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Having It All - Not Just A Feminist Call Of The 1970s

Posted: 05/07/11 10:44

The issue of good maternal health has risen so high on the international development agenda that the maternal mortality campaign even has the dubious honour of hearing occasional grumbles that other 'health priorities' are not getting enough of a look in whether in terms of global political attention or media coverage. While strangely flattering for the NGO or civil society activist, this is not the whole story.

Maternal Mortality was just a very few years ago the 'Forgotten MDG', and the health and survival of mothers in pregnancy and childbirth not recognised at the international government summits until 2008. But the rise in global profile and much welcomed political attention has already made a difference in that short time.

Getting pregnant is still a phenomenally dangerous thing to do in a country like Sierra Leone which still does not have nearly enough qualified doctors or midwives; or Afghanistan where women and children pay a heavy price from both the conflict and their own low social status; or the Democratic Republic of Congo where women are raped daily as part of the cost of war. But, where there is no war, the governments in countries like Sierra Leone and Namibia and Ghana and Nepal have funded free healthcare and delivery for pregnant women (with thanks in part to the UK's DfID) and the latest statistics show that many lives of mothers and newborns are being saved. President Kikwete of Tanzania has proudly led (with PM Harper of Canada) the WHO's initiative to improve much needed governance and accountability to address another long standing barrier to improving health systems.
And the growing profile of the political agenda for Girls and Women means that there is also a burgeoning collective voice from many activists, NGOs, health professionals, academics, journalists, business leaders and politicians to address issues of inequality which abound to the detriment of everyone.

So there has never been a better time to move forward with some proper joined up thinking on global health. Healthcare, does of course go hand in hand with education, entrepreneurship and the environment -in addressing the issue of extreme poverty. So we do need cooperation between all individuals, organisations and governments. The maternal mortality campaign led by the White Ribbon Alliance could not have been so successful without support from many organisations each with their different emphasis from Save the Children and World Vision (children) to Oxfam, Comic Relief and Christian Aid (anti-poverty) to Merlin and CARE (health) to Amnesty International (human rights) to women-focused charities like Women for Women International, The GREAT initiative and WeAreEquals.

"Having it all" was the great claim of the feminist revolution. It turned out the sisterhood could have it all: just not all at the same time every minute of the day. Well that feminist movement now needs to lead the joined up charge for 'having it all' so that it means having enough food and safe water, safety, schooling, work and healthcare and a good world to live in. We must not give up now on the dream to have it all - it is what makes us human to strive, and to perhaps see our dreams come true.
$40billion was pledged for healthcare at the last United Nation General Assembly. We must all make sure this pledge is delivered in full to take us closer to that dream.

Sarah Brown is the President of children's charity PiggyBankKids and the Global Patron of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood

She tweets on @SarahBrownUK