|2011 Gala Remarks by Adrienne Germain|
Summary: On February 8, 2011, the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) held its annual gala at 583 park Avenue in New York City. More than 300 friends and supporters joined us in honoring Partners in Health co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer, who has provided quality health care to those most in need for more than 20 years. Below are remarks made by IWHC President Adrienne Germain at the event.
ADRIENNE GERMAIN: Hello again, everyone. Thank you, everyone, and a very special thank you to Paul and to Aryeh for your wonderful expressions of solidarity. I'd like to carry on with Paul's wonderful sense of optimism and start by telling you a brief story.
A very, very long time ago, when I was 26, watching dawn break in the hills above Hyderabad, India's leading development economist and Minister of Planning, Dr. Raj Krishna, joined me for tea. He gave me advice that altered my strategy to improve women's lives worldwide. We were debating women's wages in agriculture at the time, and Raj said to me, "You know, Adrienne, data and logic are important, but ultimately women must take to the streets to achieve equality."
Now I was not a revolutionary, especially at that time working in the Ford Foundation. Or so I thought. But for more than 25 years, IWHC and our partners worldwide actually have followed Raj Krishna's advice. We get our facts right, and we make revolutions when we need to.
As I look around this room, I see many friends and colleagues who have supported IWHC for years. Together, your investment in IWHC and our skills and determination mean, as Marlene said earlier this evening, that 6 million women and teens in 12 countries have access to health services, HIV prevention, and human rights protections that would not be there otherwise. Scores of leaders in Asia, Africa, and Latin America can effectively lobby their governments today to improve health services and education for young people because IWHC has mentored them and opened doors for them.
New leadership, policies and funding for women's health and human rights exist in the United Nations and in many countries because we are there. Together these results provide unprecedented opportunities to improve the lives of millions more women and girls this year and in the next few to come.
These opportunities are amplified by the voices and solidarity of women, including very young women. For example, I'm sure you remember from The New York Times that a single young girl has dared to challenge her abusive marriage in court in Yemen. Her voice reverberates across the Middle East.
In Cairo's Tahrir Square, young women are marching beside young men. A revolution is taking place. And in South Africa, women are demanding their right to comprehensive healthcare in the face of the world's worst AIDS crisis.
But threatening this hard-won progress and the courage of these women is a persistent wind of conservatisms that tells women and young people, "you can't, you won't." But IWHC says "we can," and we help them make their dreams happen.
The next two years especially are critical. In my 40 years of work for women and girls, I've never before seen such convergence of the funding and political will needed to provide health services and human rights protections for girls and women. Seizing this opportunity requires that we back a new generation of activists as they gain the political strength and the skills to protect their health and determine their futures. IWHC, together with our partners across the world, will seize these opportunities as we have for more than a quarter of a century. Now is the time for this new generation.
I'm proud to introduce a young woman to you tonight who is one of this generation's most promising leaders. We first met Ishita Chaudhry at a regional meeting in Hyderabad, the same city where Dr. Raj Krishna offered the advice that shaped IWHC's strategies many years later. Ishita is 26, the same age that I was in Hyderabad. And like me, she takes to the streets when necessary-metaphorically speaking of course. Her belief in the power of her generation to right the wrongs that plague others is palpable. Ishita exemplifies the vision and skills that keep women's and young people's rights and health in the spotlight, for decades to come, or for as long as it takes the world to recognize every woman's right to a just and healthy life. Please join me in welcoming Ishita Chaudhry.