Sarah Brown calls for action against maternal mortality

March 7, 2011

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Sarah Brown is Global Patron of the White Ribbon Alliance and author of Behind the Black Door published by Ebury Publishing on March 3, 2011. Follow her on Twitter @SarahBrownUK The opinions expressed are her own. Thomson Reuters will host an International Women’s Day follow-the-sun live blog on March 8, 2011.

To mark the 100th International Women’s Day it is as good a place as any to start with U.N. Women’s objective to seek a pathway to decent work for women.

Back in 1911, the very first International Women’s Day was held to protest unfair wages and poor conditions of work for women.  Today, much of the focus lies similarly in seeking equal treatment, repairing injustices and opening up the opportunity for women to improve their lives in the poorest parts of the world.

As U.N. Women’s Executive Director Michele Bachelet said just last week, “Women’s strength, women’s industry, women’s wisdom are humankind’s greatest untapped resource”.

As we aim also to tackle the great injustice of high maternal mortality and to improve infant and child survival and health, we should draw on all that women have to offer.

So let’s find a way to put more women in to dignified work and simultaneously reach towards a great unmet need.  That need is more trained health workers – 3.5 million of them in fact.

Here is an opportunity to work towards the laudable U.N. Women goal to create ‘equal access to education, training, and science and technology’. What we need is trained midwives and nurses, and doctors too with specialist skills. What we need is anaesthetists, health centre technicians, managers and record-keepers using new technologies.

This week, the international associations representing 15 million of the world’s nurses, midwives, obstetricians, gynaecologists and paediatricians have written a letter to President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania calling for the investment into health workers to be made.

Kikwete is the African co-chair (alongside Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada) of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women and Children’s Health aiming to steer the $40 billion budget for reducing maternal and child mortality.

Here is the letter which will be posted on websites, cited in blogs and tweeted around the world.

There was no social media in 1911, but this call for action will be taken by the 15 million confederation members, moved through the members of the White Ribbon Alliance based in over 150 countries, and across the over 100 organisations that comprise the maternal mortality campaign.

Tonight I am attending the International Women’s Day reception hosted by the Royal College of Nurses in London to support this call. Even on my own I can tweet this Reuters post to over 1 million people, – and that is before the Retweets!

And on this 100th anniversary of International Women’s day, women – and men – everywhere are mobilising – in person and online  -   to call for greater equalities and better opportunities for women as we are all losing out from the proper contribution of women to our societies.

Individuals and organisations are out there to stress the need to place a higher value on the lives of girls and women everywhere. On the morning of 8th March, thousands of women will march across bridges in many countries – it started last year and will grow bigger this year with the Join me on the Bridge movement. The coalition of organisations coming together will raise the volume across the net together with the movement spearheaded by Annie Lennox.

And after that, I have figured out where I will be on International Women’s Day to play my part.

I realised that the one place I wanted to be was on line keeping up the shout out for the maternal mortality campaign. Which is why I chose the UK’s social networking site for mums to host an open Q&A session over lunchtime (1 – 2 p.m. GMT) on http://www.mumsnet.com/ – where better place to join in solidarity with many women in 2011.

Picture Credit: Activist and author Sarah Brown (centre) is shown with musician Annie Lennox (R) on the 2010 International Women’s Day. REUTERS/Women for Women International bridge march

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