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Worldwide there are approximately 80 million unwanted pregnancies each year. Half of those pregnancies end in abortion, and half of those abortions, an estimated 20 million, are unsafe abortions. These unsafe abortions result in nearly 70,000 maternal deaths each year, and tens of thousands of additional complications and injuries.1

In many cases, even where abortion is legal, there are barriers to safe abortion care, such as a shortage of skilled health care providers, a shortage of equipment or medications, the cost of paying for abortion, lack of information, distance to health centers, or stigma around seeking abortion. In developing countries receiving US Foreign assistance, these barriers, particularly shortages in supplies and training, have been exacerbated in the past by the Global Gag Rule and continue to be exacerbated by the Helms Amendment. Read more about these two detrimental pieces of legislation in my previous blog posts about the Global Gag Rule, here, and about the Helms Amendment, here, to find out what you can do about it.

However, in countries where abortion is still illegal, the situation for women is even more dire. Read the rest of this entry »

Hello fellow AIDemocracy followers! I’m AIDemocracy’s new Global Development Intern, Noor Khalidi. I’m very excited to be on board this summer, to be learning more about social justice advocacy, and to be delivering you interesting news and reflections within the field of global development.

A little about myself—I am a junior at Virginia Tech studying Economics and International Studies. I began my college career very devoted to environmental issues, primarily due to a class I took my freshman year which exposed the frightening impact of modern human civilization on our Earth and its resources.

While my passion for environmental issues still burns, I have slowly begun to gravitate towards issues of global development and poverty alleviation. Earlier this summer, I traveled to Nicaragua as part of a Virginia Tech field study to learn more about approaches to sustainable development in poor rural communities–communities without running water and electricity, for example.

During my time in Nicaragua, I lived in two villages with very generous host families in modest adobe mud homes, filled with many chickens and a pig or two if lucky.  Through the international organization Green Empowerment and their local partner AsoFenix, I learned about low-impact sustainable development projects such as greywater filters and solar water pumps.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday I wrote about the Global Gag Rule and its effects on abortion rights and services around the world. What I didn’t write about was the Helms Amendment,  which has been in effect since 1973 – it followed right on the heels of Roe v. Wade as a conservative backlash to the legalization of abortion in the US.  The Helms Amendment prohibits the use of US foreign assistance funds to pay for “abortion as a method of family planning, or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortion.” Although this amendment is slightly less far-reaching than the Gag Rule, it also has a huge detrimental effect on the availability of safe abortion services to women around the world. Currently, approximately 67,000 women worldwide die each year as a result of unsafe abortions, and millions more are seriously injured. Check out this article by IPAS to get a better idea of how the Helms Amendment violates human rights and inhibits other nations’ efforts to provide abortion services in their own countries.

The Helms Amendment is the Foreign Policy equivalent of the Hyde Amendment,  a domestic policy which prohibits federal funding from being used to pay for abortion. Read the rest of this entry »

Post by AIDemocracy member and Global Scholar alum Nisha Patel, Arizona State University.

Lobbyists hold a lot of importance in our society; they’re the ones who carry the people’s voices and catalyze change to happen in legislation (even if they’re restricted to do their job in certain areas of D.C.)! When we were in training for Lobby Day at the CARE Conference, it never occurred to me that as CARE members being trained… we are both constituents AND lobbyists voicing our concern on the global issues of maternal/pre-natal healthcare, preventing child marriage, and food security.

With small groups of people and hard-core training on understanding the issue and talking points, I felt beyond prepared to persuade Senators and Representatives to co-sponsor these bills and take them to the floor for a vote! I never thought me, a college student and lifelong humanitarian, would get the opportunity to lobby in the Dirksen and Hart buildings and be under the same roof as our country’s most influential people.

When the day finally came to lobby, I was extremely anxious. I’m not too sure why because I knew our issues inside and out, and my group was in the same boat as me- first timer lobbyists. Entering into the first office, I knew it was the time to whip out the light bulbs and touching anecdotes. Time to convince Congress how important these issues are to CARE, people in the U.S., and around the world.

Read the rest of this entry »

Post by Giulia McPherson, Advocacy Alliances Manager, CARE USA

As a member of CARE USA’s policy and advocacy staff, I spend a lot of my time speaking with fellow advocates and elected officials about our programs and how the U.S. can impact real change in the developing world. Earlier this month I had the opportunity to see some of these programs first hand and better understand what “global advocacy” really means.

CARE has been in Ecuador since 1962 and implements a variety of maternal health, education and environmental programs. We also place a special focus on advocacy by working in solidarity with social movements, influencing attitudes concerning poverty and injustice, empowering local community organizations to engage in advocacy and bringing communities and elected officials together to address policy issues.

On February 8, I had the pleasure of visiting one particular program near the town of Otavalo in the Andean highlands. CARE Ecuador has been working closely with the Municipal Government of Otavalo, the Ministry of Public Health and the Provincial Department of Indigenous Health to implement an Ecuadorian law called the “Free Maternity and Child Health CARE Act”. Although this law called for universal access to healthcare for all Ecuadorian citizens, many indigenous communities were still experiencing high levels of maternal death. Since the majority of indigenous women give birth at home, several areas of concern were identified including an inability to recognize signs of maternal and neonatal risk, the lack of access to transportation in case of an emergency and the resulting delay in emergency care.

When CARE first began to assess this problem, it became clear that healthcare personnel were overlooking certain issues that were of concern to indigenous women. CARE worked closely with the indigenous community and local and federal government to ensure that pregnant women would feel comfortable delivering their babies in a hospital setting, if necessary.

As a result, CARE worked to implement certain changes in how healthcare was administered:

  • Most indigenous women are accustomed to being surrounded by their families when delivering their babies so CARE helped build a ‘Casa Materna’ (or Maternal House) to house families traveling many miles from remote communities.
  • The hospital now trains traditional midwives so that they are certified to both work in the hospital and preside over home births.
  • CARE worked to ensure that women who give birth at home still have access to emergency care if needed by setting up a radio communication system.
  • A garden was planted so that hospital staff could use medicinal herbs to treat labor symptoms.
  • The hospital now offers several indigenous birthing techniques including vertical birthing rooms.
  • Hospital staffs are now trained to speak the local Quichua language to accommodate women who do not speak Spanish.

This innovative program has since been replicated in other hospitals throughout Ecuador. By working closely with the government and local indigenous communities, CARE was able to influence real change and save the lives of women. As the Hospital Administrator reported during her presentation, there were no maternal deaths in this community in 2009 – and with such a dedicated team of doctors, midwives and community leaders the prospect for healthy women and healthy deliveries remains bright.

What does all this mean for CARE’s global advocacy work? It means that while goals like ending maternal mortality and extreme poverty huge undertakings, sometimes all it takes is small changes to empower a community –and women– to meet their own needs.

To learn more about CARE’s maternal health programs visit http://www.care.org/campaigns/2009/mothersmatters.asp. It’s also not too late to buy tickets to CARE’s International Women’s Day event, Half the Sky LIVE, taking place this Thursday at 7:30 pm EST in theaters nationwide.

Photos:

Presentation by Hospital Director

Casa Materna for families and recovering patients

House with a radio tower

Garden for indigenous medicinal herbs

Medicinal herbs used in birth room


By Patrick McDermott, Legislative Aide (PA Senate) and Activist

Twitter: twitter.com/pdmcdermott

Facebook: facebook.com/pdmcdermott

First things first: my greetings to you, fellow AIDemocracy Bloggers and readers!

Although this is my first time writing for The World InSight, I am not entirely unfamiliar to AIDemocracy. I was an intern for the Peace and Security Program a little over a year ago and look back with fondness on that experience. When I began looking for a way to get back involved in the advocacy/organizing field, because of that positive experience I had with AIDemocracy, I contacted them. As luck would have it, Netroots Nation* was coming up, and with it, my opportunity to get back into the foray of  building awareness and advocacy efforts around issues of global importance. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

After the election of President Obama, there was obviously a sense of euphoria and satisfaction knowing that the countless hours and unyielding resolve that went into electing him to the highest office in the land were not in vain. And although there is still much hope and optimism about what can and should be done, it is now infected with a sense of timidity and cautiousness. Part of the blame is certainly owed to the “townhallers” and their provocateurs (i.e. right-wing media) and financiers who will stop at nothing to ensure the status quo remains in place, for whatever reason. However, the Netroots were quick to point out that part of the blame lay at the President’s feet as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

Want to learn how to get more involved in a cause you care about?

Come to the New Media and Youth Action Conference and learn why your involvement is key to making a difference!

This free, one-day community forum on progressive social issues like health, environment, global and local development, and cultural diplomacy will be taking place September 1, 2009, in New York City. Register at the conference website and connect with other activists, community organizers, and organizations working on youth outreach.

Not in the area? No problem! Join the interactive online community at the event site and start discussions with youth activists across the US and the world. Videos from the conference will be broadcast on the site as well.

Join and share your ideas!

This post is from AID’s Grove City College leader Bethany Egan:

I had the incredible opportunity this week to view two really moving videos that I want to share with you and AID!

The first is called Osama and it is the first movie to be filmed in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime. The movie portrays the hopelessness and despair brought by the regime through the eyes of a young girl, who must be disguised as a boy to keep her family from starving. This is by no means an entertaining film, but it is extremely artistic and presents a strong message. It’s an MGM film, so I don’t know what the issues are with copyrights and whatnot, but its worth looking into.

The second film I wanted to share with you is called Invisible Children. I had the chance to watch this with about 100 Grove City College students today and I cant even express to you the impact it had on my heart and mind. This movie is a rough cut documentary put together by college students who decided to travel with no plan and no money in search of Sudanese refugees. The story they ended up finding and following instead was the plight of Ugandan children who are being abducted and forced to join the rebel army of Northern Uganda.

Forcibly desensitized to death and violence, these children are stripped of their innocence, handed a gun, and turned into 5-12 year-old killing machines. Those who are not abducted are in constant fear that their turn is coming, so they walk for miles into the city to sleep outside in bus areas every night, where they feel “safe.”

As a result of this documentary, there is a whole organization emerging to support the efforts to aid these “invisible children” and the Ugandan people as a whole. They started as a grassroots organization with a bunch of young, motivated, passionate people and have an excellent message to spread to the world, just like Americans for Informed Democracy. I hope that you will be inspired, as I have been, to aid this project in its humanitarian efforts.

Some college students are touring the country to spread awareness of this documentary and the organization that sprang out of it. Tonight they came to my campus, Grove City College. After the showing, I told them about you and about Americans for Informed Democracy and gave them your name and phone number, as well as the AID website. I really believe the entire “Invisible Children” project is in line with AID’s mission and would fit well among the efforts of AID. Please consider backing them in their endeavors in whatever way possible.

This post is from Allynn Lodge.

Today, January 27th, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Yesterday, Americans for Informed Democracy was invited as guests of the Daniel Pearl Foundation to attend a panel discussion at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City in commemoration of this day. The panel featured Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, Ambassador Dan Gillerman, and Dr. Judea Pearl, Professor at the University of California Los Angeles and father of slain reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Pearl.

Although 60 years have passed since the Holocaust, names like Cambodia, Srebrenica, Rwanda, and Darfur remind us that genocide is still a dangerous part of our reality. A cruel species of hatred has persisted for a long time. Indeed, Dr. Pearl opened his speech by drawing a parallel between two hate-based murders that have marked his life. In 1942, he lost his grandparents in Auschwitz. 60 years later, at the hands of different people, with a different language, and a different purpose, Dr. Pearl lost his son. In a dungeon in Karachi, Pakistan, Danny Pearl looked into the face of evil and proclaimed his identity: I am Jewish.

Danny’s last words meant many things, Dr. Pearl suggested. “I am Jewish,” meant, “I come from a place where heritage is strength;” “I understand suffering;” “I respect Islam” “I am reminding you of the challenge of understanding others and of the shining dignity of being different.” His words, Danny’s words, resonated in the large auditorium, figuratively and literally.

After Danny’s death, Dr. Pearl founded the Daniel Pearl Foundation to promote cross-cultural understanding in celebration of Danny’s three passions: journalism, music, and dialogue. Dr. Pearl suggested that we can win the struggle between inclusively and exclusivity, between civilization and barbarity through education, vigilance, timely response, and dialogue.

Who cares? Who listens? Dr. Pearl asked somewhat rhetorically. Our ideas and words, he suggested, reach the ears of young generations who receive the message that threats of genocide are wrong; that hatred is not the norm.

Today, January 27th, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. But let tomorrow, the next day, the day after that, and so on be days of remembrance as well. May we keep our minds and mouths open. Keep the dialogue thriving. Let us respectfully remind each other, as Danny did, of the “challenge of understanding others and the shining dignity of being different.”

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