New York, NY, 13 September 2022 | No leadership opportunity should ever be taken lightly, and my decision to join Women Deliver in April as the President and CEO was more difficult than most. But in the end, for me, it came down to two things: first, the critical need for global advocacy organizations that unequivocally demand the full suite of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all girls and women, everywhere, no matter their age, ethnic, socio-economic, religious or gender identity, sexual orientation, or ability. And second, the need for these organizations to realize their full potential by moving beyond their problematic legacy of racism and colonialism.
I joined Women Deliver to help carve a new way forward and to play my part in making sure that organizations that do this work are representative of the lived experiences of people like me and others with marginalized and vulnerable identities. Since I joined, I have been incredibly impressed by the hard work and passion of the people who make up Women Deliver — our staff, our Board, and most importantly, the young people and women’s rights organizations who partner with us. They share this belief and are dedicated to achieving it, no matter how uncomfortable and risky the road might be.
Growing up in Pakistan, I witnessed first-hand what it looks like when girls and women are denied their most basic human rights: to health care and bodily autonomy, to education, to economic opportunity, and to a healthy environment. Looking back today — with more than one-third of my country under water — my heart aches for the girls and women who, as always, are bearing the brunt of an unprecedented climate disaster in a country that has contributed very little to global warming. This single event will set Pakistan back by a decade or more on hard won progress for its girls and women — just as the reversal of Roe v. Wade is a devastating setback to progress on girls’ and women’s health and rights in the United States. The situations in Pakistan and in the United States, though brought on by different factors, are a stark reminder of how fragile progress is, and of how easily it can be reversed.
Still, I believe in our collective power to create the future we want; to change the norms, laws, and policies that perpetuate the injustices that are all too commonplace around the world.
We want to continue Women Deliver's incredible impact in a more intentional way that confronts and changes the narrative that we have endured for so long. My vision for the future of Women Deliver is one that reinvents what an international NGO of the 21st century should be and what it can do. I believe Women Deliver has the potential to take the lead on radically challenging the status quo and addressing the real and perceived binaries — between “Global North” and “Global South”, younger and older — that continue to stifle our collective impact within the global development sector.
The Women Deliver of tomorrow is an organization in which feminists around the world play a leading role, driven by a belief in our collective ability to devise the solutions, ideas, and actions needed to secure lasting, sustainable change in Pakistan and around the world.
Moving forward, Women Deliver will continue to hone its strategic focus on three overlapping issue areas within gender equality that require urgent action: health and SRHR, climate action, and economic justice and rights. We will create spaces for collective action, including at the Women Deliver 2023 Conference (WD2023), for gender equality champions that are representative of and led by feminists from around the world, and in particular for organizations and individuals representing adolescent girls and marginalized communities. We will leverage our access to global windows for change, like this week’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), to bring together and support the work of coalitions, including Deliver for Good country coalitions in Kenya and Senegal and the SRHR and Climate Justice Coalition, and networks and alliances, such as the Adolescent Girls Investment Plan and the Alliance for Gender Equality and UHC, that are driving progress for girls and women.
In everything we do, we will reframe who leads, ensuring that the perspectives and views of those who are closest to and living the challenges that girls and women face — grassroots feminist organizations, and youth, particularly adolescent girls — are front and center.
Over the past six months, we have been carrying out a listening tour in order to actively listen, learn from, and act on the advice and input from our partners and boarder network of stakeholders: the Women Deliver Young Leaders, Deliver for Good Country Coalition leaders, our funders, feminist organizations and gender champions from around the world, UN entities, and the private sector, including the 30 organizations and individuals who have generously given their time and expertise to planning WD2023 as members of the Conference’s Advisory Group.
Our goal? A Women Deliver that represents all girls and women, in all their intersecting identities. A key example of this will be WD2023, which, from day one, has been co-created by the people that will lead the charge on advancing gender equality around the world long after we’ve left Kigali.
I believe in the power of the people around the world whom we work with. The Women Deliver of tomorrow belongs to all of us and is in our hands.