Melinda Gates, Kay Warren, Hillary Clinton, Kim Paisley, Desmond Tutu, Jennifer Nettles among Participants in ‘Raising our Voices for Health and Hope’
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, Jan. 14, 2015 – Politicians, celebrities, pastors and global health advocates have joined forces to collaborate on a powerful new book designed to shine light on the needs of women and children in the developing world for tools to help their families stay healthy and hopeful for a better future.
Scheduled for release from Zondervan in March 2015, The Mother & Child Project: Raising our Voices for Health and Hope, also will include personal stories from women in places like Kenya, India, Uganda and Burundi. They describe how their lives and those of their children are impacted by the ability to plan the timing and spacing of their pregnancies, and by access to pre-natal and post-natal medical care.
The contributors share their perspectives on global efforts to increase access to health services that save lives. Kay Warren writes as a mother who empathizes with the grief of those who have lost children to preventable, treatable causes: “I stand by these millions of women and children in their loss around the world to say that in the midst of mourning, we can choose to do something. We, as Americans, can choose to prevent these deaths with our personal and governmental support for maternal, newborn and child health and healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies in ways that honor God. Our voices can and will make a difference.”
Melinda Gates writes, “[M]y teachers are the women – mothers and wives, daughters and sisters – I meet when I travel to developing countries. The stories they share are rooted in universal values and aspirations that connect all people— the ability to provide for our families and offer our children a better future. My favorite part of my job is talking with these women about what they need to unlock the potential to create that future.”
Attempting to take the politics out of these discussions, The Mother & Child Project includes both Democrats and Republicans on this issue, as well as people from diverse faith communities. Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, notes, “The very words ‘family planning’ light up the limbic centers of American politics. From a distance, it seems like a culture war showdown. Close up, in places such as Bweremana [Democratic Republic of Congo], family planning is undeniably pro-life.”
Many factors contribute to the difficulties that women – including mothers – face in the developing world, but a recurring theme is the cultural mindset that sees women as commodities. “The marriage of adolescent girls, sometimes to much older men, sums up much of the harm, injustice and stolen potential that afflict so many girls around the world,” writes Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a piece co-written with Ela Bhatt of India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association.
To explain the broad-based support among Americans for needs that may seem worlds away, Kimberly Williams Paisley writes about her experiences working with mothers and children in Haiti: “What struck me more than anything was the love I saw between mothers and their children. It moved me because I recognized it. I feel that love for my children. I feel that love for my parents. It’s a simple idea but it was life changing to see it in this group of people who I thought had nothing to do with me and my life. It hit me hard. These people matter.”
Victoria Jennings, director of Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health, describes how family planning – including using fertility awareness methods which are consistent with many women’s cultural norms and values – saves lives. “Studies have shown that allowing women and couples to delay their first birth and space subsequent pregnancies three to five years apart has dramatic effects on the health of the children and the mother, thereby improving the health and wellbeing of the whole family and community,” Jennings notes. “Experts estimate that the use of family planning to space births coupled with adequate pregnancy care could prevent nearly half of newborn deaths and two-thirds of maternal deaths in the developing world.”
The book closes with practical ways attendees can get involved to save lives and see families thrive in the developing world. Many of the contributors are involved with non-profits or ministries working to address maternal, newborn, and child health issues around the world. The project also highlights the positive impact of U.S. government investments in these needs around the world. Readers are asked to share the stories in the book with those around them, to increase awareness about the issues, and then to become advocates for healthy mothers and children.
The Mother & Child Project was compiled by Hope Through Healing Hands’ Faith-based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide, which seeks to galvanize faith leaders across the U.S. on the issues of maternal, newborn and child health in developing countries. Particular emphases include the benefits of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, including the voluntary use of methods for preventing pregnancy, not including abortion, that are harmonious with members’ unifying values and religious beliefs.
Information about members of who have joined the coalition to date, as well as how others can help, is available at http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.org/faith-based-coalition. Endorsements for the coalition are available at http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.org/endorsements.
Hope Through Healing Hands is a Nashville-based 501(C) 3 nonprofit with a mission to promote improved quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace. Senator Bill Frist, M.D., is the founder and chair of the organization, and Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D., is the CEO/Executive Director.
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