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Our Greatest Gifts to Girls: Maternal Health, Education & Empowerment

Like many first-time moms, when I went into labor last year, I was really scared about how painful the delivery would be and whether anything would go wrong with me or my baby girl. And even now, though Aleena is very healthy, I often double-check to make sure she’s still breathing when she’s asleep.

These fears are real to me, but they seem so trivial compared to the fears that mothers in developing countries face: Will they survive childbirth? Will their babies survive? Will they be able to give them clean water and healthy food? What about medicine if they get sick? Can they afford to send them to school? All of them, or just the boys?

Medical complications from pregnancy is one of the leading causes of death for women around the world. Even in India, which has made great strides in the past generation, the maternal mortality rate is 10 times higher than in the United States, according to the World Health Organization – even worse than in neighboring Bangladesh and Nepal. But there’s hope: When I visited a Kolkata slum a few years ago, I met with a grateful woman and baby who had received proper prenatal care and a safe delivery through Calcutta Kids. Thanks to the funding this nonprofit gets from our Jolkona donors and other supporters, this woman and thousands of others in her community no longer live in fear of dying in childbirth, or that their children won’t live past their fifth birthdays.

Some people argue that supporting efforts to improve maternal and child healthcare in slums and developing countries only exacerbates overpopulation. But, as Melinda Gates noted in the Gates Foundation’s annual letter, the data actually show that when more children survive, women opt to have fewer babies – slowing population growth and improving education and empowerment opportunities per family.

 In addition to health issues, the world’s women and girls continue to lag behind in education and employment. Improving these measures is a win-win-win for the women, their families and their communities. Researchers have confirmed that when women and girls earn money, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families (compared to only 30-40 percent for men) – a ripple effect that can break the cycle of poverty in a single generation.  

Last Day to Give to Girls

These stories and statistics inspire me during Jolkona’s annual Give to Girls campaign, combined with March as Women’s History Month. This year, we focused on crowdfunding in three categories where our growing pool of small donations can have the greatest collective impact: maternal health, education, and empowerment. The 10 projects we chose will each provide proofs for every donation, so that even small donors feel confident that they can make a difference.

It always amazes me how little it costs to make a life-changing difference for young woman. For just $30, we can train a woman farmer in Sudan. For $60, we can educate a girl in Afghanistan for one year. For $160, we can provide prenatal care to a mother in Guatemala.

All it takes is a small donation to change lives – starting with one girl, her family, her village, and the world. We need to invest in the women of tomorrow by giving to girls today.

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