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Why Partnerships Matter

"Change happens when we break down silos and build partnerships." – H.E. Monica Geingos, First Lady of Namibia

Article by Natalie Gonnella-Platts June 22, 2016 //   5 minute read

Collaboration is a key force in addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges.  Whether protecting rights, creating opportunities, or promoting health and well-being, cooperation advances the status of women and girls worldwide.

In September of last year, the United Nations even cited global partnerships as an area of focus among the Sustainable Development Goals:

A successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society. These inclusive partnerships built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the centre, are needed at the global, regional, national and local level.

Recently, the Bush Institute’s First Ladies Initiative had the privilege to join GE, the Miller Center, and other gender advocates in New York on the sidelines of the UN AIDS Meeting. The gathering celebrated a new partnership, the healthymagination Mother & Child Program, which uses social entrepreneurship to improve maternal and child health in sub-Saharan Africa.

Building on mutual areas of interest, the event introduced the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDs (OAFLA) to the partnership and opened a dialogue on engagement.  Many African First Ladies already are focused on maternal and child health as well as social entrepreneurship, so there is great potential to scale the program and its wider impact.

Here are three simple but important reasons why partnerships, like this one, matter for women and girls globally:

1. Engagement and Advocacy

Collaboration encourages participation.  Regardless of the issue, interventions cannot succeed without stakeholder buy in and support.  Whether breaking down stigmas or building awareness, advocacy is integral to advancing solutions and creating change.  First Ladies, for example, have a distinct podium to call attention to important issue areas impacting women and children.  Leveraging advocacy in an engaged and effective manner, among stakeholders working to similar goals, creates increased opportunity to reach target constituencies and encourage sustainability.

2. Best Practice Sharing

No one person or organization can shepherd a solution in its entirety. At least not in an efficient and transparent manner.  But we all have something to add.  Working toward a common goal, partnerships provide a unique opportunity for participating entities to share best practices as well as tangible resources.  When managed effectively, this helps to cascade knowledge and ensures a greater level of accountability and potential for scale. 

3. Local Leadership

To create change, stakeholders must be engaged at all levels.  And most critical to that participation is the role of community leadership.  Now more than ever, global is local, yet time and again, when implementing ideas, community perspectives go overlooked. Partnerships in their very nature present an opportunity to engage diverse vantage points, especially when dealing with common yet complex challenges.  Despite vast development advancements in the last decade, there is still a lot to be learned.  While successful solutions should absolutely be scaled and replicated globally, understanding nuance and local impact is vital to that process.  From First Ladies to social impact innovators, resident perspectives matter.

According to the World Health Organization, 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. More than half of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. And regardless of region, when it comes to the advancement and empowerment of women and girls, a great deal of work remains worldwide. 

Collaborative efforts, like the healthymagination Mother & Child Program, possess great potential to make a difference.  As Her Excellency Monica Geingos, First Lady of Namibia, noted during a panel at the event, change happens when we break down silos and build partnerships.”  While the global community continues to plan a course of action to meet sustainable development objectives, synergy is critical.

The Bush Institute’s First Ladies Initiative engages and supports first ladies in using their unique platforms to improve lives in their countries and across the globe.  Advocacy, best practice sharing, collaboration, and women’s leadership sit at the core of the Initiative’s mission.