WORLD INTERVIEW: Erin Thornton, Executive Director of Every Mother Counts

WORLD INTERVIEW: Erin Thornton, Executive Director of Every Mother Counts

erin-thornton_executive-directorEvery mother has the right to access the care they need during pregnancy and childbirth – care that can identify, prevent, and manage complications should they arise. But failure to meet these needs results in the loss of 800 mothers every day, even though up to 98% of these deaths are preventable. 

 Every Mother Counts is working to provide solutions that can make pregnancy and childbirth safer. We know that with the right care at the right time, it IS possible that every mother could have the chance to survive and thrive.

Recently, World Moms Blog sat down with Executive Director of Every Mother Counts, Erin Thornton, to talk about how she got involved with the organization and what drives her to work so hard for maternal health.

World Moms Blog: Erin, you’re the mother of three young girls and you live in the metro-Boston area yet you are the executive director of Every Mother Counts, a New York-based non-profit working in five locations around the world. How did you get involved?

Erin Thornton: My involvement with Every Mother Counts grew out of a 10-day trip to Africa with my former organization, ONE. We had invited  Christy Turlington Burns along and she and I got chatting about maternal health. Maternal health was not an issue ONE focused on and I was really drawn to what Christy was telling me about.

WMB: What about maternal health drew you in?

ET: Well, Christy had just completed the film, “No Woman, No Cry” a documentary about maternal health challenges that impact the lives of millions of girls and women around the world. During our  trip through five African countries, Christy and I spent a lot of time comparing notes on what was needed to move the maternal health agenda forward. Through all my time at ONE, I realized how interlinked so many poverty challenges are to maternal health—that if moms are kept alive, we can better keep kids alive, better give them an education and clean water, etc. Yet still no one was really talking about it.

WMB: What prompted you to leave behind a long career with ONE and join Christy in her pursuit of spreading maternal health awareness as she built this new non-profit?

ET: I had been with ONE since 2002, when I became the first hire in the US for ONE’s predecessor organization, DATA. By 2010, ONE had grown to 120 people in four different global offices. I had two young girls and I was starting to think about making a change. The more Christy and I talked about the need for an “awareness campaign” for maternal health, the more I realized I wanted to be a part of it too, so six-months later, I formally signed on to help her build the organization.

WMB:  In just a few days (May 10), we celebrate Mother’s Day here in the US, can you share with World Moms something about what makes you a passionate believer in Every Mother Counts?

ET: Physiologically, every woman goes through pregnancy the same way and faces the same chances of developing a complication. The difference in how they fare mainly comes down to whether they have access to good health care- or not. Helping more moms enjoy a safe pregnancy and delivery may sound like an overwhelming challenge but we really CAN make a difference. EMC has identified three target areas to focus our support on: 1. transport, 2. education and training for healthcare providers, and 3. supplies for clinics–including birth kits, solar suitcases and lighting. And we’re seeing that these seemingly simple things are making a big difference.

This Mother’s Day, Every Mother Counts is celebrating #WhatIsPossible for every mother.

Every mother has the right to access the care they need during pregnancy and childbirth – care that can identify, prevent, and manage complications should they arise. But failure to meet these needs results in the loss of 800 mothers every day, even though up to 98% of these deaths are preventable.

Every Mother Counts is working to provide solutions that can make pregnancy and childbirth safer. We know that with the right care at the right time, it IS possible that every mother could have the chance to survive and thrive.

So this Mother’s Day, as we look at the future of maternal health, we ask ourselves #WhatIsPossible? And the answer is, a lot.

With your help, Every Mother Counts has already impacted thousands of lives by improving access to critical maternal health care for vulnerable mothers.

During the month of May, we invite you to spread the good news about #WhatIsPossible by sharing this film.

This is an original interview with Erin Thornton posted by World Moms Blog Managing Editor, Kyla P’an.

The image used in this post is from the Every Mother Counts website and is used here with permission.

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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NEW JERSEY, USA: Charlie Hebdo Massacre: A Call To Unite

NEW JERSEY, USA: Charlie Hebdo Massacre: A Call To Unite

charlie

A year ago, girls, teenagers who wanted an education so they could look forward to a great future, were abducted from their school in Chibok, Nigeria. They were taken away, kidnapped and removed from their family, because they were guilty of having ambitions. All these girls had to defend themselves were books.

What’s left of this horror is parents. Mothers and fathers, grieving for a loss that can never be overcome, hurting from a pain that will never lessen, left to wonder why, and knowing that no answer will ever alleviate their sorrow. Because there is no justification.

A few months ago, Peshawar happened and with it, the world once again, lost its innocence. Over 150 kids massacred, because they were guilty of being the children of their parents. All these kids had to defend themselves were notepads.

What’s left of this horror is parents. Mothers and fathers, grieving for a loss that can never be overcome, hurting from a pain that will never lessen, left to wonder why, and knowing that no answer will alleviate their sorrow. Because there is no justification.

Last week, my home country, France, was the theatre of repeated terrorist attacks. People were massacred because they went to work that day, or decided to do their grocery shopping. A brutal attack, with one side holding weapons, the other pencils. 

And the violence continued with news of over 2000 killed in Baga, Nigeria.

What’s left of this horror is parents. Mothers, fathers, grieving for a loss that can never be overcome, hurting from a pain that will never lessen, left to wonder why, and knowing that no answer will ever alleviate their sorrow. Because there is no justification.

Mothers, fathers of this world, our families are being hurt beyond comprehension. Pencils are fighting bombs, words are matched with weapons. These violent attacks are not about gender, race, religion, background, or opinions. They are about pulverizing families.  This is a call to unite.  We all have a responsibility to do everything in our power to preserve our families and help others do the same.

We are all Chibok girls. We are all Peshawar. We are all Charlie.

How do we, global parents everywhere, teach our children to cherish and preserve their families? How do we unite to show them that violence is never the answer? 

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Nadege Nicoll.  She was born in France but now lives permanently in New Jersey with her family. Nadege also writes a daily blog for moms who need to smile at everyday life. She can be found on Twitter, Facebook and her website www.nadegenicoll.com.

Image creation by author.

Nadege Nicoll

Nadege Nicoll was born in France but now lives permanently in New Jersey with her family. She stopped working in the corporate world to raise her three children and multiple pets, thus secretly gathering material for her books. She writes humorous fictions for kids aged 8 to 12. She published her first chapter book, “Living with Grown-Ups: Raising Parents” in March 2013. Her second volume in the series just came out in October 2013. “Living with Grown-Ups: Duties and Responsibilities” Both books take an amusing look at parents’ inconsistent behaviors, seen from the perspective of kids. Nadege hopes that with her work, children will embrace reading and adults will re-discover the children side of parenthood. Nadege has a few more volumes ready to print, so watch this space…

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GUEST POST: NIGERIA – #BringBackOurGirls

GUEST POST: NIGERIA – #BringBackOurGirls

BringBackOurGilrsMy daughter said she was going to go to school so that she can wipe away my tears. How is she wiping my tears away in the den of the terrorists?”

-mother of one of the #ChibokGirls, abducted on April 14th, 2014, speaking on Day 188 of their abduction -October 19th, 2014

As I looked at her I realized that all this woman’s hopes and aspirations rest on her daughter. For most of the poor people in this part of the world, children are like a source of pension; they are the ones that will help you in the future. They are the ones that will take care of you in your old age, when you are unable to look after yourself. They represent life. As I looked at her I also realized that her daughter means more to her than I can ever imagine. Her daughter is her everything. A source of hope.

These parents are ready to give their lives for their children to have an education. That was what the #ChibokParents did. Amidst the insecurity in Nigeria, they still wanted their children to be educated to better their positions in life. They knew the only way to break the shackles of poverty was through education. For daring to send their children to school to have a better life, instead they have been punished.

These children grow up to not only take care of their parents but siblings as well so that a generation of people who have survived the shackles of poverty would emerge.

For some, poverty is going to school in the morning without breakfast and returning home not expecting lunch but still striving everyday to be in school so that one day you will look back and say I SURVIVED (I AM A SURVIVOR).

I remember  one of the fathers at one of our Sit Ins for the #BringbackOurGirls campaign—which started on April 30th with a protest demanding for the rescue of #ChibokGirls—saying he does not have a Television. All he has is a Radio from which he gets to hear of our activities. I wept! In this day of iPads, Tablets, iPhones and what have you, someone does not have a simple television that most of us take for granted.

So now you can begin to understand that to the #ChibokParents these girls are much more than daughters, they are future benefactors

A lot of parents, especially mothers, are forced to live a life of servitude and poverty in order for their children to be educated. The education that is taken for granted in most developed countries is not so in Nigeria and many other African countries.

I remember growing up and how my parents had to struggle to make sure we were educated. We often had to go without food when the situation grew dire but never were my school fees unpaid. I remember my father trekking long distance to buy a textbook I needed badly because the money was not enough for him to pay for a bus. All the suffering was for the children to be able to break the vicious cycle of poverty and one day to be able to take care of ourselves and also take care of our parents and siblings.

A lot of parents invest all they have in their children. For those who are poor, they do not have cars, houses or any investments. All they have are their children. Can you imagine these children being abducted, as is the case with the #ChibokGirls, abducted from school, where they wanted to get an education and make life better for themselves and their families? When these children of the poor are abducted and taken away, the future of a whole generation also is  taken away.

As I looked at the woman with tears streaming down her face, all I could see was my own mum, who had to be the head-of-household, who worked all day and night to ensure I had an education. I look back to the days when there was no food to be eaten and yet we found our way to school. I thought of what a burden it must have been for my parents to get us educated, to sacrifice all that they had.

While some of my parent’s contemporaries were busy enjoying life in the way they could with what they had, my parents tightened their belt to make sure that we, their children, had an education and of course today we are their pension. If any of us had been abducted while seeking an education, where would we be today?

As I stood watching the Chibok mother, all I could think about was my mother struggling to give her children the life she did not have and how hard she worked to provide that for us. I thought of my mother, now living in the lap of luxury because she worked so hard four sake. As I stood looking at the Chibok Mother, I realized she too must be allowed to break the shackles of poverty. She too must live in comfort, as her daughter promised her. Her tears must be wiped away. As I stood looking at her I realized that I cannot stop demanding for the rescue of the #ChibokGirls, for that Chibok mother who has given her all, hoping that one day her tears would be wiped away.

I realized that I must demand the rescue of the Chibok girls.We all must.

Demanding the safe return of the Chibok girls to me is like making a demand for the ME that was 23 years ago. As I stood I realized that no matter how hard it gets, no matter how much we are intimidated and harassed, no matter the threat of arrest from our government, I cannot afford to give up on the #ChibokGirls.

To give up on the #ChibokGirls is to give up on myself (the WHO that I have become) and to give up on the mother with tears streaming down her face, waiting for her daughter, who promised to wipe away her tears.

This is an original, Guest Post for World Moms Blog from our sister in Nigeria and mother of two, Aisha Yesufu.

Aisha Yesufu was born in Kano, Nigeria. When she turned 40, in December 2013, she decided it was time to devote her life fully to the services of others. As she describes it,

‘The first 40 years of my life I devoted to myself, so I could be financially independent and help others.  But they say: you can’t help the poor by being poor yourself, so the next 40 years, God willing, I am going to devote to others; for me, a full life will be based on what positive differences I have made in the life of another.”

And in came the unfortunate tragedy of the abduction of the #ChibokGirls. Following their abduction, on April 14th  2014, Aisha joined a group of like minded people to demand the rescue of  the 219 school girls, who still today remain in the hands of the terrorists. These girls, between the ages of 16 to 18, were abducted from their school, in their quest for knowledge. The group known as the #Bring Back Our Girls campaign has been able to push the issue of their rescue in public discussion both locally and internationally.

Aisha is the coordinator of the daily Sit In for the #BringBackOurGirls campaign group.  The group has, without fail, come out daily since the 30th of April, 2014, despite all forms of intimidations and harassment by sponsored persons.

To get involved in the conversation and learn more about the plight of the 219 Nigerian School Girls, visit: #BringBackOurGilrs

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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ISRAEL:  Don’t Let Evil Win

ISRAEL: Don’t Let Evil Win

EyalGiladNaftali

I’m writing this with tears streaming down my face. What everyone in Israel has been hoping never to hear, has happened. The three teenage boys who were kidnapped 18 days ago on their way home from school were found dead, buried together.

18 days of heartbreak, of feeling helpless, of hope and of unity. 18 days that have ended with the tragedy that we have all feared. During the past 18 days we saw so many glimpses of goodness and unity and support. 18 agonizing days and it’s so ironic because in Judaism, 18 is synonymous with life. In this case, it’s three lives that were brutally ended.

Tears are pouring freely. There is almost nothing on my Facebook wall this moment except an outpouring of grief and sadness. The whole country is in a state of mourning. From little children who have been following the news and saying psalms daily, to teens, to the elderly. We all have broken hearts and can’t even begin to fathom how Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali’s parents’ and families are breathing, let alone coping.

I wonder why there is evil in the world. I wonder how we can live in a world so full of evil and hate. I wonder why it is that so often we don’t see or appreciate all the goodness until something evil or awful happens. Do we need the evil in our world in order to appreciate the goodness? I hope not.

My heart is breaking and I am begging each and every one of you to make this world a better place. Be kind, do good and don’t turn a blind eye to evil.

May the memories of Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel be of blessed memory. May they rest in peace and guide us in our quest to make this world a better place.

 

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our contributor, Susie Newday in Israel. You can find her on her blog New Day New Lesson.

Photo courtesy of #BringBackOurBoys

Susie Newday (Israel)

Susie Newday is a happily-married American-born Israeli mother of five. She is an oncology nurse, blogger and avid amateur photographer. Most importantly, Susie is a happily married mother of five amazing kids from age 8-24 and soon to be a mother in law. (Which also makes her a chef, maid, tutor, chauffeur, launderer...) Susie's blog, New Day, New Lesson, is her attempt to help others and herself view the lessons life hands all of us in a positive light. She will also be the first to admit that blogging is great free therapy as well. Susie's hope for the world? Increasing kindness, tolerance and love. You can also follow her Facebook page New Day, New Lesson where she posts her unique photos with quotes as well as gift ideas.

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BELGIUM:  Lottery

BELGIUM: Lottery

Lottery_K10KI’m going to ask you all to journey with me into an imaginary world. A parallel universe if you will. This world bears some similarity with the one of H.G Wells’ Eloi from his book The Time Machine. And possibly something from Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games as well.

It’s a nice world to live in, really. You are relatively happy there. You get to spend a great deal of time with your child and you generally feel fulfilled. There is this small matter of the alien usurpers that govern the world but in daily life, you don’t even notice them. Afterall, they did manage to rule out world hunger and poverty, so at times you are even grateful to them.

Every once in a while, however, the aliens impose their Lottery. It is a constant little threat that buzzes at a corner of your head. The Lottery picks out subjects at random, which are then summoned to the alien High Office. No one really knows what happens there but everyone agrees it’s nasty. Sometimes the subjects are adults, sometimes children. Even babies don’t escape the Lottery. But it has never happened to you or anyone you know. So, you are quite comfortable and don’t even mind following the Lottery outcomes.

Until that fatal Lottery Day. You don’t even know your child’s name is picked until you see his hypodermal chip changing colour. At first you try to deny it. It has to be a play of the light. A mistake, maybe.  But then it is on the news as well. Your son is the new subject and he hasn’t come in yet like he should have. The aliens are coming for him.

Being accustomed to human habits, they allow you to go with him, although they advise against it. Of course you go. All parents do, the aliens say. Humans never listen to reason.

In the following weeks, your child is poked around. Needles, infusions and pills. He has to swallow big magnet-like sensors and gets extra chips. Wires go in and out. He is brave and endures. You can see his anxiety, but you assure him it should be over soon. That’s what they tell you anyway.

Then the pain comes. And his screams. Oh, his screams. You kiss his forehead, telling him to hold on. The aliens don’t give in to your pleas to stop. To please stop.

The pain comes and goes. In between, he is exhausted, but brave, still. You believe he is so much braver than you are.

One day, the aliens take you aside for a little talk. They inform you your child isn’t going to be one of those subjects that gets to go home after a memory wipe. Their studies show he actually is an excellent subject for their experiments. He is quite special. He is going to stay at the High Office forever. As long as his little body can endure anyway.

It’s your time to scream now. Your legs give in. You beg them to take you instead. There must be some similarities between the both of you, you plea. Maybe you would make an even better subject. You might be able to endure longer than your precious little boy.

Of course they don’t give in. That was not how the Lottery works. It’s your child they want.

So, day in, day out, you watch your child suffer. When you can’t bear looking, you still hear him anyway.

One day, the pain is exceptionally hard to cope with. Out of breath, your child tells you again he can’t do it anymore. He doesn’t even care for going home anymore. He just wants it all to stop.

For the first time you can’t find the strength to tell him to hold on. Why would he? The door is locked and guarded. And the aliens seem more thrilled with their results every day.

They will never let him go now.

This is why in Belgium, as of February 2014, euthanasia for minors was legalized.

We don’t have aliens here (yet) but we do have children suffering from terminal illness. Children with no other perspective in life than death.

Some are born into it; others see their life changing overnight. Some are in constant, barely sedated, pain; others are sitting out their time. Some have a clear will about what they want from life; others only know the difference between comfort and discomfort. Some will want to live; others will want to die.

I don’t expect you all to fully agree with this law. I do understand there are various objections, moral and religious. I do realize there are fears of misjudgement, or even misuse.

But for me, I’m mostly relieved and confident.

Relieved these children will now be able to make the most important decision of their lives. Confident they will be able to make the right choice with the support of their parents and doctors. They have my support too. 

How about you? Would you be able to support a child or a parent on such decision? Are there laws for or against euthanasia for minors in your part of the world?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post is credited to the author.

Katinka

If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

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AUSTRALIA: Who Will Protect Them?

AUSTRALIA: Who Will Protect Them?

As parents I’ve always believed that all of us want our children to achieve their full potential and to do amazing things with their lives, we also never want for them to be fearful of anything, real or imagined.

But what happens when a child’s fear is not imagined and is in fact very real. When the one thing they’re most fearful of is the person who they should be able to trust the most?

A story in the news this week in Adelaide has parents—actually not just parents but every living, breathing individual—up in arms over the treatment of a four-year-old little girl in 2012, who died as a result of the cruel treatment dished out by her mother and her boyfriend.

As the story is told, they put this little girl on a 50kg motorbike and over a period of three days made her ride it around the backyard while they videotaped it for their own enjoyment. Despite her terror and numerous crashes, they kept picking her up and putting her back on.

A final crash into a tree at almost 40km/h caused serious injury and despite complaining of her injuries when they put her to bed they did nothing. The following day she slipped into unconsciousness and they waited a further eight hours before seeking help, turning instead to Google for answers about what to do when someone is unconscious. She died as a result of them not seeking medical assistance.

There are many more facts, there’s much more to the story and there’s also a history of social welfare intervention—but nobody actually stepped in and took this child away from her mother, nobody in fact did anything to save her despite their knowledge that things weren’t quite right.

This week, the mother and her boyfriend were both sentenced, with the mother receiving an eight-year prison sentence with a non-parole period of just under five years. That’s a measly year in prison for every year her child was alive.

It’s a pitiful and sad sentence but sadly I think it’s also indicative of the ‘hands off’ society that we’re now living in.

I understand that in this day and age we don’t want to get involved, we mind our own business and we look after our own. But I also think it’s a sad state of affairs when, as individuals, we shy away from getting involved when an innocent and trusting little girl is left in the clutches of such disturbed people.

I also think it’s a travesty of mammoth proportions that with all our laws and child protection agencies that nobody saved this little girl.

I know bad things happen to small children and it makes my stomach churn each and every time I hear about one of them. Little Chloe Valentine was just one of many, who as a society we all failed to protect. (Please be aware that I have not linked to any of the footage or the story as I find it too upsetting to watch or read about)

No I didn’t know her personally but as a parent who cherishes her own children and grandchildren it makes me sick to even hear about it. I will stand up and get involved when something is going on around me which I know to be wrong. These children are our future and just because they don’t have a voice doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it.

As a result of this case, Adelaide will see a total overhaul of child protection laws with an inquest into the failure of social welfare to intervene. For little Chloe, it’s a case of too-little-too-late, but one can only hope that we can all learn from this and prevent this kind of thing ever happening again.

I know that sometimes we should stay out of things which aren’t our business but in this case would you have gotten involved?

This is an original World Moms Blog post by Fiona from Inspiration to Dream of Adelaide, South Australia.

The image used in this post is credited to .craig. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Fiona Biedermann (Australia)

Fiona at Inspiration to Dream is a married mother of three amazing and talented MM’s (mere males, as she lovingly calls them) aged 13, 16 and 22, and she became a nana in 2011! She believes she’s more daunted by becoming a nana than she was about becoming a mother! This Aussie mother figures she will also be a relatively young nana and she’s not sure that she’s really ready for it yet, but then she asks, are we ever really ready for it? Motherhood or Nanahood. (Not really sure that’s a word, but she says it works for her.) Fiona likes to think of herself as honest and forthright and is generally not afraid to speak her mind, which she says sometimes gets her into trouble, but hey, it makes life interesting. She’s hoping to share with you her trials of being a working mother to three adventurous boys, the wife of a Mr Fix-it who is definitely a man’s man and not one of the ‘sensitive new age guy’ generation, as well as, providing her thoughts and views on making her way in the world. Since discovering that she’s the first blogger joining the team from Australia, she also plans to provide a little insight into the ‘Aussie’ life, as well. Additionally, Fiona can be found on her personal blog at Inspiration to Dream.

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