Women’s Independence

Mamas on Bedrest: Mamas Making a Difference

April 15th, 2013

Mamas, you can make a difference-right from your beds!!

I know, you are probably thinking,

“What the heck could I possibly do? I’m on bed rest. I have all that I can handle right now.”

I hear you, mamas. I know that your utmost concern is first and foremost for your own health and for the health of your unborn child. But isn’t that what all mamas want??

This weekend I went to a clothing swap to raise funds for the “Train 1000 Midwives” program for the Edna University Hospital in Somaliland Africa. The Edna University Hospital was established in Hargeisa, Somaliland following the bloody, brutal civil war in Somalia. After the war, the newly established Republic of Somaliland was left with a war torn country and no public help or services. Edna Adan Ismail, former minister to Somaliland and current President of the Organization for Victims of Torture,  is a leading activist for women’s health rights in Somaliland and she speaks vehemently against female genital circumcision/female genital mutilation. She established the University Hospital in the hopes that those trained there will return home to their native towns and villages and care for their people. The “Train 1000 Midwives” Program is a direct response to the extremely high rate of maternal and infant mortality in the region.

“Train 1000 Midwives” is one of the projects selected by Connecther.org for funding. Connecther.org’s vision and mission are:

VISION:

Connecther seeks to end global poverty by partnering with donors, non-profits and other stakeholders that focus on aiding women and children in their quest for self reliance.

MISSION:

Connecther provides a platform for matching donors to projects that provide poverty alleviation services to women and children in their quest for self-reliance. Connecther helps our project partners raise funds and awareness via our communications & crowdfunding platforms insuring that Givers’ contributions are invested to make the biggest positive impact.

Connecther is an amazing organization and at it’s core is a group of women who have decided to come together and make a difference. It’s that simple. Women, more specifically Mamas, have come together and are essentially saying,

‘It’s no longer acceptable for women and girls to suffer and struggle.  Those women and girls who are so inclined to do better we are going to help them by providing funds for necessary resources.’

It’s that simple to get involved. It’s that simple to be “Pro-Active”. The Clothing Swap was sponsored by The Lucky Penny Fund. Inspired by Half The Sky, a movement intent on exchanging women’s oppression into opportunity, friend and colleague Jessica Sunshine Christian started the Lucky Penny Fund as a way to learn more about the lives of women around the world and to help. She admits that she doesn’t have much to give, but she is willing to give from what she has-one penny at a time. Jessica and her partner Carmen pooled their energy and resources to organize the clothing swap. We each cleaned out our closets and for $25 essentially “went shopping”. Our donations went to the “Train 1000 Midwives” project via Connecther and the remaining items not swapped were donated to a local women’s shelter. This was win-win-win -win!!

So often we learn of events or people in the world and think, “That’s so sad” or, “That’s tragic”. Yet the moment passes because we feel impotent to effect change. Mamas can change the world and all of the organizations mentioned above are in existence because mamas have said, “Enough is enough! I may not be able to do much, but I can do what I can!!”

That’s all it takes! That’s what it means to be “Pro-Active!” So mamas, even if you are on bed rest, consider what you can do to ease the burden of another mama; donate funds, subscribe to a newsletter, volunteer, be a peer supporter (Lots of this on our Facebook Page!). Any little bit helps.

 

Mamas on Bedrest: The Best and Worst Countries for Mamas

May 11th, 2012

A lot of mamas are still dying in childbirth globally and many children won’t see their first birthdays. It’s a shocking truth. While watching the Newshour on PBS the other evening they had a report on the best and worst countries for moms. I already know a lot of this information, but I love to listen to reports and glean whatever new information that I can. Reporter Gwen Ifill interviewed Carolyn Miles, President of the non-profit organization Save the Children and Ms. Miles provided some really good nuggets of information that I’ll share and summarize.

At the top of the list is Norway, which has one of the highest rates of contraceptive use in the world and one of the most generous maternity-leave policies among developed nations. Women in Norway are highly educated and well represented in government. The country also boasts the highest female-to-male income ratio and is tied for the second-lowest under-5 mortality rate among developed countries.

At the bottom of the list is the African Nation of Niger. In Niger, only one in three births are attended by skilled health personnel. In addition, the country is currently in the midst of a “worsening hunger situation, threatening the lives of a million children”. Compared to Norway where women attend school for an average of 18 years, girls in Niger only attend only four years of formal schooling during their lifetime. Women in Niger have no economic or political power.
Rather than give a rundown of the best and worst countries (For a full list of each country and its ranking is available here.), I want to share the criteria Save the Children used in determining what made a country a great place for a mama and what made a country not so great for a mama. In all, Save the Children evaluated 165 countries and found that the following categories determined whether or not a country was a good or bad place for mothers and their babies.  (FYI, The United States Ranked #25)
  • Infant/Child Mortality. Many countries have staggering infant and child mortality rates. In Niger for example,virtually every mother will lose a child before the age of 5. This is primarily due to malnutrition and lack of health care resources. Unfortunately, children in the poorest countries will die from some of the most easily treatable diseases because they are malnourished and lack access to health care when they do in fact become ill.
  • Maternal Mortality. Many mothers worldwide are dying in childbirth or as a result of complications from childbirth. In the United States, One in 2,100 births result in the death of the mother which is a shocking statistic given the resources in this country. However, despite our vast resources, many women and children live in poverty in the United States and poverty is a strong indicator of mortality in both mothers and babies worldwide. In the US, the big gap in health care that’s available for well-off women vs. very poor women is the driving force behind the maternal (and infant) mortality numbers.
  • Economic Empowerment. It’s a known fact, when women can earn a living wage, they fare better and so do their children. In countries where women are able to earn a substantial income-nearly equal to that of a man, her health goes up and her mortality (risk of early death) goes down.
  • Education of Women and Girls. It stands to reason that if women aren’t educated, they cannot attain high paying jobs, cannot earn a living wage and cannot support themselves and their children. It’s a vicious cycle. In countries like Norway where women are highly educated, we see women economically secure and thriving. In countries like Mali, Afghanistan and Niger, where education of women and girls is scanty at best, we see a high rate of maternal and infant mortality and and those women and children that are “surviving” are living in abject poverty. Ms. Miles added,
    “The longer you keep girls in school, the longer they delay having their first child. And that child will be much healthier. A girl who has a baby at 14 is a much higher risk pregnancy, and her baby is at much higher risk of death, than a girl who gets pregnant at 17 or 18.  If she stays in school, it’s much more likely she’ll she’s going to wait until she’s older. That’s why education of girls is so important.”
  • Political Involvement. In countries where women are allowed to be involved in the setting of political and social policies, women are doing much better. No surprise. When you have no representation, you have no voice and no way of making your needs known.
  • Access to HealthCare. When women have readily accessible access to health care, their health and the health of their children is markedly improved. According to Ms. Miles, one of the reasons that Afghanistan was able to move from 165th to 164th is because of a surge in community health clinics.  “And a lot of these health centers are in the places where moms and babies do die, kind of at the end of the health system, if you will, at the end of the road, really remote areas where these moms are oftentimes giving birth at home. So, having a health clinic close at hand really saves lives.”
  • Maternity Leave. We also know that when women are allowed time off to give birth, recuperate from that birth and spend time with their babies bonding and breast feeding, both mothers and babies do well. One of the reasons that the United States ranked 25th in the Save the Children report is because of it’s poor maternity leave policy.”The report also notes that the U.S. has one of the least generous maternity leave policies of any wealthy nation. It is the only developed country — and one of only a handful of countries worldwide — that does not guarantee paid leave for working moms. Instead, by law, new mothers get 12 weeks of unpaid leave.”

We now know what it takes to make mamas and babies healthy. Now its time to implement these practices globally. It’s being done very successfully in many countries and very poorly in many more. Let’s hope that this new knowledge will bring forth improved standards of living and care for women and babies.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Mamas on Bedrest: Who is Ban Ki-Moon?

March 9th, 2012

International Women’s Day was yesterday, March 8, 2012. International Women’s Day, helps to culminate The United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), 2 weeks of meetings during which world leaders come together to discuss the status of women and girls around the world. The meetings are wrapping up this week.

The head of the UN is Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. To mark the occasion of International Women’s Day, the Secretary General noted gender equality and the empowerment of women are gaining ground worldwide, but urged governments, civil society and the private sector to continue to commit to gender equality and the empowerment of women as a fundamental human right and a force for the benefit of all in his statement to the UN counsel and partners.

I have only recently began to study Mr. Ban and I am heartily impressed. This man is a staunch advocate for women’s rights and well being. One of his primary initiatives as Secretary General is empowering women. Here is what he has done during his tenure as Secretary General:

The Secretary-General pressed successfully for the creation of UN Women, a major new agency that consolidates the UN’s work in this area. His advocacy for women’s rights and gender equality has also included the “Unite to End Violence against Women” campaign, the “Stop Rape Now” initiative, the creation of a “Network of Men Leaders” and the establishment of a new Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Within the UN itself, the Secretary-General has increased the number of women in senior management positions by more than 40 per cent, reaching the highest level in the Organization’s history.

How fantastic is it that a man with such global power has such a heart for the health and well being of the world’s women? One could argue that Mr. Ban is inspired by his wife, Madam Yoo (Ban) Soon-taek. Since 2007, Mrs. Ban has devoted her attention to women’s and children’s health, including autism, the elimination of violence against women, and the campaign to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.  So maybe his interest stems from her interest, her “whispering sweet nothings in his ear”?

That is not the impression that I get. In his own words, Mr. Ban says, “I grew up in war” (Mr. Ban was born in the Republic of Korea (South Korea)) and he knows first hand the destruction and hardship people often endure. He also knows the importance of global help in order to rebuild a nation and its people. But even more key, Mr. Ban recognizes that for a nation to be strong  a nation must tend to the care of all of its people and when one or more segments of the population are not thriving, the nation and subsequently the world, cannot thrive.

I am thrilled that I am learning about his plans for global women’s empowerment. I think that it behooves all of us to learn more about the United Nations’ initiatives on women’s empowerment and to see what we each can do to help move these initiatives forward-after all, they will impact us all in one way or another. There is something for everyone to do. For some of us, it will be making financial donations. For others, it may mean becoming involved with one of the many partnering organizations. I think most of us will work in our immediate neighborhoods, towns, cities, states and nations to effect change. There is nothing wrong with that. We are not all called to perform on the global stage as Mr. Ban does, but we are all called to serve.