By: Smita Gaith, Women Deliver
World Pulse, a non-profit global communications network, is sharing a powerful new series called Laboring for Change. As part of the series, they share five stories of five women from different countries who are calling for increased attention and equality in maternal health and reproductive rights. As World Pulse explains, in the United States, advocates for maternal health and reproductive rights have seen a huge wave of recent legislation prohibiting health services, comprehensive sexual education, access to contraception, and abortion.
However, women from around the world are already facing the unfortunate consequences of governments who do not prioritize maternal and reproductive health rights. World Pulse believes that these global messages serve as a preview of what women in the United States might face if prohibitive legislation continues. The stories are a means of listening to messages and becoming mobilized, ourselves.
From Argentina, Nasreenamina, an activist and single mother, shares her encounters with women on their way to a rally for abortion legalization at Congress in Buenos Aires. Despite being illegal, 500,000 abortions take place in Argentina. Nasreenamina explains that the money the wealthy pay to have safe abortions and to buy the silence of physicians has become an unfortunate business, representing a $500 million industry. Instead, she says, that money should be used to develop social assistance programs for women. Her encounter with someone she calls Mariana, a single mother of 3 who was abandoned by her partner, is particularly striking.
“I got pregnant with my fourth and my partner just left," she said. "He threw me out of the house. I didn’t work. He didn’t take any responsibility. No woman imagines her life with an abortion. It’s absurd to think women desire abortion. I borrowed money. I took what I had in the bank to pay for it. It hurts me—people’s judgment—because they don’t know anything about me."[…]
[…] ‘Crime’ and ‘sin’ are words used only against the poor women who are most likely to die or go to prison as a result of their decision to end their pregnancies. When abortion is practiced in a fancy place, it is not called a crime and carries no blame. It's called "removal of tissue." Abortion remains illegal for high-income patients, but money changes everything: It pays for safe abortions and also the silence of physicians. It bars some people from sanitary risk, legal judgment, and social punishment.
In Ethiopia, Hudda Ibrahim shares the troubling story of Faiza, her mother. In Segag, a Somali-dominated region in Ethiopia, there are no means for public transport, save for the truck that comes by once a month. There are also no phones, electric services, schools, clinics, or medical professionals. It is a small farming village of 3,000 where people live in mud huts, and barter with animals and grasses or grains.
“Faiza was in labor for five days. Since there was no clinic in Segag, the birth took place at home, and home was a mud hut which had dirty floors and no running water. The unskilled traditional midwife who was attending her told me that the child was not positioned head-first in the birth canal. People argued about what to do; some suggested trying a traditional herbal leaf which they thought could stop the bleeding while others suggested traditional and ritual healings. Also, some advised transporting her to Degeh Bur city, a journey which could take days because of the road conditions.
The village managed to have a truck come in and transport her to the city. On her way, she gave birth to a baby girl. As the baby girl emerged, blood gushed out. I was terrified. Seeing the blood pour from my mother left a scar in my heart and today I still feel the pain and the agony. There was no doctor or medical professionals, and nobody knew what to do. That night, Faiza passed away. Because of the childbirth complications the baby girl also died after two weeks. Even today, fourteen years later, maternal mortality is widespread throughout that region.
The other stories shared on World Pulse’s website include testimony from Okeny-Lucia, a nurse from Kenya; Chinemu, a young woman in Zambia who has lost her family to the HIV/AIDS pandemic; and Ikirimat Grace Odeke, in Uganda, who is Coordinator of the Sexual Health Improvement Project (SHIP), and details her meeting with Sarah, an 11-year old victim of rape who tested positive for HIV.
Flickr photograph via Gates Foundation