Over 150 women and girls from 14 countries have told their stories through 18 embroidered quilts, which are on display at the Nairobi, Kenya Summit on International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25).
The exhibition is curated by The Advocacy Project (AP), a non-profit organization based in Washington DC that helps marginalized communities tell their story and take action for social justice. AP offers embroidery to partner organizations as a means of employment and self-expression, as well as an authentic description of the problems facing women and girls. “Many of the artists have been spurned and ignored,” says Iain Guest, Founder of the Advocacy Project. “Quilting gives them a unique opportunity to be heard at a major international conference like ICPD25.”
The exhibition features eight quilts from five African countries namely, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Mali and the DRC. Other quilts are from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Kosovo, France and Belize. Many of the themes are deeply sobering. The Ahadi quilt from DRC and the Alafia quilt from Mali carry explicit images of sexual and gender-based violence resulting from conflict. A cautionary sign boldly written, “some of the images in this exhibition are graphic and could be disturbing, ” is even made visible for all visitors.
Among the graphic ones is one of a young girl who is lying on her back, her legs open to expose her genital area. A blood stained knife is nearby indicating female genital mutilation, one of the pandemics that the ICPD25 agenda is aimed at ending by 2030.
Other quilts are optimistic, however. The Maasai Girls Quilt expresses the dreams of students at Kakenya’s Centre of Excellence, a pioneering girls’ boarding school in western Kenya whose founder is Dr Kakenya Ntaiya.
The Butonde quilt from Uganda is made from 10 000 recycled straws and urges protection of the environment. Three new and highly topical quilts are being exhibited for the first time at ICPD25. Twenty three Kenyan women from the communities of Kibera and Kangemi have told their stories for an imposing quilt, A Women’s World, which they will present to the Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr Natalia Kanem at the closing ceremony this Friday.
Children Peace Initiative Kenya, the Kenyan advocacy group is showing the Kenya Cow quilt, which describes the importance of cattle to pastoralists in northwest Kenya. Constance Mugari founder of the Women Advocacy Project in Harare is presenting the Zimbabwe Child Marriage quilt, which poignantly describes the pressure on girls to marry before the legal age of 18. The squares were produced by 11 girls from Harare.
Private sector organisations including the Ford Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, Philips, and World Vision flexed their financial muscle at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 this week announcing that they will mobilise $8 billion in combined new pledges.
The pledges are to achieve zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, zero gender-based violence and harmful practices by 2030.
A wide range of partners – from health care and technology companies to private foundations, international NGOs and sports leaders – have stepped up to advance women's, children’s and adolescents' health and well-being, including sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The private sector has not only made financial commitments, but is also bringing innovative solutions and creativity among other resources.
"The private sector is indispensable to meeting the ‘three zeros’ of the Nairobi Summit," said Head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)'s Strategic Partnerships Branch, Mariarosa Cutillo.
The largest single contribution is from World Vision, which promised to mobilise $7 billion over the next decade in support of programmes that support maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition.
This is part of World Vision's commitment to the UN Secretary-General's Every Woman Every Child initiative campaign.
Plan International will allocate $500 million to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls and adolescents by 2025.
Other major pledges include the Ford Foundation's commitment to spend $78.4 million over the next three years to address gender-based violence and support women’s empowerment, and Laerdal's $65 million pledge to reduce maternal and newborn mortality by 2030 (also as part of Every Woman Every Child).
The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation committed $75 million to advance self-care in sexual and reproductive health.
Additional private sector partners that announced technical commitments in Nairobi are Maternity Foundation, Bayer, MSD for Mothers, BD and the Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Brazil.
According to a new research launched on Tuesday at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, it will take $264 billion in the next decade to end preventable maternal deaths, eliminate gender-based violence and harmful practices and to meet the family planning needs of women in high priority countries.
Currently, only $42 billion in development assistance is expected to be spent on advancing these goals. That means some $222 billion in investments is required over the next decade, whether in the form of foreign investment, domestic allocation or private spending.
These are the main findings of a joint study by researchers from UNFPA and the John Hopkins University, in collaboration with Victoria University, the University of Washington and Avenir Health.
Achieving these results is a precondition to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of global goals agreed by the world’s governments, by 2030.
It will also generate cost savings over generations, as healthier women and girls are empowered to contribute their productivity and creativity to society.
“We now know how much and where we need to invest. These figures are a drop in the ocean compared to the dividend expected and the funds available,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem.
“These are smart, affordable investments that will transform the lives of women and girls, their societies, and our world. The cost of inaction is much higher.”
The new research shows the cost of each objective to be within reach. Ending preventable pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths in the 120 countries that account for over 95 per cent of maternal mortality will cost $115.5 billion in key maternal health interventions.
This includes paying for medical staff, drugs and obstetric supplies, and is roughly equivalent to 46 of the world’s most expensive military planes.
Ending unmet need for family planning in 120 priority countries – which comprise the majority of low- and middle-income countries – will cost $68.5 billion.
The money would go towards ensuring a steady, reliable supply of quality contraceptives and other efforts to strengthen national health systems.
Ending gender-based violence will require investing $42 billion in 132 priority countries. That money would go to programmes that provide psychosocial assistance, medical treatment and rape kits to survivors, and promote the right of all women and girls to live free of violence and abuse, among other interventions.
Ending female genital mutilation will require $2.4 billion for interventions related to education and changing social norms in 31 priority countries. The research shows that just $95 can prevent a girl from having her genitalia cut for non-medical reasons.
The price tag for putting an end to child marriage is $35 billion. This would be enough to ward off 90 per cent of child marriages from taking place. In other words, it only takes $600 to spare a girl from becoming a child bride.
But meeting these goals will require broad-based action.
“Without everyone pushing the oars together, the boat is not going to move far and if we are not in sync, we will simply turn in circles,” said Victoria Chou, a researcher with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“Closing the substantial gap with investment of urgently needed resources will ultimately improve health among women and their families and that vision is what should motivate us looking forward after the Nairobi Summit.
“We have a collective responsibility and opportunity to deliver on our promises – now,” said Dr Kanem.
“We cannot wait another 25 years. It’s time to fill these resource gaps and make this a decade of delivery. It’s time to get the job done. With strong financing momentum we can achieve these transformative results, complete the ICPD Programme of Action and meet the Sustainable Development Goals on time by 2030."