Equality and empowerment for all women

International Women’s Day (IWD) - a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future - is celebrated on 8 March 2010. Each year, on this date, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements.   

The first IWD was held in 1911 and next year is its Centenary.

What is FIGO’s stance?

The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics  (FIGO) - the only global organisation bringing together 124 gynecological and obstetrical societies - has a vision that women of the world achieve the highest possible standards of physical, mental, reproductive and sexual health and well-being throughout their lives. FIGO recognises that good health plays a critically important part in enabling women to excel throughout their lives in all areas, and it strives to secure and promote the very best services in maternal, newborn and reproductive health, while improving the practice of gynecology and obstetrics. 

FIGO reaffirms its commitment to the recognition of International Women’s Day as a vitally important global day, especially in the light of ongoing progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The focus of MDG 3 - promoting gender equality and empowering women - is strongly supported by FIGO, while MDGs 4 and 5 - reducing child mortality and improving maternal health - address concerns of immense importance within the areas of child and maternal health. 

The MDGs - eight goals to be achieved by 2015 that respond to the world’s main development challenges - aim to encourage improvements in the social and economic conditions of the world's poorest countries.  

Relevant statistics:

  • More than half a million women die in pregnancy and childbirth every year - of these deaths, 99 per cent are in developing countries  (Source: UNFPA)

  • The lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy and childbirth in Africa is 1 in 22, while it is 1 in 120 in Asia and 1 in 7,300 in developed countries (Source: UNFPA)

  • At least 200 million women want to use safe and effective family planning methods, but are unable to do so because they lack access to information and services or the support of their husbands and communities (Source: UNFPA)

  • An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).  In Africa an estimated 92 million girls from 10 years of age and above have undergone FGM (Source: World Health Organisation)

  • Only 28 in 100 women giving birth are attended by trained health personnel in the least developed countries (Source: ActionAid)

  • Of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty around the world, 70 per cent are women (Source: World Revolution)

  • Two-thirds of children denied primary education are girls, and 75 per cent of the world’s 876 million illiterate adults are women (Source: AskWoman)

FIGO’s work

FIGO works to empower women in the areas of physical, mental, reproductive and sexual health and well-being throughout their lives.

The work encompasses many crucial areas. To give two major examples, a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation enables it to help improve the lives and health of women and newborns in 15 low- and middle-resource countries with high maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity. Its fistula initiative - the development of a groundbreaking training manual that assists physicians in their treatment of women sufferers - is currently undergoing pilot testing in several countries.

In addition, the ongoing robust work of specialist Committees - Ethical Aspects of Human Reproduction and Women's Health; Safe Motherhood and Newborn Health; Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights; Fistula; Gynecologic Oncology; Education, Training & Capacity Building; and Reproductive Medicine -  reflects FIGO’s determination to remain one step ahead of the challenges that are ever present. 

Commitment to many areas of women’s health was also demonstrated on the agenda of FIGO’s recent World Congress in Cape Town - the largest triennial global gathering of obstetricians and gynecologists. It debated numerous topics such as the prevention of unsafe abortion, adolescent pregnancy and the problem of violence against women, which included the issue of female genital mutilation and the timely launch of FIGO’s FGM film - ‘The Cutting Tradition’, in conjunction with SafeHands for Mothers, and narrated by Meryl Streep - aimed at educating physicians about this controversial practice. 

The ultimate goal: Equality and empowerment for all women, everywhere 

On International Women’s Day, FIGO works alongside other global organisations to promote the fact that all women, everywhere, count, and that they can empower themselves throughout their life cycles through access to good quality services in maternal, newborn and reproductive health.  This, in turn, enables women to live productive and fulfilling lives.  

  • The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) is a professional organisation that brings together obstetrical and gynecological associations from all over the world. FIGO has a vision that women of the world achieve the highest possible standards of physical, mental, reproductive and sexual health and wellbeing throughout their lives.

  • FIGO is dedicated to the improvement of women’s health and rights and to the reduction of disparities in healthcare available to women and newborns, as well as to advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynecology.

  • The organisation pursues its mission through advocacy, programmatic activities, capacity strengthening of member associations and education and training.

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