SEATTLE, Washington — In lieu of a celebration, the 10th anniversary of the United Nation’s Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) movement commenced with a warning: “protect the progress” made thus far. This somber perspective is offered in the wake of evidence that COVID-19 exacerbates gender inequalities, so much to the extent that the pandemic could potentially reverse the positive progress made in areas of women and children’s health. To foster continued support, EWEC has used its anniversary as a platform to revel in its past achievements and to caution that although the present circumstances are challenging, the global community must stand in solidarity to protect human rights. Throughout the future “Decade of Action,” EWEC plans to understand the remaining gaps in healthcare and recommit to the strategies that are known to accelerate positive growth.
The Origin of Every Woman Every Child Movement
In September 2010, former U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, launched the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health in a landmark move to address the health challenges facing women, children and adolescents. The following overwhelming support from the health community spurred into EWEC, a multi-stakeholder movement that promoted international advocacy and governmental, organizational and academic commitments. In short, the Global Strategy
was designed to achieve the health targets of 2015’s Millenium Development Goals but EWEC’s purpose was to generate worldwide participation through both political and financial means.
Though targets were not fully met in 2015, the positive progress made was compelling enough for the U.N. to launch an updated Global Strategy
. This more ambitious roadmap aligns with the 2030 agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals and uses lessons learned to broaden its reach. In addition to providing an umbrella of support from its partners, EWEC remains an important tool in galvanizing worldwide action and accountability.
The Past Decade of Dedication
In spite of the overshadowing warning during EWEC’s anniversary report, it should not be ignored that over the last decade, this movement has enabled significant health milestones. Its success is shown plainly in the stats: maternal deaths have dropped by 35%; child mortality rates have reduced by 50% since 2000; 25 million child marriages
have been prevented; more than 1 billion children have been vaccinated over the last decade.
In part, this driving success is due to EWEC’s role in fostering multi-lateral partnerships. Since its inception, the movement has generated 776 commitments
, each of which pertains to finance, policy or service, across more than 62 countries. The H6 Partnership
, which is a high-level collaboration between the World Bank Group, WHO, UNAIDS, UN Women, UNICEF and UNFPA, is a reflection of EWEC’s ability to unite organizations. Combining individual strengths, the H6 provides technical support to countries with particularly fragile health systems in order to address the root causes of health inequalities burdening women and children. https://www.unaids.org/en/topic/H6
The Future “Decade of Action”
Of all the points made in EWEC’s 10th-anniversary report, it could be argued that the most resounding was the importance of focusing on the most disadvantaged. The fact remains that advancements in women and children’s health are unevenly distributed throughout the world and household wealth plays a significant role in the availability and quality of services received. Among other global issues such as climate change and conflict, COVID-19 is pushing the disadvantaged
farther away, which EWEC has warned, could be detrimental. To ensure all women and children are uplifted, no matter what the region or circumstance, EWEC plans to hold accountable commitment-makers and continue to gather pledges that are more far-reaching.
The Accountability Breakfast 2020 is one such event that EWEC used to emphasize the value of multi-lateral partnership and action. In the closing session, this was only highlighted by the announcement of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
(PMNCH) 2021-2025 Strategy. As the world’s leading alliance for women, children and adolescent health, PMNCH has made this new commitment to drive evidence-based advocacy through more than 1000 of its partnerships. Collectively, the aim is to decrease preventable morbidity in mothers and newborns, uphold sexual health rights and advance the well-being of adolescents.
The Every Woman Every Child movement plays a significant role in upholding the rights of women and children all over the world. It is the forging of partnerships like these that have the potential to surmount the negative impacts of COVID-19 and reach the goals of the SDGs. As global activist Malala Yousafzai puts it, “The COVID-19 pandemic is a setback but it cannot be an excuse. Our goal should not be to return to the way things were.”
– Anastasia Clausen