May 15, 2016 Marshall Stowell Editor-in-Chief, Impact

What Does It Mean to Put Her First?

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Published in partnership with PSI’s Impact Magazine.

AS MANY OF THE WORLD’S MOST INFLUENTIAL VOICES GATHER at Women Deliver to discuss how to put action behind the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially those that support girls and women, we need to address the political, financial and cultural barriers that — despite the rhetoric — fall short of the promise to put her first.

Let’s start with the simple fact that less than 2¢ of every development dollar goes to girls — and that is a victory compared with a few years ago, when it was more like half a cent.

In this issue, Ambassador Cathy Russell discusses two bold initiatives, DREAMS and Let Girls Learn, that put resources where they can do good. But the US effort on girls and women is falling short in the area of saving women’s lives from unsafe abortion. The global health community has forwarded countless sign-on letters to President Obama to clarify the Helms Amendment once and for all.

President Obama doesn’t need the approval of Congress to implement the Helms Amendment so it covers safe abortion care in the cases of rape, incest, and when a woman’s life is at risk. He needs only his pen. And the data supports doing so. According to the WHO, nearly 50,000 women across the globe die each year because of an unsafe abortion, with the highest unsafe abortion rates occurring in South America and central Africa. 

It’s time for us to put politics aside and put her first.

In our feature introducing the newly launched Maverick Collective, design thinker and founding member Pam Scott underscores the importance of putting her in the driver’s seat. Scott argues, “The reason that so much philanthropy has failed and people have put billions of dollars into solutions that don’t actually solve anything is hubris.” Scott and others believe that when we bring the people we seek to serve into the research and design lab with us to co-create solutions, the outcomes are far better.

In her own piece, Women Deliver’s Katja Iversen adds, “We must abandon the perception of girls and women as passive recipients of aid who need protection and recognize them as powerful change-makers.”

You can read about how donors like The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation are funding Adolescents 360 to do just this. Also in this issue, Devex Founding President and Editor-in-Chief Raj Kumar argues that there are only three tools a woman needs to ensure she can control her own destiny. Find out how she can use an ID card, internet connection and bank account to ensure her own future, first stretching and then going beyond the development dollar. This is not a new concept, so why don’t we see it in the design of every project? After all, it was Gandhi who said, “Whatever you do for me but without me, you do against me.” It’s time to leave our hubris behind and put her first. As you spend time this week at Women Deliver, ask yourself: What are you doing to put her first? Visit PSI’s booth at C2-022 to write your answer down. We’ll be sharing your actions and impact on our social media platforms throughout the week.

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