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Helping Women in Developing Countries

Written By Unknown on Thursday, April 5, 2012 | 2:56 PM

I have applied to volunteer in a developing country, sharing my work of empowerment for women. I realized the first thing I need to do is get my head out of how things work in North America and learn what life is really like in developing countries. My current workshop was going to fall on deaf ears. Most women don't work outside the home, or in the same way women in North America go off to work every day. I needed to understand what the current culture was and adapt my teachings to that. My research open a window of huge discovery for me, one that I was truly not expecting. I discovered that women are still struggling to earn basic rights; rights that we have long taken for granted. I knew this in general terms, but never really looked at the consequences of this lack of equality. This was much bigger than I anticipated. Until now, my focus has been financially empowering women and wage equality, but I realized I had to understand and address total gender equality. So first I had to define total gender equality:

Gender equality means a society in which women and men enjoy the same:

· Access to education

· Rights and obligations in all areas of life

· Distribution of power and influence

· Reproductive health and rights

· Financial independence through work or entrepreneurship

· Opportunity to develop personal ambitions

· Autonomy to manage their own lives

One does not supersede or replace another. Each of these areas must be improved together. Think about when one takes on the desire for personal growth. It is not just in one area that will bring them success - success will come from growing:

· Mentally

· Physically

· Emotionally

· Spiritually

· Financially

In order to achieve total balance, all equalities must work together and become part of society in equal measure.

This article will be the first in a series, highlighting each equality issue on their own. All of them are part of the bigger picture of total equality. But we have to start with the first step. The following is, in my belief, the most crucial. This is where it needs to start. Sadly, I had no idea that the lack of the most basic rights of all was killing hundreds of thousands of women and children. I cannot believe how naive I was, thinking that the issue was simply birth control. I hope this article will in a minuscule way, rectify my lack of understanding and knowledge by bringing awareness to others.

1. Reproductive Health and Rights

Access to essential health supplies could save the lives of millions of women and children every year. Some 215 million vomen currently have an unmet need for family planning in developing countries. If this need were met, it would result in 53 million less unintended pregnancies and approximately 100,000 less maternal deaths every year. In March of 2012, a high-level commission was launched by UNICEF and UNFPA. They state, "The day of birth is the most dangerous day in the life of a woman and her child. The fact that women do not get the care they need during childbirth is the most brutal expression of discrimination against women. To prevent these tragic and unnecessary deaths is not only a humanitarian urgency of highest priority, but a key investment for social and economic development.
In another article, a UN report reveals 500,000 women in developing countries die each year as a result of pregnancy. Women in the world's least developed countries are 300 times more likely to die during childbirth or because of their pregnancy than those in the UK and other similarly developed countries.

The death toll is more than half a million women a year, according to Unicef, the UN children's emergency fund. Some 70,000 who die are girls and young women aged 15 to 19. Although it is the subject of one of the millennium development goals, the death toll is not going down. In the developing world, a woman has a 1-in-76 risk of dying because of pregnancy or childbirth in her lifetime. In developed countries, that risk is only one in 8,000. Deaths of newborns have also received too little attention, the report says. A child born in one of the least developed countries is nearly 14 times more likely to die within the first 28 days of life than one in an industrialised country such as the UK.

The reasons are multiple, according to Unicef`s annual state of the world`s children report on maternal and newborn health. "The root cause may lie in women's disadvantaged position in many countries and cultures and in the lack of attention to, and accountability for, women's rights," it says. "Saving the lives of mothers and their newborns requires more than just medical intervention," said Ann Veneman, Unicef's executive director. "Educating girls is pivotal to improving maternal and neonatal health and also benefits families and societies."

Something we take for granted - the choice to plan our families - does not exist in some of these developing countries. The women are not only denied the medical attention they deserve, but the education to know they deserve it.

Equality for reproductive health and rights is the foundation for future generations. This isn't just about birth control, or women choosing whether to have children or how many; this is about saving lives.

Empowerment begins with knowledge. It moves forward with action. I feel blessed that I can share my expertise and take a small part in the movement of gender equality. And my first step is to gain the knowledge so I can move forward and share.

Please join me and share this.

In the workforce and in society, women have a valuable contribution to make.
Learning to stand up, speak up and ask for what they want, will help them achieve equality in all areas of their life. Learn the skills of negotiation - as a woman - and become empowered.

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