Photo: Courtesy of PSI
Kate Roberts: Based on your work with the Elders on issues related to equality for women and girls, is the fight being won or lost?
Mabel van Oranje: I prefer not to talk in terms of a fight. The question of equality for girls and women is an issue that is not only about improving education, health and the overall well-being and rights of girls and women; it is ultimately about all of us making the best use of 50 percent of our society. Therefore, it is not a fight; it is actually an issue that we should all be collaborating on because it is in the best interest of all of us—women and girls, men and boys—to make sure that women can develop and live up to their full potential.
KR: You recently tweeted your admiration of No Woman, No Cry, a documentary about maternal mortality. How does maternal mortality fit into the overall campaign for greater equality?
MBV: Women play such a crucial role within a household, in the education of their children and, in many places, within local economies that I find it actually quite amazing that they're still being treated as if they were second-class citizens when it comes to education and healthcare. It is absolutely—excuse my language here—it is absolutely stupid, in my view, when preference is given to men over women when it comes to access to healthcare. Every minute of the day a woman dies from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. Also, women are one of the most vulnerable groups in the fight against HIV/AIDS and are often infected not because of their own behavior, but because of the behavior of their husbands. The fact that we don't focus on their health and put them on treatment, instead letting these women die, is a tremendous loss for all of us.