Around the Institute

3 Reasons Why Women are Key to the Future of Global Health and Development

June 27, 2015  • Tripp Brockway, Guest Blogger

Actress and humanitarian Ashley Judd, Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology Executive Director Dr. Paula Johnson, and other leaders from the global health and development field have brought the importance of women to the fore on the second full day of Spotlight Health at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

While the speakers discussed the challenges women face globally and how these negative factors directly contribute to wide-ranging issues such as poverty, inequality, and a declining environment, they also focused on how women are key to the solutions. Here are three main takeaways from the day-long series of panels:

1. Gender-based violence causes substantial acute and chronic health problems for women globally. 

United Nations Undersecretary General and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Johnson discussed how both direct violence and violation of women’s rights is systemic around the world, highlighting underrepresentation in leadership as a key obstacle to reducing the prevalence of violence against women. 

Judd offered a compelling vision of how to address gender-based violence in communities around the world, including strong female-to-female alliances. 

2. Women drive development outcomes at the community level.

Abraham Leno, an Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow and American Refugee Committee country representative, emphasized that communities must be treated as experts in the development profession. Women are key stakeholders to local development outcomes, particularly in agriculture.

3. Women are already leading the course to improve health outcomes for women.

In addition to several female global health leaders — change agents in their fields — speaking on and participating in today’s panel discussions, New Voices Fellow and Kopano Mobaso won the Aspen Ideas Award for Spotlight Health for her project to bring lifesaving antenatal care to pregnant women in rural areas of low-income countries. The “Ona-Mototo-Lako” (see your baby) Project identifies high-risk pregnancies through ultrasonography and screening to reduce maternal and newborn deaths. 

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