Jill Sheffield, President, Women Deliver

As part of BSR’s celebration of International Women’s Day during the month of March, we asked BSR partners to contribute a guest blog on their experience with women’s empowerment through their lives and work.

My journey as a women’s health advocate began when I worked in the family planning/reproductive health outpatient clinic of Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. I was 27 at the time, and I met a young Kenyan mother, my exact age, who had already been pregnant 11 times but had only six living children. She came to the clinic for contraceptives but was legally barred from obtaining them without her husband’s permission.

I was struck that although we were the same age, I had so many choices that she did not. This inequity is what motivated me to pursue a career path that focuses on helping women gain access to the services they need to plan their fertility and their lives.

Today, I am inspired by the passion I see in advocates for women and girls, such as our Women Deliver 2013 100 Young Leaders. This amazing group of people—all under the age of 30, representing 68 countries—are working to improve the health and well-being of girls and women globally. One of the Young Leaders, Nargis Shirazi, cofounded the Woman to Woman Foundation, which provides reusable sanitary pads to school girls in Uganda to help them stay in school.

These kinds of social enterprises demonstrate how important it is to engage all sectors and actors to advance women’s health. I have spoken previously about the role of the private sector in global health care delivery, and I truly believe that regardless of whether a company focuses on health care, technology, telecommunications, manufacturing, entertainment, or finance, business has an opportunity to support the health of girls and women.

That is why Women Deliver facilitates the C-Exchange, a private-sector forum that aims to inform, engage, and support members in their efforts to improve the health and well-being of girls and women. In 2012 to 2013, the C-Exchange is focusing on an initiative designed to improve maternal and reproductive health by working with youth advocates from developing countries. The C-Exchange members recognize that young people are important partners in efforts to ensure that women’s and girls’ health needs are met. When young people are equipped with the right tools and information, they are powerful agents of change.

At Women Deliver, we are committed to bringing together change-makers who know that when you invest in women, it pays.

Women Deliver is a global advocacy organization bringing together voices from around the world to call for action to improve the health and well-being of girls and women.