By Katja Iversen | The Economist Intelligence Unit | 10 May 2016
We are in the midst of shift in the global conversation about how we approach health—expanding the focus beyond treatment and surviving to a broader discussion about thriving and well-being. Investing in women’s gender equality is at the center of this.
When the world’s countries and negotiators met last year at the United Nations to make the final tweaks to the new Sustainable Development Goals, one of the big discussions was about the scope and formulations on what today is known as Goal 3. Should it be strictly health, and focus on illness and death – or should it be broader and include for example wellbeing? The world's leaders decided on the latter and when the new Global Goals were adopted in September 2016, it was with this aspirational Goal 3 to “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”.
This reflects a significant change in mind-sets and approaches. Well-being is much more than a healthy body, or a functioning health system. It is about a holistic approach to the whole person’s being – social, economic, and health related – and the ability to make important life choices. Well-being entails a level of economic security, education, work life, housing, good family relations and social participation, feeling you contribute, having fun, feeling you are safe and in good physical and mental health. It is really about having control of your life, and feeling that you belong.
If the world is to achieve the new global health and well-being goal – and see acceleration in progress in general – then focusing on gender equality and women’s well-being will be crucial. Evidence shows that when you invest in the health, rights and well-being of girls and women, it creates a positive ripple effect and everybody wins. The benefits go way beyond the individual woman, and also positively impacts families, communities and societies.
There are several reasons for this. In general, women invest more in their children’s health and education than men do. When more girls go to school, GDP increases. When a woman can control when and how often to become pregnant and have a child, she can control her life and her level of well-being increases. The health and educational status of a mother are game-changing elements in breaking the vicious cycle of inter-generational poverty.
Girls and women make up more than half the world’s population. They are consumers, producers, and reproducers, and they constitute the largest emerging market — bigger than India and China combined. Securing a more just and equitable future for women and focusing on their health, rights and wellbeing, is imperative to ensuring the health and wealth of societies. When the world delivers for women, and gives them the chance to live to their full potential, then women deliver for everybody.
At Women Deliver, we are thrilled with the enhanced focus on women’s well-being, which was underlined by the release of the new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit in February.
Women’s well-being is the focus of a conference scheduled for 16-19 May, 2016 in Copenhagen. The ‘Women Deliver’ conference will push the conversation miles further when we bring together more than 5,000 people in Copenhagen at the largest conference on the health, rights and well-being of girls and women for more than a decade. The participants will be world influencers and local change makers – heads of states and United Nations agencies, ministers and parliamentarians, business and civil society leaders, activists and journalists – from more than 150 countries. The conference will be a fueling station of ideas and inspiration, and it will amplify proven solutions and focus how we can make the Sustainable Development Goals - including SDG 3 - matter most for girls and women. And, it will be accompanied by a virtual conference so we can encourage conversation way beyond the walls of the conference center.
Investing in women’s health and wellbeing is not only the right thing to do, it is also the economically sound thing to do. Women’s well-being is everybody’s business - and it cannot be enhanced by following “business as usual” policies.