In the lead up to International Women’s Day and the Inter Parliamentary Union in March 2012, The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (WRA) is calling on members in 155 countries, Rwanda inclusive to reach out to politicians and local leaders.
Rwanda has been recognised internationally for its progress towards achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Several leaders, organisations and individuals are playing their part to reduce maternal and child health mortality by 2015 in order to achieve countrywide economic and one successful way they are doing this is through the empowerment of its women. Rwanda’s Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, that also advocates for maternal and child health in Rwanda has launched the Women and Girls month, which will be celebrated at village level throughout the month of March to April 5th, 2012. Several leaders, in the political, economic, social and spiritual spheres are involved in one cause—to further empower the women and girls of Rwanda.
In Nepal, WRA members are writing letters to every single member of parliament (601 in total) to highlight the need for a greater leadership in passing the National Safe Motherhood Bill. In Indonesia, WRA members will host an event on International Women’s Day with Parliamentarians to discuss how they can work together and push collectively for change.
In 2010 and 2011, maternal health campaigners gave themselves a collective pat on the back for putting maternal health on the global agenda and generating over $70bn in new commitments to improve maternal and newborn health. This was no small accomplishment as for decades maternal health was a largely invisible global scandal.But what does this all mean if politicians and local leaders don’t know about these promises?
In a recent meeting with Joseph Mbilinyi aka Sugu, a Member of Parliament, a tireless campaigner for health equality, and a leading rap artist in Tanzania, he told WRA members that he was shocked to learn that 26 women die every day in pregnancy or childbirth in his country.
“If Members of Parliament are unaware of the commitments that their heads of state have made in global forums, and if they are unaware of the reality for pregnant women and mothers in their constituency, then who will make it a priority to ensure that governments are upholding their commitments to maternal health?
We, as civil society and as change makers against this global injustice must take a stand and work with our elected representatives and local leaders. We must not assume, but ensure, that they know the reality for women in their constituency and we must also make clear the critical role that they can play in ensuring that national commitments have a true impact in the communities where they are needed most,” he said.
According to Katy Woods, Global Mobilisation Coordinator, WRA, “they are is committed to bringing the facts – and the promises – home to those who live and breathe the political system because when there is political will, change can happen.”
In Sri Lanka, maternal deaths decreased dramatically when the government prioritized pregnant women for skilled care. It was political will that made a difference – as was the case in Rwanda, Thailand and Honduras.
“As an individual or as a group, sending letters, making appointments with leaders, and speaking to the media does make a vital difference in making change happen,” Woods said.
In Uganda last year, the membership in Kabale district worked with the District Health Officer, the local politicians and the Ministry of Finance to increase the numbers of midwives by 30%. This was achieved by simply pushing the right people at the right time and in the right direction – an informed petition CAN make all the difference. Make sure your voice is heard – it counts.
Local leaders are just as important to engage as politicians. When WRA members in Zambia discussed maternal health with Chief Mumena, he decided that no more women would die from pregnancy in his village, and that was that. Chief Mumena made provisions for every pregnant woman to have dedicated health care and not one woman in his village has died during pregnancy or childbirth since.
About The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood
•1000 women and 8500 babies die every day due to avoidable complications in pregnancy and childbirth.
•Maternal mortality is the world’s greatest health inequity - and a pressing matter for global justice and economic progress. For in many parts of the world it’s still true that women are the ones who make sure that children are loved, fed, vaccinated and educated, not to mention tending the crops, carrying them to market, running businesses, running the country... Look after the women and you look after the world.
•After decades when women continued to die in uncounted millions and nothing much changed, things are picking up. In recent years the numbers dying have gone down by a third, and our grassroots global movement to prevent needless deaths in childbirth has doubled and doubled again in size; the White Ribbon Alliance now has members in 155 countries.