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Commentary & Opinion
Gender Equality Essential for Reaching Health-Related Millenium Development Goals

May 23, 2013

"In over 15 years of working in the field of global health, I have time and time again witnessed first-hand what research tells us: gender inequity and women's low social status have a significant impact on women's and children's health, as well as the overall demand for maternal, newborn and child health services," Patricia Mechael, executive director of the mHealth Alliance, writes in a Forbes opinion piece, published as part of a series on mobile health by the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, Johnson & Johnson, the mHealth Alliance, "Impatient Optimists," and Forbes.com. "Many health problems in low-income countries, such as maternal mortality and unintended pregnancies, are directly linked to gender inequity ... but increasingly we see mobile technologies being leveraged to improve access to vital family planning information and commodities," she continues.

"Although more than one billion women have access to a mobile phone in developing countries, a woman living there is still 21 percent less likely to own a cell phone than a man," Mechael writes, adding, "When I read these statistics, I can't help but wonder how much closer we would be to achieving Millennium Development Goal 3 (MDG 3) -- to promote gender equality and empower women -- if we focused on consistently putting the power of mobile technology into their hands." She continues, "If we are to effectively leverage mobile technologies to achieve MDGs 4, 5, and 6" -- which aim to lower child mortality, reduce maternal mortality, and combat HIV, malaria and other diseases -- "we must do a better job of addressing MDG 3." Machael concludes, "This means engaging women and their husbands more consistently in the design and implementation of the very solutions that are meant to help them and their families" (5/22).

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