Left to right: Fatima Touré (representing ADA); Jeannine Lemaire (Coordinator, ZMD); Michel Sidibé (Executive Director, UNAIDS); Jordi Serrano Pons (Co-founder, ZMD); Christine Kaseba-Sata (First Lady, Zambia); Sylvia Bongo Ondimba (First Lady, Gabon); Cherie Blair (Founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women); Veronique Thouvenot (Co-founder, ZMD); Kristie Holmes (Professor, USC); Gabriela Isler (Miss Universe); Nyasha Zimucha (Miss Africa); Subhi Quraishi (CEO, ZMQ); Amir Dossal (CEO, Global Partnerships Forum)
Zero Mothers Die officially launched by Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, at the Women Leaders Forum inside the UN Headquarter during the 69th session of the UN General Assembly.
Last week the 69th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) was held in NY, and we were honored to have been a part of it. On September 22nd inside the UN Headquarters, the 5th annual Women Leaders Forum took place as an official side event of the UNGA. Each year, this pivotal Forum brings together First Ladies, corporate executives and leaders in the international development and global health arena to address the digital development agenda. This year, the theme of the Forum was "Connecting Women's Health and Girls' Education for Scalable and Sustainable Development". It was the perfect stage to launch the global Zero Mothers Die campaign, a multi-stakeholder partnership initiative to bring mobile technologies into the hands of vulnerable pregnant women to reduce maternal mortality.
Special opening remarks were made by Her Excellency Madam Ban Soon-taek, Spouse of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Following a keynote by H.E. Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, the Zero Mothers Die panel was launched by Dr. Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, and the co-founders Dr. Veronique-Ines Thouvenot, Dr. Jordi Serrano Pons and Ms. Fatima Touré, who spoke on behalf of Mrs. Coumba Touré. The focus was on the ability of strong partnerships and technology to save the lives of pregnant women and newborns - and Zero Mothers Die embodies both of these key elements.
The Mum's Phone, a unique $30 mobile phone designed for pregnant women, was launched as a key element of Zero Mothers Die to highlight the need for technology to empower pregnant women themselves to access information and seek healthcare when needed. Mum's Phone enables them to do just that. To support the delivery of Mum's Phones to pregnant women, a crowdfunding campaign for Zero Mothers Die was launched during the panel, seeking contributions from anyone to sponsor Mum's Phones for pregnant women in the field.
During the panel, Her Excellency Dr. Christine Kaseba-Sata, First Lady of Zambia, announced her full support for the project through the launch of Zero Mothers Die in Zambia. She herself is an Obstetrician and a mother who has experienced a difficult birth. Dr. Kaseba-Sata not only spoke as the First Lady, but also as the recently appointed Special Envoy for eHealth for the ITU, who believes strongly that technology can help to achieve zero maternal deaths.
Dr. Kaseba-Sata made a strong call for action on behalf of Zero Mothers Die to organizations and philanthropists around the world:
"I call on all organizations and philanthropists: invest in this campaign. One phone will make a difference in the lives of women in rural areas. Investing in women benefits everyone in the country. We all have the responsibility to save the 800 women that die everyday and ensure that zero mothers are dying. No woman, no baby, should die because the right information did not get to them in time. No one should die when we have ICTs, when we have the technology available. So make the decision to invest in the Zero Mothers Die campaign."
"I see this campaign as hope, especially for rural women, who in most cases have no contact with the health system. I believe through mobile health, women will have much needed information necessary to prompt health seeking actions."
"Even just one death is one too many. Zero maternal deaths are very possible"
- H.E. Dr. Christine Kaseba-Sata, First Lady of Zambia
Dr. Hamadoun Touré, Secretary General of the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU), also lent his support to the Zero Mothers Die campaign in a subsequent panel. He expressed the importance of an initiative like Zero Mothers Die in using communication technologies and connectivity to improve health outcomes, reduce the mobile phone gender gap and address the priority area of maternal mortality.
"Zero Mothers Die is an excellent example of the real power of partnership, and has been created and developed to save the lives of pregnant women, new mothers and their babies through mobile technologies.
The Women Leaders Forum also hosted the launch of the Global Sustainable Development Foundation (GSDF), which was formed under the leadership of the 68th President of the UN General Assembly, the Honourable, Dr. John Ashe. The mission of GSDF is to establish a globally recognised source of funds and data to accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a focus on six areas: Women & Children, Scientific Innovation, Finance & Resources, Culture, Media & Branding, and Partnerships.
Several speakers and panelists throughout the Women Leaders Forum voiced their support for the Zero Mothers Die global campaign - and we are very grateful to them. We would like to thank Mr. Amir Dossal and his tireless team at the Global Partnerships Forum, as well as Advanced Development for Africa, for co-hosting such an extraordinary event at the home of the United Nations.
UPDATE: Following our successful launch at the Women Leaders Forum, Newsweek published an article on the Mum's Phone:
About the Women Leaders Forum
Since 2010, ADA has been hosting annual Women Leaders Forums as official side events of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, in collaboration with key partners such as UNAIDS, PMNCH, ITU, Global Partnerships Forum & WITNET. Each year, the Women Leaders Forum brings together women leaders, First Ladies, and leaders from the development, technology, government and private sectors.
With a focus on how to connect women’s health and girl’s education to achieve scalable and sustainable development, this year’s Women Leaders Forum provided a platform for inspiring discussions on new avenues for youth participation, social impact investing and entrepreneurship and included the launch of a new campaign of ‘Zero Mothers Die’, which is a multi-partner initiative to eliminate maternal and child mortality.
For the official press release for the 2014 Forum, click here.
For a summary of the discussions at the Forum, click here.
Photo credits: Perry Bindelglass/GDSF