Last night was the gala organized by US Doctors for Africa. Nineteen First Ladies were there, or were represented, along with celebrities like Sharon Stone, Danny Glover, and even Paris Hilton. It was a terrific start to a 5 year effort by US Doctors for Africa and African Synergy.
Before the gala, Sarah Brown delivered a speech to the First Ladies that was amazing. She is galvanizing African First Ladies to be “Champions for Maternal Health,” and she is relentless and tireless in her quest. Just what we need! Lynn Freedman from Averting Maternal Death and Disability added that, “This is not fate, not nature, but a man-made problem.” She left the podium with the wisdom that “our destinies are linked” and “women have the right to survive pregnancy.” I think this really stood out to most of the women in the room – she got a huge applause!
France Donnay of the Gates Foundation urged First Ladies to actually go and visit the centers, clinics, and hospitals where most women deliver their babies. Some of the First Ladies I spoke with mentioned that they’ve already started doing this. The First Lady of Swaziland (who is actually a Queen and a lawyer), has two children and delivered her babies in Swaziland. It was so wonderful to meet such articulate, determined working women.
According to a speech from Monir Islam, director of Making Pregnancy Safer at WHO, progress is being made in budget allocations to health. He said that the current level of budget allocations in African governments is about 11 percent – and will go up to 15 percent. This is definitely an improvement, but we still have a long way to go.
Stay tuned for my speech (and tell me what you think!).
Jill Sheffield is the founder and Executive Coordinator of Women Deliver.