Women and Children First

by Simone Snyder-Outreach & Resource Manager Mothering

My degree is in anthropology. I spent a great deal of my college years conducting research and writing papers. In essence its kind of what I wanted to do with my life. Looking back on that experience I feel a bit confused-why can’t I seem to get it together for this project? This is way beyond anything I would categorize as writers block. I am afraid-afraid of what I am learning, worried that the more research I do, the more in depth I go-the later I will lay awake at night wondering how I could do more.

Donate money-check.

Spread the word-check.

I need more.

Here are the facts…

Every minute a woman dies from pregnancy and childbirth complications. It is estimated that 90% of these deaths are preventable.

Women in the developing world rarely have access to emergency medical care.

Pregnancy is the biggest killer of women ages 15-19 in the developing world. Almost 70, young women die every year because they had babies before their bodies were ready.

In sub-Saharan Africa 1 in 22 women will die in childbirth and 9 out of 10 women will lose a child during their lifetime.

The United States ranks 41st globally in maternal health (yup-you read right) even though we spend more on healthcare than any other nation. And African American women are four times more likely to die in childbirth than Caucasian women.

Every year 10 million women suffer from post-delivery infections, disabilities, and severe conditions.

It is estimated that $15 billion is lost every year due to maternal and newborn mortality.

Over 200 million women do not have access to modern contraceptives.

Simple, common sense, affordable solutions could potentially prevent 90% of maternal deaths.

So what gives?

There is a global movement materializing. There are ways to get involved. Have you heard of the Millennium Development Goals or MDGs? In 2000 189 countries made a commitment to end worldwide poverty through these 8 goals. The goal of number 5 is to improve maternal health-specifically to reduce maternal mortality by three-fourths by 2015. However MDG-5 is the most underfunded of all 8 goals and as a result-the least successful.

As an anthropology student I learned to look at the underlying causes of issues and the bottom line is NONE of these other goals will be reached if we cannot ensure the safety of the world’s mothers and children.

So what is being done? Glad you asked…

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an amazing organization which sparked a passion in me to find out more about maternal and infant health programs nationally and internationally. The organization was Women Deliver-they recently held a conference where thousands of people from more than 140 countries gathered to discuss women’s health and empowerment. At the conference UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared;

“Invest in women-it pays. This is one of the best investments we can make for this and future generations. Working together, we aim to make 2010 a turning point for women’s health.”

On behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Melinda Gates pledged $1.5 Billion dollars in grants to help countries with high maternal and infant mortality rates. Her words were moving;

“It is not that the world doesn’t know how to save the 350,000 mothers and 3 million newborns who die every year. It is that we haven’t tried hard enough. Policymakers in both rich and poor countries have treated women and children as if they matter less than men….The world has not come together to do what’s necessary to save women’s and children’s lives…Until now.”

And it is true. I feel a part of something-I feel that change is upon us. Even Hillary Clinton applauded The Gates Foundation and their efforts. I learned from her response about the Obama Administrations Global Health Initiative-I downloaded the report;

“Promoting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people and reducing maternal, newborn, and child mortality are integral to alleviating poverty, promoting security, and building more stable nations.”

How can you get involved? Here is a list of a few organizations that I ran into and a link to a highly anticipated documentary by Christie Turlington entitled “NO WOMAN, NO CRY.” Not by any means am I claiming these are the only organizations out there involved in these efforts-these are just the organizations I am familiar with. If you come across any organizations or groups that you feel should be mentioned please post a comment and let me know.

www.everymothercounts.org (check out the info on the film)
www.amnestyusa.org/demand-dignitiy/maternal-health-is-a-human-right (an eye-opening report about the situation right here at home-in the U.S)

I remember learning about “arm-chair anthropologists” and though it’s been a few years since college I remember thinking-how lame?! Conjuring up ideas and theories from the comfort of their desks-neglecting the heart of the work-getting out in the field and getting their hands dirty. Well that’s how I feel today as I write this-like an armchair activist. It is not enough-it is never enough but it’s a beginning.



About Simone Snyder


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