As I mentioned in my last post, last week (21st May) I was invited by the Guardian Development Professional Network to a panel discussion Family Planning: The Rights of Women and Girls in London with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, DFID, International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF) and Save the Children.
Speaking on the panel were Melinda Gates Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Tewodros Melesse, Director General of IPPF, Catherine Ojo, Midwife and Chief Nursing Officer at a Teaching Hospital in Nigeria and Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development in the UK.
I wanted to write a longer post about the event with some of my thoughts about the discussion, but unfortunately I have run out of time! Instead of not saying anything at all, I wanted to link to the highlights article published by the Guardian (read it here) which also includes a video of the event:
You can also check out my Twitter feed @devtruths and the hashtag #WomenandGirls for live tweeting throughout the event and for some of my thoughts at the time.
Overall it was a very interesting and informative event, it was good to see issues such as family planning, female genital mutilation (FGM) and early enforced marriages being give such high profile and, for me, it was particularly good to hear the perspective of a man (Tewodros) and a midwife who deals regularly with these topics (Catherine).
The one thing I did notice throughout the discussion was often language inferring ownership of these issues by Justine and Melinda which struck me as quite paternalistic. I appreciate that the rights of women and girls is an international issue (I am also personally strongly against FGM and enforced marriages) and that healthcare knowledge should be shared, but the talk focussed on developing countries but centred on what ‘we’ (UK/US) are going to do about it:
Justine Greening: “We need to keep fighting this battle and certainly the UK will play our role in making sure that we are part of one of those countries that adds to the momentum and supports the countries around the world who are working so hard on this.”
Natasha Kaplinsky to Justine Greening: “What commitment can you make to making sure that the women that I met in India and all those like her have birth attendance?…Will there at least be a commitment from the (UK) government?”
NK to JG: “What we’re talking about now is overcoming practices and traditions that are entrenched in different societies. How possible is to overturn those?”
Melinda Gates: “When I see the progress that has been made because of the commitment by the UK government, the governments of Europe and the African governments of their own budgets these days, we’re making huge progress with development…”
MG: “We can start to start to look at that future now for Africa”
MG: “We have to look at how societies moved forward and how we got change in our own and take some of that to these places so they can learn as quickly…”
As usual, thoughts very welcome. Am I being over sensitive to the language used or am I right in thinking the conversation was too focussed on what the ‘West’ is doing about these issues?