Last week at U.N. headquarters, an interactive discussion was held about harmonizing the global women and child health narrative. The focus of the event centered on how to build coalitions and integrate messaging to communicate results and to foster accelerated action in the last 1000 days of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Going a step further, Every Woman Every Child teamed up with +SocialGood to hone new ways to curate the women and child health story through the power of innovation and new media. The U.N. Office for South-South Cooperation and the U.N. Foundation also supported this event.
Since the U.N, Secretary General launched Every Woman Every Child in 2010, unprecedented resources and new partnerships have been mobilized to save the lives of 16 million women and children around the world. As U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Strategic Planning, Robert Orr said at the event, "Every Woman Every Child is a strategic umbrella that helped move women and child health from the caboose of the MDG train to the driving engine." He called this partnership "one of the most successful movements in modern history." However, Dr. Orr did not rest with this incredible accomplishment. He pushed the group further by making the point that advocacy is stronger when people who are not directly associated with our issues are the ones advocating for them.
The first panel discussion brought in representatives from education, nutrition, malaria and the private sector to discuss why coalitions have been effective -- and how other sectors can promote the goals of Every Woman Every Child. The takeaway was simple; we must reach outside the health sector to really get our messages to resonate. And countries must be at the heart of coalition building.
The second discussion, on translating country action into results, united representatives from Family Planning 2020, Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, the U.N. Commission on Life-Saving Commodities, and the H4+ (joint effort by United Nations and related agencies and programs: UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, U.N. Women, W.H.O., and the World Bank). Panelists viewed the many emerging initiatives as both an opportunity and a challenge. They agreed this is especially true when it comes to accountability for results at country-level. The panelists agreed that a focus on country needs leads to maximum impact and progress towards the MDGs.
The Bangladeshi Ambassador to the U.N., Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, then took the stage and said that "achieving the MDG's must be done in joint partnership between developing and developed countries." Ambassador Momen succinctly described why Bangladesh has achieved incredible results in women's and children's health, specifically citing health workers and innovation. With a nod to health's link to other sectors, Ambassador Momen said, "If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family and society." In his speech, Ambassador Momen avoided acronyms and spoke in language that was simple and accessible. His memorable quotes were quickly shared on social media and expanded the reach of Bangladesh's success story to new audiences.
We then heard from Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, host of Huffington Post Live, who was interviewed by U.N. Foundation President and CEO Kathy Calvin. The chat-style panel struck a nice balance of discussing tactics and new ways of getting out core messages. Ahmed hailed Al Jazeera as winning the coverage of global issues by connecting stories to people's lives. To get media coverage, find the stories that resonate. Ahmed added "measure change by human results and let people talk." On the role of data in media today, he said, "Stories only resonate with context plus data that provide you with context." He declared that, "Data is the future of news." The role of innovation in data for women and child health advocacy is the new frontier of storytelling. We heard from the next panel of experts on collecting and analyzing data to learn how the women and child health community can better amplify country level results on the global level. Data visualization can help make sense of complex data and is essential for accountability and focus.
With so many new partnerships and commitments, consistency of message can be a challenge. Harmonizing among women and child health partners is not enough; we must take the added step to find new champions and to be innovative in our storytelling. I am confident that the Every Women Every Child + SocialGood event was a big step towards realizing these goals. Just through this partnership, #EWECProgress trended on Twitter for much of the morning, and we reached over 222k global accounts and made 203k impressions.
Stakeholders are committed, more than ever, to strengthening the global women and child health narrative, by working together and honing the power of data in new and interesting ways.
An archived webcast of this event can be found here.