We can’t improve a woman’s standard of living if we can’t improve a woman’s chance of living.
The following is based on remarks made at the Global Summit of Women, a gathering of policymakers, business leaders and entrepreneurs in Sao Paulo focused on improving women’s roles in corporate management and the economy.
The only way women are going to advance in the global economy is by having income, which means work.
But according to United Nations studies, only about half of the world’s women participate in the labor force. Despite their under-representation, women comprise 60 percent of the world’s working poor. What’s more, a 2014 World Bank report shows that, on average, women earn 10 to 30 percent less than men for comparable work.
For millions of women, there’s an even bigger issue than the ones emphasized by those statistics: you can’t work if you can’t stay alive.
That’s why, for anyone concerned about women’s advancement, solutions should start with better women’s health. Because we can’t improve a woman’s standard of living if we can’t improve a woman’s chance of living.
That conclusion leads us back to HIV/AIDS, the leading cause of women’s deaths around the world. For women aged 15-44 years, who are in their peak earning years, HIV/AIDS infects 1,000 young women every day.
“ The only way women are going to advance in the global economy is by having income, which means work.”
As a woman who works for the one of the world’s leading logistics companies, I’m interested in how we can help improve women’s health. I’m convinced that one of the biggest challenges to improving women’s health globally is the supply chain. It’s also the most promising solution.
The spread of HIV and AIDS can’t be stopped with good intentions alone. Yet, until just a few years ago, that was virtually the only weapon available to the globe’s most impoverished nations.
Fortunately, their arsenal is expanding. It now includes PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; and the private and public sector organizations that support it.
PEPFAR represents the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease internationally. It’s driven by a shared responsibility among donor and partner nations and others to make smart investments to save lives.
“I’m convinced that one of the biggest challenges to improving women’s health globally is the supply chain. ”
Facing the challenge
Getting that much medicine to that many people anywhere would be a challenge. But when the job is getting that much HIV medicine to that many people in the most underdeveloped countries of the world – which is PEPFAR’s goal – the logistics challenges ramp up significantly. Among them: the lack of systems to distribute drugs on a mass scale, difficulty gauging demand, the expense of shipping medication overseas by air and unreliable in-country transportation systems.
To all those obstacles add these two facts: the temperature-sensitive nature of HIV pharmaceuticals and supplies and the distance between suppliers in India, China, the U.S. and the EU to clients across Africa and beyond.
“ “To awaken the people, it is the woman who must be awakened. Once she is on the move, the family moves, the village moves, the nation moves.” — Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru”
We’ve also helped to reduce the amount of medication shipped by air, which was important in reducing shipping costs.
But this public/private partnership isn’t just improving a woman’s chance of living. It’s also helping to improve her standard of living.
By contracting with independent, locally owned trucking companies to complete the last leg of the distribution operation, the program is improving the economies of the regions where PEPFAR operates.
We are also working with other global public health organizations to extend PEPFAR’s best practices to other humanitarian projects.
“ With life, comes power. And with power, women will move the world.”
Improving the lives of women calls for keeping women alive. As we’re seeing, evolving the supply chain into a reliable lifeline is one of the most effective strategies.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, once said:
“To awaken the people, it is the woman who must be awakened. Once she is on the move, the family moves, the village moves, the nation moves.”
We’re now putting women on the move. Logistics is advancing the lives of women and girls by saving the lives of women and girls.