infectious, invigorating attendees and reinforcing the significance of intergenerational collaboration in shaping a better future for women. Recognising the power of youth as catalysts for change, the event underscored the importance of providing young women with the tools and opportunities to drive transformative progress.
Networking and partnership building: The Women Deliver 2023, offered a platform for networking among participants. Sessions provided numerous opportunities to engage with attendees to learn from their experiences on what works and very importantly, what does not work. Worth noting is the BMGF partners reception which offered a rare opportunity for implementers to interact, share experiences and connect for future partnerships towards amplifying health and development outcomes.
Major Takeaways: My participation at the Women Deliver 2023 further affirmed a fundamental insight garnered in the course of programming that women’s empowerment is not a solitary battle. It requires the collaboration of government, civil society, private sector, and individuals to meet the diversity of women’s and girls’ needs. And to attain any meaningful advancement to Universal Health Coverage, we must address the entire ecosystem that affect and shape the world that women and girls find themselves. Thus, it is important that systems are responsive to contexts while also strengthening linkages from the community through sub-national to national and leveraging on global best practices. The numerous initiatives and commitments that emerged during the event, including pledges to strengthen reproductive rights, and improve access to education and healthcare for women and girls are vehicles for continued improvements towards attaining gender equality.
Conclusion: Women Deliver 2023 was not just a conference; it was a resonating testament to the can-do spirit of women and the power of collective action. As the sounds of the event reverberated worldwide, they carried with them the potential to inspire change-makers, policymakers, and individuals to redouble their efforts in advancing gender equality.
The conference highlighted that women’s empowerment is not a singular pursuit but a thread of interconnected efforts. By embracing intersectionality, amplifying diverse voices, and acknowledging the pivotal role of young people, we can attain inclusive and equitable spaces where women can flourish and transform the world around them. As the echoes of Women Deliver 2023 continue to linger, let us remember that the change we seek requires ongoing commitment and dedication. In partnerships, let us turn these insights and sounds into life-changing progress, where women’s rights are safeguarded, and their potential is unleashed to shape a brighter, more equal future for all.