The Grassroots of Safer Birth: Get Karen There

Midwives speak the same lan­guage, regardless of politics: women come first.

–Palestinian Midwife (quoted by COHI)

I have found that it is easy to get so caught up in local or national birth activism that I forget to even consider the birth climate and concerns of other regions of the planet.

Why should we care?

Most simply, because lack of access to good maternity care is a huge issue around the world, with a profound impact on women, mothers, babies, families, and communities. Some selected facts (via COHI):

  • Nearly 400,000 women will die each year from pregnancy-related causes and 99% of these deaths will occur in de­veloping countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • For each woman who dies, 20 others will suffer from serious complications.
  • The five leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths are bleeding, infec­tion, high blood pressure, prolonged labor and abortion complications. In poor countries, a mother’s death leaves her new­born at risk of dying as well.
  • The majority of pregnant women die because of the three major delays that have been identified as:
  1. Delay in the woman, her family or community members’ recognition of a life-threatening problem and the decision to seek care.
  2. Delay in a woman’s access to trans­portation to a health facility, espe­cially at night.
  3. Delay in the woman’s access to quali­fied health workers with access to es­sential equipment and supplies.
  • Women and children constitute as 80% of the world’s refugees and displaced people.
  • In areas where conflict and turmoil is rampant, nurses and midwives are the primary reproductive health care providers. They provide up to 80% of direct patient care around the world every day.

Recently, I was asked to participate in a fundraising effort to get midwife Karen Feltham to Haiti. Spearheaded by BirthSwell in connection with the amazing organization Circle of Health International, the fundraiser already reached its goal before my post was scheduled to run! That’s what I call some effective grassroots organizing! The fundraiser is still open for contributions however, and now any additional funds raised will be used to sponsor other midwifery volunteers to disaster areas in need of support. COHI knows that the majority of pregnant and birthing women worldwide are cared for and by midwives and believes that, “midwives should be involved in the effort to foster change by bringing about increased access to services, support and care for women everywhere.”

What can you do?

  • Make a contribution!
  • Get connected! Visit the fundraiser’s indiegogo site and be sure to share it on Twitter, Facebook, and your listserves.  (The indiegogo site has great tools and widgets for sharing – try them out!)
  • Tweet about the fundraiser using hashtag #getkarenthere
  • Make sure to follow COHI on Facebook!

I have a personal tradition of getting a new We’Moon datebook every year and I was pleased to notice that part of the proceeds from the 2012 edition goes to support Circle of Health International also. COHI focuses on: “Working with women and their communities in times of crisis and disaster to ensure access to quality reproductive, maternal, and newborn care.”
COHI lists the following as their core values:

  • Grassroots social change by creating local, community driven collaborations in order to foster social change from the top down, as well as from the bottom up.
  • Nonviolence in terms of active resistance requiring one to act when faced with injustice. Leadership at COHI is supporting women to lead, to be forces for change in communities healing from conflict and disaster, and in organizational movements to support women in leadership roles.
  • Volunteerism through the giving of time, money, knowledge, and general support with the goal of easing the suffering of others.
  • Activism in individual responses to inequity and injustice.
  • Supporting women and their families in their right to make their own decisions in all aspects of birth spacing and family size, while protecting access to the resources required to honor their choices.

I value all of the above as well, which is why I’m pleased to be involved with the effort to Get Karen There!

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