Lakshmi Puri addresses the World Health Assembly

Statement by UN Women Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Lakshmi Puri at the 68th World Health Assembly, held on 21 May 2015, in Geneva, Switzerland.


[Check against delivery]

Mr. President,

Excellencies the Ministers of Health,

And the wider community of Women and health,

I address you in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on women in this session of the World health Assembly. I thank the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General, and the Secretariat for their commitment to prioritizing women's health and women's agency in health for all and to partnering with UN Women to advance this agenda in all its dimensions. We welcome the comprehensive report of the WHO charting the progress in implementation of Beijing commitments and the significant gaps and challenges and concluding that "Societies are still failing women in relation to health particularly in poor countries and among the poorest women in all countries.”

I take the floor on behalf of UN Women to give the following messages drawn from Beijing which remain valid ever more today. 

  1. Women and health is a critical area of concern for gender equality and women's empowerment and for economic, social and sustainable development. 
  1. The international community set normative gold standards , strategic objectives and  related actions and commitments  on  women's health and rights and role in the health sector and beyond drawing linkages between women's health and poverty, employment, environment, education power and decision making and, nutrition  among others.
  1. Recently adopted  ministerial political Declaration  at the Commission on Status of Women (CSW) committed to its full, effective and accelerated implementation by member states and other stakeholders,  including the private sector, civil society and academia  and these must continue to be  their guideposts to achieving gender equality and women (GEWE)’s empowerment by 2030 . 
  1. A coordinated, all of government, all of society, cross-sectoral strategy and engagement as much as joining up of gender and health constituencies and institutions including the UN , private sector and civil society is necessary .
  1. A holistic, integrated and human rights-based approach both in driving the demand side where women and girls must be enabled to claim their right to attain the highest standards of health, the creation of a formal entitlement and on the supply side the responsibility of the State as duty bearer to provide quality, gender-responsive health and related services.
  1. Ensure equal access and equal treatment  to all women and men in health care 
  1. Significantly increase women's access throughout the life cycle to appropriate, affordable and quality health care, information and related services.  
  1. Strengthen preventive programmes that promote women's health.
  1. Recognize and respond to women’s specific health needs.
  1. Remove multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and structural barriers  that deepen health disadvantages, compound inequalities, increase health risks, ill health, reduced well-being and jeopardize health outcomes overall. 
  1. Since violence against women is a global pandemic which compromises women’s physical and mental health, commit to the implementation of comprehensive multi-sectoral strategies with strong health sector prevention and response components.  
  1. Respect the right of all women to control all aspects of their health and bodily integrity in particular their own fertility as this is basic to their empowerment.
  1. Support the sexual and reproductive health of women and uphold their sexual and reproductive rights and implement gender-sensitive initiatives that promote and protect these, including through comprehensive sexuality education and multi-sectoral sexual and reproductive health services.
  1. Promote research and disseminate information on women's health.
  1. Monitor follow up for women's health, including through sex-disaggregated data and gender-specific indicators.
  1. Significantly increase resources and rectify gender inequalities in the allocation of resources.
  1. Recognize, support and remunerate the multiple and major contributions women make as providers of health care for their family, community, society and in formal and informal health sectors. 
  1. Promote equal voice, participation and leadership of women in health sector and its management as critical to both GEWE but also to achieving health for all.
  1. As recent health epidemics have shown (Ebola) women are differentially and disproportionately affected, their rights and gendered roles put under stress but they are in the frontlines of care, response, recovery and building back better and must be targeted for support and empowerment.
  1. Gender equality and women's empowerment throughout and in the health sector is mission possible with gender-sensitive transversal policies but also special measures and simple interventions, given political will and prioritized investment as many success stories testify.
  1. Beijing Declaration and Platform is a historic inspiration but equally the pathway to the future that we want for women and girls and for health and there is no better investment in the present and future generations than in women's health.
  1. The Beijing Platform for Action remains a normative motherboard which must guide us as we move towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It should lead to the mutually reinforcing and symbiotic adoption, implementation and achievement of the SDGs on “Ensuring Healthy Lives and Well being for all, of all ages” and the SDG on “Achieving Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment for all women and girls”, including their counter parting targets, especially sexual reproductive health and reproductive rights.
  1. Gender equality must remain a top priority in order to close the health equity gap worldwide and contribute to development across all three dimensions – economic, social, and environmental.

Thank you.