AIF Blog

Women's Health Around the World

Mar 08, 2016
CATEGORY: Society, Health, U.S.A., World

Paula Johnson speaks with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at Spotlight Health 2015

Today marks International Women’s Day, where women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements are celebrated. Even with many accomplishments, more progress for women is badly needed in areas grappling with violence against women.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, undersecretary general for the UN and executive director of UN Women, tackled these issues at the Spotlight Health segment of the 2015 Aspen Ideas Festival. She said the World Health Organization calls violence against women a “global health pandemic,” and the urgency needed to fight it should match that of battles against diseases such as Ebola. “Somehow there is a degree of tolerance of the violation of women’s rights that is expected in society - from equal pay to violence against women. And life goes on.”

The statistics around women’s health can be depressing, says Mlambo-Ngcuka, and that’s why she emphasizes the breakthroughs. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women in the United States will be raped at some point in their lives. And Mlambo Ngcuka says 70 percent of the violence happens in the home and involves an intimate partner. “Home is not a safe place for many women, and that makes it difficult,” she says. Still, she points out, 82 percent of governments worldwide have legislation that addresses violence against women.

With global challenges like underfunded women’s ministries, Mlambo-Ngcuka says there needs to be an emphasis on electing public representatives who make women’s health a key issue. In her job, she works primarily with heads of state. “I say, ‘I’m sorry dude, you were elected to lead everybody. You have a crisis in your country and the buck stops on you.” In the clip below she talks about one success story in Malawi, where former president Joyce Banda worked on marriage issues.



Terrorism poses another major threat to women’s health. Women in areas of conflict, like Nigeria and Iraq, are more vulnerable to violence like abduction, rape, and sexual enslavement. Mlambo-Ngcuka says women and girls are put in the center of the fight and often it’s more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier. “The more extreme the terrorists are,” she says, “the more extreme they are on women.” Here she is recommending women and girls' issues be included in counterterrorism efforts:



Listen to the entire discussion below. The talk titled, Women’s Health: A Conversation across Generations, was part of Spotlight Health at the 2015 Aspen Ideas Festival. Other speakers include Irin Carmon, reporter for MSNBC, Paula Johnson, director of the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology, Courtney E. Martin, cofounder of the Solutions Journalism Network and Estefania Palomino, an Aspen Scholar and international lawyer.




By Marci Krivonen, Associate Editor and Producer, Public Programs

Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Reza Aslan sheds new light on one of history’s most influential and enigmatic figures by examining Jesus within the context of the times in which he lived: the age of zealotry. Balancing the Jesus of the Gospels against historical sources, Aslan describes a man of peace who exhorted his followers to arm themselves; an exorcist and faith healer who urged his disciples to keep his identity secret; and the seditious “King of the Jews,” whose promise of liberation from Rome went unfulfilled in his lifetime. Aslan explores why the early Church preferred to promulgate an image of Jesus as a peaceful spiritual teacher rather than a politically conscious revolutionary and grapples with the riddle of how Jesus understood himself. (Book signing to follow.)