Caren Grown, Geeta Rao Gupta, Rohini Pande
Over the past few decades, great strides have been made in improvement of women’s health status; more than a decade has been added to life expectancy, and fertility rates in both developed and developing countries have declined substantially,1 helping to reduce burdens associated with childbirth and childrearing. Despite this progress, more than half a million women—99% of whom live in the developing world—continue to die every year in pregnancy and childbirth due to entirely preventable reasons. Additionally, amid the HIV/AIDS pandemic, women today face new and worsening health risks: 50% of all adults living with HIV/AIDS worldwide are women, and those age 15–24 years are disproportionately affected.
These realities are the result of persistent disadvantages experienced by women. Goal 3 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—to achieve gender equality and empower women—seeks to rectify those disadvantages through policies and programmes that build women’s capabilities, improve their access to
economic and political opportunity, and guarantee their safety. Such efforts must complement direct health interventions to assure long-term sustainable improvements in women’s health.