Champions of Change

I’m held in a place where the ordinary intersects the extraordinary and my daughter is born at the height of my feminine being.  At the same time, many miles away, a woman sharing with me her femininity, does not share my ever after.

Every minute a woman dies in childbirth.  In Malawi, where Joyce Banda serves as Vice President, more women die from becoming pregnant than from any other cause.  She calls this the “greatest health inequity of the 21st century.”  Indeed, a woman in Sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 22 lifetime risk of dying in childbirth, throwing childbirth into the human rights arena.  Maternal deaths are highest in countries where women are the most marginalized.  Real change, then, begins in each woman’s heart- each woman who chooses to be more than what the collective says or how the statistics read.  Ashoka and Maternal Health Task Force are looking for individuals who can champion such change.  Their Healthy Mothers, Strong World competition will identify professionals with innovative ideas that can transform the field of maternal health.

Transformation will begin with having the foresight to engineer new models and the rare vision to preserve the ancient threads of wisdom.  Amanda Phillips’ Ocean of Mercy Program in India weaves the two together.  This project honors the gifts of everyone.  Village Health Workers are trained, becoming stewards of their culture; the medical community serves back up support; and the women are upheld with compassion, knowledge and options.

Also walking mindfully on the bridge between tradition and modernization is Sweta Adhikari’s Each One For One initiative.  Determined to see the day when women embrace their bodies, she will incorporate a local custom, Mother Groups, with the broader health care system in rural Nepal.  This mothering network will provide support and empowerment as part of a comprehensive plan.  In Ethiopia, Martha Adenew wants to create Maternal Clubs to empower women, seeing maternal mortality as a deep-rooted issue that can’t be solved with the construction of new facilities alone.

The Healthy Mothers, Strong World search may yield more than novel ideas.  When changemakers begin stepping toward their creative edges, they stretch perceptions of what one can be.  And that is what women need.  Because even in cultures that glisten with progress, a woman’s intuitive nature can be de-valued.  In giving birth, I rose because I was championed.  Imagine a world where every woman rises.

Check out other solutions for improving maternal health or to participate in the global call to solutions, please visit Healthy Mothers, Strong World: The Next Generation of Ideas for Maternal Health.

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