At Women Deliver, Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway will introduce the Maverick Collective, an initiative she co-chairs with Melinda Gates to empower philanthropists to become advocates for girls and women. Here, she shares why she’s a long-time advocate and how she expects this new model of philanthropy to disrupt global health.
1. Impact: In your opinion, what is the most critical development and health need for women and girls?
HRH: Meeting the unmet need for family planning products and services for more than 225 million women and couples would have an incredibly positive impact on families, communities, countries and economies.
2. Impact: What drives your commitment to investing in girls and women?
HRH: My goal is for every girl and woman to have equal rights and access to basic health products and services so that she may be a healthy and productive member of society. We know that ensuring equal rights for girls and women builds strong societies.
Issues facing girls and women have been my priority for many years – starting 15 years ago when I was an intern at Norad (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation). Through my work with UNAIDS, I have seen what happens when girls and women are left behind and I know what happens when their human rights are protected.
Another area that drives me is gender equality, not only as principle, but also at the individual level. In Norway, the high rate of women’s employment is essential for our economic development. Norwegian welfare is often wrongly associated with our oil resources.
Yes, we have oil and it’s an important factor in our economic growth, but more important is women’s entrance into the labor market over the last 30 years.
3. Impact: What advice would you give to other women who want to take a leadership role?
HRH: I’d offer three pieces of advice:
1. Spend time educating yourself on the issues facing girls and women. Listen, learn, put the needs of the people being served first.
2. Find a mentor. For me, Tore Godal and Sigrun Møgedal are deeply inspirational. Both have had a tremendous impact in how Norway has approached global health and development and in the good we have done in the world.
3. Every voice matters. We have the chance to end extreme poverty in our lifetime, but only if we engage new voices, develop new solutions and invest more resources. Don’t discount the impact you can have.
4. Impact: What value do private citizens bring to the effort to support girls and women compared to other development actors?
HRH: We need more advocates raising their voices for girls and women, and we all have a part to play. When we bring in voices outside of the traditional development community, we expand the conversation and this is where change happens. Additionally, private citizens are often more open to risk and are more willing to invest in pilot projects, which are essential in developing new solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing girls and women.
5. Impact: From your perspective, what does a successful model of engagement look like?
HRH: A successful model of engagement is deeply collaborative. It puts the needs of those being served at the center of the conversation and includes them in the development and execution of solutions. I believe the saying goes, “nothing for me, without me.”
6. Impact: Why did you choose to become a co-chair of the Maverick Collective with Melinda Gates?
HRH: I first met Melinda during the International AIDS Conference in Toronto 2006. Our paths crossed again through work in global health and development.
Bill and Melinda created the Giving Pledge and have been very vocal about the need for additional funding sources to improve the health and rights of girls and women.
I have been focused on being the best advocate I can be and encouraging more young women to use their voice to ensure equal rights for girls and women everywhere.
We share a similar interest in girls and women, and working together on this initiative made perfect sense.
7. Impact: What is the most exciting thing to you about the Maverick Collective?
HRH: The most exciting thing about Maverick Collective is that we are engaging new advocates and developing new health solutions that have the potential to greatly improve the health and rights of girls and women in the developing world. And, that we are having immediate results.
But also, members of Maverick Collective share a distinct passion to learn, to teach, to listen and to put the needs of girls and women at the center of their work. They approach their work with a level of humility and dignity that is very inspiring.
Follow @CrownPrincessMM on Twitter.
Photo Credit (banner): Manprit Shergill