Looking ahead to ICPD25: Partnerships for empowering women & girls

Ian MatthewsArticle, News

The Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 will take place from November 12-14. This summit, recognizing the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, will be co-convened by the governments of Kenya and Denmark as well as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This year is also the 50th anniversary of UNFPA.

The aim of the conference is to mobilize the political will and financial commitments needed to fully implement the ICPD Programme of Action, adopted at the inaugural ICPD summit in 1994. These commitments will be centered on the topics of reproductive health and rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality. 

More specifically, the commitments will focus on achieving zero unmet need for family planning information and services, zero preventable maternal deaths, and zero sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls. The Summit will cover the following five main themes:

  • Universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights as a part of universal health coverage
  • The financing required to complete the ICPD Programme of Action, and to sustain the gains made
  • Drawing on demographic diversity to drive economic growth and achieve sustainable development
  • Ending gender-based violence and harmful practices
  • Upholding the right to sexual and reproductive health care even in humanitarian and fragile contexts

Key actors from different sectors will attend the summit, including heads of states, civil society organizations, business and community leaders, young people, and international development and finance institutions. The Summit’s signature sessions in particular will focus on universal health coverage, sexual and reproductive health and rights, the demographic dividend, partnerships, child and maternal health, the role of the private sector in sustainable international development, and financing for development.

GBCHealth President Nancy Wildfeir-Field will be speaking on one of the summit’s panels entitled “South-South and Triangular Partnerships to Accelerate the ICPD Promise,” taking place on 12 November from 13:00 – 14:30 EAT. Nancy will give insight on how new opportunities and public-private partnerships can be leveraged to accelerate the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action. South-South and Triangular Cooperation is increasingly important as a means of mobilizing knowledge and resources for global development; unpacking its potential is therefore a priority for GBCHealth and its partners.


GBCHealth has a partnership with UNFPA centered on the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) project, the scope of which aligns well with the Summit goals and sessions. The initiative will be featured in a session at the Summit, titled “Demographic Dividend in the Sahel,” which will take place on 13 November from 11:00 – 12:30 EAT.

SWEDD aims to empower women and adolescent girls, and reduce gender inequality by improving access to quality maternal and child health services as well as family planning. GBCHealth has partnered with the UNFPA to encourage smart health system strengthening investments in reproductive health, women’s empowerment, basic literacy and financial education as well as entrepreneurship. The sum of these interventions will support women and adolescent girls to positively impact the Sahel region’s demographic dividend, a term which refers to the significant social and economic benefits that can be gained from investing in and harnessing the potential of the growing number of youth and working age population.

The program has already seen sustained progress. In a few short years since its launch in November 2015, the SWEDD project has taken numerous actions towards its objectives, including:

  • Sensitizing nearly 630 million people on reproductive, maternal and child health issues
  • Supporting more than 106,000 girls in school enrollment and retention
  • Training nearly 100,000 girls and young women in income-generating activities
  • Training more than 10,000 midwives on new health technologies
  • Strengthening health training through the establishment of three regional centers of excellence
  • Establishing regional networks through religious leaders and traditional leaders, parliamentarians, young people and journalists
  • Establishing six National Observatories of the Demographic Dividend

These and many other successful initiatives of the SWEDD project have contributed to many success stories and significant progress in recent years:

  • There has been an increase in girls’ high school completion rate from 35.1% to 40.3%
  • The average income for women has improved by 3.4%
  • There has been a decrease in the number of child marriages
  • Over 4.3 million additional women have begun to use contraception
  • The number of midwives has grown by 15%
  • Nearly 500 national experts have been trained to oversee the National Observatories
  • Over 3,400 safe spaces have been established to help empower girls

Despite this progress, millions of girls in this region still do not have the opportunity to finish school, learn about sexual and reproductive health, and access economic opportunity. The private sector’s involvement is needed to improve education, economic empowerment and health for girls and women.

Given its progress over last three years, the SWEDD project is seen as a model innovative partnership and an effective regional integration tool that should be strengthened and expanded in Africa. The SWEDD project was initially in six Sahel countries – Mali, Mauritania, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire – and has since been extended until 2023 with additional countries to include Benin, Senegal, Guinea and Cameroon.

GBCHealth is looking forward to attending the ICPD25 Summit, engaging with other stakeholders, and learning about new ways to strengthen the partnerships between the public and private sectors in order to ensure that all girls and women are empowered in all aspects of their lives. GBCHealth is looking to engage with champions who are interested in supporting this work. If you or a colleague will be in attendance and would like to meet with GBCHealth representatives at the Summit, please reach out to mromney@gbchealth.org.

Goal 17

In recent years, UNFPA has increased its work developing partnerships for maternal and child health, such as the previously-discussed partnership with GBCHealth. Existing partnerships and development of novel partnerships is a focus of the Summit, as governments, international financial institutions, private sector partners and more determine how best to support the ICPD Programme of Action.

Recently during the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, the UNFPA regional office for West and Central Africa (UNFPA WCARO) published a book entitled “Goal 17 – Partnership: UNFPA’s approach for transforming Africa and the world” which focused on the agency’s partnering activities relating to SDG 17, “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.”

Mabingue Ngom, UNFPA Regional Director for West and Central Africa and supervisor of the publication, stated that “the publication is the fruit of a collective reflection that mobilized more than 50 collaborators in some 20 countries,” and that “the concept of partnership is presented in the first chapter, highlighting UNFPA’s flagship projects, followed by a presentation on the key success factors that enable the organization, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary, to take stock of the progress made and the progress still to be made”.

The book is available via UNFPA WCARO and L’Harmattan Senegal.

Ian MatthewsLooking ahead to ICPD25: Partnerships for empowering women & girls