by Jo Galloway
FACT: Every day, 1,000 girls and women die in pregnancy or childbirth.
The above is just one of the several shocking global statistics relating to the health inequality faced by women and girls today. Another is that pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death and disability for girls and women in developing countries.
As a mother to three wonderful children, I was both shocked and saddened to find out the extent to which this global health inequality. Whilst pregnant with my own children and through their subsequent births I totally took for granted that I would receive the best care the British National Health system could offer. I would have high quality trained midwifes and health care practitioners and if I experienced any difficulties during my pregnancy or labor, I would have the support, care and resources needed to ensure a safe delivery.
Whilst this apparent ignorance of the real world clouded my own experience, it was not until my children were grown and I developed more of a social conscience that I started to see what it was like elsewhere.
The White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) is an international coalition which pushes for change to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for women and newborns around the world. Launched in 1999, this global movement has members in 152 countries and champions the voice of women and their communities. They work at a strategic level with others, holding governments and institutions to account for the tragedy of maternal mortality.
Whilst browsing on Twitter, I tweeted that I’d like to undertake some sort of challenge to raise awareness and money for the work of the White Ribbon Alliance. I felt I wanted to push myself and undergo some discomfort as a way of showing my solidarity for women across the globe who are not as lucky as I am.
As with all things Twitter related, my idea took on a life of its own and soon I had recruited 4 other like minded people keen to join me in a challenge. I had already decided that a Himalaya trek with Charity Challenge would be a fantastic opportunity and the others agreed. We then started the huge task of fundraising for The White Ribbon Alliance. Twitter was marvelous in galvanizing support from a range of individuals, organizations and business including Pregnancy.org, keen to support our challenge and more importantly raise the profile of the WRA.
We trained up hill and down dale in readiness for our trek and soon the day came to leave. We left the UK on 17 March, full of trepidation and excitement about what lay in front of us. None of us having trekked in the mountains before and only myself having been to India previously.
India is a place of great contrast where you will find tradition and culture alongside contemporary modernism. A country full of spiritualism and festivals, art and history, India also has great wealth and opportunity alongside great poverty and inequality.
Seeing the Himalaya rising up through the early morning mists is in itself an almost spiritual experience. Wearing our sturdy trek boots and carrying our day packs and poles we trekked nearly 90 kilometers over 5 days, up steep ascents and descents along narrow goat and donkey tracks. We trekked through glorious rhododendron and pine forests, through small mountain villages where time seemed to have stood still and met amazing and beautifully simple people.
At each ridge or pass we stopped at to gather our thoughts and take in the views, there was an opportunity to reflect on the reason we were there. Each bead of sweat running down my back, each muscle in my thighs that seemed to say 'no more' only served to remind me that this 'suffering' was what I needed in order to be able to, in some tiny way, show my empathy and solidarity for those that have died needlessly for want of basic maternal health care.
Whilst I didn’t really 'suffer' I was at times quite uncomfortable and felt that I had pushed myself beyond my comfort zone. Comfort is a relative concept in reality and so now I am home again I am already thinking "what next?"
So Easter 2013 I am hoping to trek again, maybe a little longer and harder and this time visit maternity hospitals and take emergency birth packs to communities that don’t have road access to try and do my little bit to ensure that I can make a difference in some way to the lives of women and their communities.
I should like to thank Pregnancy.org for their generous donation to The White Ribbon Alliance.
Copyright © Pregnancy.org. Image provided by Jo Galloway.