When the leading cause of death among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 is pregnancy and childbirth; when two-thirds of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa are among adolescent girls; and when 200 million women want to use family planning methods but lack access, the young girls and women of the world do not have a promiscuity problem -- they have a human rights problem.
Newborn health is inextricably connected to maternal health. Similarly to maternal mortality, preventable diseases are the major causes of under-five deaths. Inadequate nutrition, limited access to clean water and poor healthcare infrastructures lead to the spread of preventable infectious diseases.
As the governments of the world convene this week to discuss them, they need to look at the evidence. But they also need to listen to the voices of the millions of girls and women around the world for whom access to contraception and safe abortion is integral to their survival, to their health and to their well-being.
For me, that morning when I saw a positive sign on the pregnancy test, I was filled with excitement, expectations and a sense of craziness. The thought of survival never crossed my mind. I didn't have to worry about affording care or being able to access a midwife, and I knew that this privilege was due to where I lived.
We can and must turn this picture to reality. Right now, every country is working to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and to define a new global development plan. We must seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to position gender equality, women's rights and women's empowerment firmly at the center of the global agenda.
Smart collaboration is about working together to improve health outcomes for vulnerable, underserved and marginalized women and children in resource-poor environments. Although uniting in coalition toward collective action is not always easy, it allows us to learn from each other and leverage our strengths to improve the lives of women and children globally.