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Who’s got the power? Transforming health systems for women and children in Africa!

The African Union has declared 2015 the year of “Women’s empowerment”, and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063. So Will 2015 be a year oftransformation for African women? 2015 marks the end of the Millennium Development Goals and the launch of the post-2015 development agenda. The report of the World Health Organization’s expert Commission argues that women’s health is the foundation for social and economic development in the African Region.

While life expectancy is higher for women than men in most countries, a number of health and social factors combine to create a lower quality of life for women. Unequal access to information, care and basic health practices further increases the health risks for women.

Discrimination on the basis of their sex leads to many health hazards for women, including physical and sexual violence, sexually-transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, malaria and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Tobacco use is a growing threat among young women, and mortality rates during pregnancy and childbirth remain high in many countries.

Health systems are key to the sustainable and equitable delivery of transformative interventions.

The African Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology (AFOG) in partnership with the Kenya Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society (KOGS) had its first congress in Nairobi Kenya in February 16th- 20th 2015, during the 39th KOGS Annual Scientific Conference http://conference2015.kogs.or.ke/ whose theme was “Beyond Millennium Development Goals 2015, lessons learnt, challenges and way forward.”

Among invited guests were The First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta, who has emerged as a true champion and inspiration in women’s health through the Beyond Zero Campaign to raise awareness about the link between good health and a strong nation, specifically, demonstrating the importance of maternal, newborn and children's health. As part of the campaign, she ran both a half and full marathon to galvanize support and mobilize resources. And her clarion call, "no woman should die giving life" has resonated across the country and globally, now even transformed by a Kenyan band into a theme song, titled, It Has to be Now.

Other leading lights would be the current president of KOGS Dr. Anne Kihara. “Transformative provision of reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health require Innovation, investment, commitment, partnerships and leadership at all levels to form the cornerstone for advancing and accelerating progress to meet the needs of women and children in Africa” says Kihara.

In a continent where maternal mortality and morbidity is a top priority, the importance of a continent wide organization like AFOG is immense and all member associations and professionals in the continent and beyond need to put their efforts together to advance the maternal and newborn health agenda.

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