Awards for the Health and Dignity of Women

Business and community leaders, dignitaries and philanthropists joined forces to celebrate advancements in the health and rights of women globally on Thursday, October 7 at the Americans for UNFPA Awards for the Health and Dignity of Women.

Award winners included super-model and film maker Christy Turlington Burns, renowned philanthropist Teresa Heinz and corporate media trailblazer Patricia Fili-Krushel from Time Warner. The ceremony took place at Espace, in New York City.

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Women’s health issues have seen increased favor with the American public and many Americans consider these issues to be urgent global priorities.

A recent survey conducted in September by Harris Interactive and Americans for UNFPA indicates that 91 percent of the American public believe that every woman on the planet deserves access to quality maternal and reproductive health care.

Further, 77 percent of American women believe that “women empowering women” is a philosophy they live by.

The Awards for the Health and Dignity of Women are built on the same values of female empowerment which the recipients bring to life.

Christy Turlington Burns was recognized by Americans for UNFPA for her advocacy work and personal quest to eradicate maternal death globally.

She said, “When you save a mother, you save a nation.”

She is the founder of Every Mother Counts, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving maternal health.

Honorees also included Dr. Marta Julia Ruiz, founder of the Population Council’s Abriendo Oportunidades program which educates indigenous girls in Guatemala.

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, estimates there are currently 600 million adolescent girls in low-and middle income countries. According to the survey, 60 percent of Americans believe that investing in adolescent girls will help end poverty around the world.

Also being honored was Feeza Shraim, a midwife from the Palestinian Territories, who set up an emergency clinic in her home to care for pregnant women in Gaza during times of siege.

Newly released U.N. estimates show close to 1,000 women die daily in childbirth around the world. According to UNFPA, a skilled midwife’s presence can avert up to 90 percent of all maternal deaths.

The U.N. report showed the number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth has decreased by 34 percent, from an estimated 546,000 in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008.

The reduction was welcomed, as the U.N. Secretary-General secured $40 billion in funding pledges to support women’s and children’s health across the world, emphasizing there was still much work to be done.

The U.S. Administration also launched a six-year, $63-billion global health care initiative with a focus on women and girls.

“The Americans for UNFPA Award is a true honor,” said the evening’s Lifetime Achievement award recipient Teresa Heinz, chairperson of the Heinz Endowments and Heinz Family Philanthropies.

Ms. Heinz championed women’s education around savings and retirement security. Her related advocacy work exposed imbalances in the nation’s social and economic system which put elderly women at risk.

“With close to 200,000 more women escaping death in childbirth each year, we have cause to feel optimistic about our ability to influence policy for the world’s women. Women’s health is en route to gaining its rightful place as a basic human right,” said Anika Rahman, president, Americans for UNFPA.

This women’s global health survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Americans for UNFPA between September 14 – September 16, 2010, among 2,052 adults ages 18+.

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Rakesh Raman