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Joining the 2010 fight against mothers dying — NIGH touches "half the sky"

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Every so often, a book arrives to literally change human destiny. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is such a book. It is a MUST-READ for everyone concerned with the health of human beings, at the heart of all development issues.

mother and child
When mothers die in childbirth, their deaths cascade to directly impact upon continuing crises of their infants and children also sick and dying.

photo: UN/Tim McKalka

During 2009 — as NIGH focused on global health advocacy in liaison with the United Nations and related diplomats and colleagues in New York City and Geneva — many UN advisors reminded us that MDG # 5 must become everybody's priority. 

While all eight UN MDGs are directly and indirectly connected to health, the challenge of maternal mortality lies at the deepest heart of all development issues.

When mothers die in childbirth, their deaths cascade to directly impact upon continuing crises of their infants and children also sick and dying.

As well, these deaths then directly impact upon on poverty, hunger, lack of economic advancement, lack of education, family and society cohesion — and rise of subcultures of anger, hate and violence where young people grow-up without, love, nurturing and guidance. 

For all of these reasons, NIGH is devoting much of our 2010 efforts to directly address maternal death — MDG #5  – using our mandates to increase global public awareness about the priority of health and to encourage and empower nurses and concerned citizens to pro-actively participate in this effort.

Right Away! Resources You Can Use to Become Informed and Involved

Here below, we are highlighting several features to support everyone to become effectively involved in this critical issue, in both small and large ways. To start, you can click on any of these headers or scroll down to read details.

“Women hold up half the sky” —  The 2010 Must-Read Book

Deva-Marie Beck, PhD, RN
International Co-Director, Nightingale Initiative for Global Health

Every so often, a book arrives to literally change human destiny. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is such a book. It is a MUST-READ for everyone concerned with the health of human beings, at the heart of all development issues.

Half The Sky

Crafted to inform in-depth and inspire to-action — by the married Pulitzer Prize-winning team of Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, who serve also as correspondents for the New York Times — Half the Sky grabs you and doesn't let go. As the movie actor George Clooney said after reading Half the Sky, “it is impossible to stand by and do nothing….It does what we need most: it bears witness to the sheer cruelty that mankind can do to mankind.”

Beginning with the timeless Chinese proverb — “Women hold up half the sky” — the authors undertake to remove the blinders from our eyes — that have kept humanity from fully acknowledging the severe and systematic “medieval” abuses women even now endure in the 21st century. The authors focus on several key strands of 'oppression' — on maternal mortality and its causes; on sex trafficking and forced prostitution; and on gender-based violence, including honour killings and mass rape — reporting these well-established fall-outs as well as many solutions to these challenges, including girls' education and micro-finance.

The introduction of their book is compelling and keenly relevant most, if not all, of the other concerns we face as humanity. They have made critical connections between human security, in our age of terrorism, and the abuse and neglect of women. From their own insiders' view as reporters for the New York Times, they explain that, “concern about terrorism after the 9/11 attacks triggered interest in these issues in an unlikely constituency: the military and counterterrorism agencies. Some security experts noted that the countries that nurture terrorists are disproportionally those where women are marginalized....As the Pentagon gained a deeper understanding of counterterrorism, and as it found that dropping bombs often didn't do much to help, it became increasingly interested in grassroots projects such as girls' education. Empowering girls, some in the military argued, would disempower terrorists. When the [US] Joint Chiefs of Staff hold discussions of girls' education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as they did in 2008, you know that gender is a serious topic that fits squarely on the international affairs agenda. That's evident also in the [US] Council on Foreign Relations. The wood-paneled halls that have been used for discussions of MIRV warheads and NATO policy are now employed, as well, to host well-attended sessions on maternal mortality.”

Kristof WuDunn
Pulitzer Prize-winning team of Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

In each chapter, issues and background issues are reported from the authors’ first-hand experience ‘in the field,’ highlighted by vivid stories of women who have endured — living and, sometimes, dying — from these abuses. In each case — despite graphic details delivering readers to the suffering scene — the authors are careful to bring hope with clearly established even in the most marginalized places of the world. As another actor-activist Angelina Jolie has acclaimed, “these stories show us the power and resilience of women who would have every reason to give up but never do. They will be an inspiration for anyone who reads this book, and a model for those fighting for justice around the world. You will not want to put this book down.”

As for myself, even as an experienced critical-care nurse, I had to take sections of this book in shorter reads.

The impact of stories were so great that I had to go away and ponder what I had read — taking the suffering in small doses and allowing the solutions to change my mind and heart about how the world does and doesn't work. My reflections sent me thinking about the opportunities I might have to respond, personally, to these challenges.


It is directly from such ponderings that I am keen to write these words reflecting overall mandate to increase awareness and empower nurses in this effort.

Thus, I am envisioning texts and graphics to pro-actively serve in widening and supporting the worldwide cause this book demonstrates.  We need more stories of nurses and midwives working at the grassroots of such problems and projects.

Because, at NIGH, we are so primed to focus our 2010 fight against maternal death and the related suffering of women enduring injury from their deliveries — it simply follows to further strengthen this book review with webpages that testify to what can be done — even by ordinary people — to meet the challenges of MDG #5, effectively, with care and concern.

With all of this in mind and on my heart, I am including, here, below, all of the recommendations the authors' bring for supporting the causes of maternal health and death. As well, they offer suggestions for immediate opportunities to help overall. These are summarized here also.

Please consider applying such recommendations to your own life. AND, meanwhile — for a further in-depth understanding of all of the issues covered — please invest in this book, read it and recommend it to your friends and family.  The Half the Sky website is also wonderful — as a comprehensive resource and as a leading-edge web design. http://www.halftheskymovement.org/

To-Do ideas cited from: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide:

To Easily Help, Right Away: Recommended People to People Resources

Donate Pro-Actively

• Global Giving connects people who have community and world-changing ideas with people who can support them. http://www.globalgiving.com

• Givology was started by students at the University of Pennsylvania, Givology partners with leading grassroots non-profit organizations, local communities, and schools to sponsor education grants and innovative community-based education projects. Give to learn, learn to give. http://www.givology.com/

Invest in Micro-Lending

• Kiva — Loans That Change Lives — empowers individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe. By combining microfinance with the internet, Kiva is creating a global community of people connected through lending. http://www.kiva.org/

Sponsor One Individual Girl or Woman

• Plan USA — a child sponsorship program that focuses on improving healthcare, education and home environments for children, with an increasing emphasis on girls. planusa.org

• Women for Women International — connecting women sponsors with needy women in conflict or post-conflict countries. http://www.womenforwomen.org/

• World Vision — does community development, disaster relief and advocacy, engaging institutions, donors and the general public to address the global problems that perpetuate poverty. Advocacy staff empower communities to speak up for their rights, locally and globally. http://www.wvi.org/wvi/wviweb.nsf

• American Jewish World Service — a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing nonsectarian humanitarian assistance and emergency relief to disadvantaged people worldwide. http://www.ajws.org/

Encourage the Next Generation to Lead

• Girls Learn International gives American students a voice in the movement for universal girls’ education, pairing American middle and high school-based Chapters with Partner Schools in countries where girls have been traditionally denied access to education. This Program gives students the opportunity to explore issues affecting girls in relation to global human rights, promotes cross-cultural understanding and communication, and trains students to be leaders and advocates for positive change. http://www.girlslearn.org/index.php?catid=1&over=1

Recommended Maternal Health Resources — to be Informed & Get Involved in Small & Big Ways

Americans for UNFPA — americansforunfpa.org  Americans for UNFPA supports the work of the UN Population Fund. It is similar to 34 Million Friends of UNFPA — 34millionfriends.org

Averting Maternal Death and Disability — amddprogram.org  Averting Maternal Death and Disability is a leading organization focused on maternal health.

Center for Reproductive Rights — reproductiverights.org Center for Reproductive Rights, based in New York, focuses on reproductive health worldwide.

Edna Adan Maternity Hospital — ednahospital.org Edna Adan Maternity Hospital provides maternity care in Somaliland. It welcomes volunteers.

EngenderHealth — engenderhealth.org EngenderHealth focuses on reproductive health issues in the developing world.

Family Care International — familycareintl.org Family Care International is dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safer around the world.

The Fistula Foundation — fistulafoundation.org  The Fistula Foundation raises awareness and funding for fistula treatment, prevention and education programs worldwide.

The Girl Fund— thegirlfund.org Run by the UN Foundation, the Girl Fund partners with the UN, other non-governmental organizations and private groups to help deliver better education, health care and protection against violence, child marriage and female genital cutting to adolescent girls in the developing world.

Heal Africa— healafrica.org Heal Africa runs a hospital in Goma, Congo that repairs fistulas and tends to rape victims. It welcomes volunteers.

International Women’s Health Coalition— iwhc.org International Women’s Health Coalition based in New York, has been a leader in the struggle for reproductive health rights around the globe.

Marie Stopes International — mariestopes.org Marie Stopes International is an international organization that provides sexual and reproductive healthcare services in 42 countries.

One By One — fightfistula.org One by One contributes to the elimination of obstetric fistula worldwide by engaging the public and providing financial support to those who treat and prevent fistula in the developing world.

Pathfinder International — pathfind.org Pathfinder International transforms women’s lives by providing access to reproductive health care.

Population Services International — psi.org Population Services International (PSI) is based in Washington, D.C., and works in partnership within the public and private sectors on reproductive health issues.

White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood — whiteribbonalliance.org The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood campaigns against maternal mortality around the world.

Women's Dignity Project — womensdignity.org Women's Dignity Project, cofounded by an American woman, facilitates the repair of obstetric fistulas in Tanzania.

asoka roy 1
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In 2008 & 2009, Asoka Roy’s family created a Platinum Sponsorship of the Nightingale Declaration Campaign to honor the memory of their sister — a pioneering nurse & midwife in both India & the United States. Projects developed from this contribution included an India-wide outreach of the Nightingale Declaration dedicated to Asoka’s memory.
See: An Indian Nightingale
Generous Support of Drs. Rustum & Della Roy