March 08, 2012

A technological renaissance for girls and women

Director, Communications and Advocacy
Women Deliver

Janna Oberdorf, Director of Communications and Outreach for Women Deliver, writes about the recent “Women Deliver 50” initiative to mark International Women’s Day.

Earlier this week, Women Deliver released its “Women Deliver 50,” a list of 50 inspiring ideas and solutions delivering for girls and women around the globe. Launched in celebration of International Women’s Day, this list showcases game-changing innovations and technologies that are making advances for girls and women worldwide. Several of the innovations include health technologies that harness research and development (R&D) to develop and deliver woman-centered prevention and treatment options.

Selected from hundreds of nominations from 103 countries, some of the “Women Deliver 50” winners impact the lives of girls and women on a global scale by improving access to health technologies. For example, the GAVI Alliance is working to reduce the cost of HPV vaccines and to support their broad introduction in many of the world’s poorest countries. More than 85 percent of the 275,000 women who die every year from cervical cancer live in developing countries. Through its efforts, GAVI is aiming for millions of girls worldwide to receive the HPV vaccine, providing them with a better chance at a healthy and productive life.

The “Women Deliver 50" list showcases game-changing innovations and technologies that are making advances for girls and women worldwide. Photo credit: PATH

There are also medical technologies that, through R&D, are evolving to better meet the needs of girls and women. Female condoms have been around for 20 years, but even when available, women often decide not to use them because of cost and design concerns. With this in mind, PATH solicited input from couples around the world, and designed a more affordable, easy-to-use and comfortable female condom. With this new product, PATH is helping women to better protect themselves from HIV infection and unintended pregnancies.

An innovative organization working to accelerate R&D for female-initiated solutions for HIV prevention is the International Partnership for Microbicides, a “Women Deliver 50” finalist. Vaginal rings, a popular method for delivering contraceptives, are long-acting, discreet, and easy to use. IPM has adapted this technology to the fight against HIV, and is preparing to launch a licensure program in partnership with the Microbicide Trials Network to determine whether a vaginal ring containing antiretroviral drugs can safely and effectively provide women with monthly protection against HIV. Should it be successful, the ring would empower women with the tools they need to protect their health.

The “Women Deliver 50” winners demonstrate that we can develop revolutionary tools that impact the health and livelihoods of girls and women worldwide. We need to continue to create, test, and scale-up new and existing technologies. We still don’t have all the vaccines, drugs, devices and other health technologies that girls and women need, and it is critical for us to bridge this gap. As we’ve seen time and time again, when we invest in health innovations for girls and women, we see a positive ripple effect across society.

If you weren’t one of the 6,000 people who voted for these 50 solutions, you can still weigh in with your thoughts. Visit the Women Deliver website to learn more about these exciting interventions, as well as other ideas and solutions making a difference around the world. And then visit Women Deliver on Facebook and Twitter to tell us what you think.

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