Every woman, every time, everywhere: FIGO is the global voice for women’s health

Jeanne editorial quote

I am Jeanne Conry, and I assumed the Presidency of FIGO at the virtual 2021 World Congress.  

I am excited to introduce to you FIGO’s new Strategic Plan 2021–2030. FIGO has an important opportunity to improve the delivery of women's health care around the globe, but our success relies on each and every one of you to achieve that goal. Over the course of the last year, we asked leaders from around the world to identify our most important priorities. We asked leaders what we were doing right, and what needed to change. But most importantly, we asked how we can create an environment for change.  

To identify the answers, FIGO reviewed surveys and recommendations, but the most important step was involving FIGO leaders from our Board of Trustees, Committees and Council. We then brought the Strategic Plan to our entire Council for their input and turned it over to our Communications and Engagement team to create the document you can see on the FIGO website.  


Our vision for the future of women’s health 

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. The Council was unanimous that we introduce the Strategic Plan with the words of Professor Mahmoud Fathalla, FIGO President from 1994 through 1997: “Women are not dying because of untreatable diseases. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving. We have not yet valued women's lives and health highly enough”. These words are as true today as when he spoke them 25 years ago.  

FIGO, as the largest alliance of national societies of obstetrics and gynaecology dedicated to the health and wellbeing of women, girls and newborns, brings together our member societies and regional federations. With our societies across five regions, our strength lies in our geographic reach and penetration, enabling us to mobilise a global network to collaborate and promote women's health across their lifespan. FIGO is able to provide a bridge between member societies, facilitating a networking space where member societies benefit and develop common policies. FIGO relies on the strong support from London headquarter staff and the expertise of our FIGO Projects leadership. 

FIGO’s work is built on a foundation with four pillars: education, advocacy, research implementation and capacity building. Through education, we share information relying on our knowledge, expertise and technology. Through advocacy, we support our member societies and regional federations as they work with government and non-governmental alliances to raise awareness of topics essential to women's health. Through research implementation and interpretation, we are able to help our members recognise the strength of the research that leads to our decisions. It is incumbent upon us to improve the capacity of our member societies and support universal health coverage and access to care. FIGO knows that an effective strategic plan will provide a foundation for years to come, but will evolve and respond to needs. 

Our key objectives 

FIGO proposes four long-term goals. First, we will improve the health and wellbeing of women and girls across their life course worldwide. Second, we will enhance the status of all women, girls, and families, enabling them to realise their full potential of education, sexual and reproductive health and rights, professional and personal wellbeing. Third, we will advance the practice of obstetrics and gynaecology through our pillars of education, advocacy, research implementation and capacity building. Finally, we will strengthen the role of FIGO in global women's health. 

Our strategic planning team and Council consider it crucial to call out major commitments. We have identified ten major commitments for our work that will require a balance between policy and advocacy on the one hand, and membership and collaboration on the other. These 10 commitments are highlighted in the FIGO Strategic Plan 2021–2030.  

FIGO Commitments graphic

Implementing change 

But what is a strategic plan if we do not find it bringing change? And how do we effectively implement ours? Here, the critical step is managing to ensure care across the lifespan for all women by relying on commitment, collaboration and communication between Trustees, Council, divisions, committees, project teams and FIGO HQ staff. Equally important are OBGYN societies and partnerships with organisations like the World Health Organization (WHO), the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the International Pediatric Association (IPA), and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM).  

It will be the critical role of our divisions and committees to bring the strategic plan to life, and to effect a smooth biennial transition. FIGO has 17 committees working to achieve our goals, and three divisions to coordinate specific activities, knowledge and guidance within maternal and newborn health, benign surgery, and sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing.  

FIGO must understand the needs of OBGYN societies, and at the same time ensure that our committee work fits within the goals and commitments of the Strategic Plan. Our committees will first determine which goals fall within their purview, and then determine which commitments and topics are specific to their field, identifying target regions and member societies that may benefit the most. Understanding these first two steps requires aligning with our pillars of education, research implementation, advocacy and capacity building.  

Our indicators of success in the long term will be a change in women's health outcomes. Short-term indicators will be as practical as good practice recommendations published in IJGO, statements to provide guidance, educational events like webinars and videos, and anything that expands the knowledge base and assists OBGYN societies. 

The strength of FIGO originates from the activities and support of our many member societies, spanning low- to well-resourced countries, and their collaboration in the critical work of FIGO’s divisions and committees. FIGO recognises that not all countries have member societies able to contribute to our shared goals, and that often those countries are the ones that suffer the greatest health disparities and have the greatest barriers to the health and wellbeing of women and girls.  

FIGO, as the global voice for women's health, will bring together and amplify the work of OBGYNs and our partners around the world, facilitate resource- and knowledge-sharing among societies of all resource levels, and advocate for the health and wellbeing of all women and girls globally. FIGO invites you to further these goals in your daily work, through your leadership and strong voice. 

Piece originally published as an Editorial for the February 2022 Issue of the International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (IJGO)