I'm embarrassed to say that it took me putting my own feet on the soil in Kenya to begin to understand the great needs regarding maternal health on our globe. New friend Jenny Dyer draws our attention to the cause and offers practical steps we can take to make a difference.
Using Your Voice to Help Destine in Haiti
By Jenny Eaton Dyer, PhD
As women, sometimes we can be consumed with the needs of all the people right before us in our homes and communities. Yet, there is a longing in each of us to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We experience empathy and concern for others, our neighbors, both near and far.
Last year I met Destine Ebony, a twenty-eight-year old mother (pictured above). Destine lives in Marmont, Haiti, on the central plateau, in a one-room clapboard house with her husband and four children. She retrieves clean water daily from a well up her road, and she grows beans and okra for her family. If you ask Destine what she wants most for her family and herself, she talks about daily needs and also expresses her deep gratitude for a local health clinic.
Destine lives about a quarter mile from a local maternal clinic, run by Project Medishare, where she gets primary care for her children when sick. For herself, she receives education about maternal health and contraceptives to prevent any further growth of her family. Destine recognizes that one more child would be too much; already she struggles to adequately feed, clothe and educate her precious children. Every day she stresses about caring for them properly.
Aid from the U.S. government is a key source of funding and supplies for Project Medishare's clinic. With a small investment of tax dollars, Destine and her family have access to the healthcare they need to survive, and hopefully one day thrive by escaping extreme poverty.
Many of us are moved by women like Destine. Advocacy is a way to put our empathic concern into action at the root of the poverty causing Destine and others like her to suffer. You can advocate.
What is Advocacy?
Simply put, to advocate is to speak up on behalf of those whose voices may not be heard, to ask for the help they need to access basic supports to human health and flourishing: nutrition, healthcare, clean water, and education.
More than half of all Americans believe that we spend approximately 25% of the U.S. budget on foreign assistance. They recommend that we tithe, or offer 10%. We do neither. Our U.S. budget allows for less than 1% of our American tax dollars to be allocated to the International Affairs Budget, which provides the funding for caring for women like Destine. And right now, the President's proposed budget for next year includes cuts of more than 30%. A cut in foreign assistance will direcly impact the lives of millions of people around the world who live in extreme poverty.
Currently, in our generation, we have made great progress moving people out of extreme poverty. We have also cut in half the number of child deaths, maternal deaths (from pregnancy or child birth), malaria and tuberculosis deaths. And, we've cut back HIV/AIDS deaths by 30%. This is all from that tiny sliver of funding representing less than 1% of the budget.
As we consider how to respond to women in poverty around the world - we want to act out of faith. There are many worthwhile actions - one of which is using our powerful voices on behalf of those who have little voice. For mothers like Destine. To offer hope to her children.
Jenny Eaton Dyer, PhD is the executive director of Hope through Healing Hands, a humanitarian organization founded and chaired by Senator Bill Frist, MD. She directs their Faith-based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide.
For specific steps on how you can use your voice in advocacy for families around the world, go to the Hope through Healing Hands website. Your voice can make a difference!