Take this into consideration: Pregnancy is the number one cause of death for women ages 15 to 19 in the developing world. Not only that, but there are one to two maternal deaths caused by everyday in the U.S. Too many women are dying because of lack of medical care and treatment around the world due to cultural, social, economical and political complications.
Christy Turlington Burns, the founder of Every Mother Counts (EMC), is a great example of someone who has seized the opportunity to further the cause of preventing maternal deaths. As an advocacy organization, EMC’s goal is to engage and mobilize people around the world to make a difference and really change lives. Its goal through 2015 is to decrease infant mortality by three-quarters and to make comprehensive reproductive health care available to as many women as possible. The hope of EMC is to combine thought with action their focus every day but especially to raise the profile this month – before, during and after Mother’s Day (details found at the end of this post).
There are many organizations that focus on maternal health but EMC stands out as a real conduit to help women on the ground. It is a real advocacy organization and it is truly using the tools at hand to spread its message and build awareness about a global tragedy in order to prevent as many maternal deaths as possible.
Turlington Burns’ entry into all of this was quite by accident. The day she became a mom, Turlington Burns experienced a post-partum hemorrhage after delivering her first child. The experience of getting assistance was seamless in New York, but she quickly learned that her case was something that often happens in countries around the world where women don’t often survive due to lack of quality care.
And that empowered her to act. While pregnant with her second child on a trip to her mother’s birth country, El Salvador, with CARE she had her “AHA!” moment. While meeting other moms living in a rural community without access to simple things like water and electricity, she saw their poor chances for survival and decided that saving them was going to be her life’s work.
She started to work with CARE to become educated and traveled to Peru with that organization, and that is where she saw where maternal mortality had successfully been reduced by 50% in under five years. This experience inspired her to make a documentary called No Woman, No Cry. She also enrolled in the Public Health program at Columbia University. She wasn’t going taking this sitting down.
Her film took two years to make and she saw women suffering around the world during that time. She traveled around sub-Saharan Africa (filmed in Tanzania) and saw a real lack of human resources. So many women live in remote and rural communities where they can’t get basic pre-natal and ante-natal. In Bangladesh, where social and cultural issues get in the way of real progress, most women deliver their babies at home, which would be fine if there were health care professionals and mid-wives to help them. These women also don’t have decision-making power (over men) and it’s up to others whether their lives are valuable enough to seek care. In Guatemala, Turlington Burns looked at legal barriers and found there was a number of women suffering and losing their lives due to unsafe abortions. By some miracle, they can get life saving care, but only when they are death’s door. And in the U.S,. she found bureaucracy to be the barrier of bureaucracy. No Woman No Cry was made when President Obama was in the midst of the Obamacare debate. While the Affordable Care Act is not a perfect plan, at least no woman will be denied maternal care after it goes into effect, which WILL save more lives.
Turlington Burns hoped her film would inspire people. By becoming a mom, she wanted to give others the chance to engage and help people across the world. The film was created as a resource to teach people where there is progress where they are gaps. Her goal was also to highlight and promote the individuals who are making a difference in the world.
And now with Mother’s Day upon us, EMC has a new concept. Last year, it tried to get traction around this one day where everyone is focused on moms to the tune of 15 billion dollars (spent on gifts and flowers) and examine what we can do with that time, money and energy all year, not just on one a day. It’s an opportunity to be in solidarity with other moms around the world who aren’t as lucky. This year, the intention is the same with “Give a Thought” Pinterest board where people can view a variety of different Mother’s Day “thoughts.”
There are plenty to choose from and you can even take the pen yourself and suggest your own thought that reflects your own memories, hopes, dreams and wishes. When you select the sentiment that perfectly expresses your “thought,” click on the image. It will allow you to share your thought with your mom via email, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. And if you want, you can then head over to the Every Mother Counts donation page to make a donation in your mother’s honor. Because EMC believes the best way to show that Every Mother Counts, including the mothers in your life, is to help EVERY mother to survive pregnancy and childbirth and thrive throughout her motherhood experience. This year, Give a Thought.
It really is the thought that counts. And making a difference with a simple click.
Guest contributor Holly Rosen Fink is a marketing consultant, publishing executive, freelance writer and theater producer living in Larchmont, New York.
Image via Every Mother Counts