This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Women's Empowerment and Maternal Mortality

Although child marriages are illegal in India, they happen anyway. BBC News reported today on the highly unusual circumstance of a teenager having her child marriage annulled, of course against her parents' wishes! This lack of respect for the wishes of girls and women undermines all aspects of a woman's life in many countries in the world, and is at the heart of high levels of maternal mortality. This was a point made in particular by the Director of Maternal and Child Health in Rwanda's Health Ministry. The presentation was one of several made earlier this week at a standing-room-only event in Washington DC--"Learning From Success: Ministers of Health Discuss Accelerating Progress in Maternal Survival." My thanks to Debbie Fugate, who attended the meeting and alerted me to the online resources made available for all to share, including a video of the meeting and downloadable Powerpoint presentations. Here is the setup for the meeting:

Progress towards Millennium Development Goal Five – reduce maternal deaths by three-quarters worldwide – has been the slowest of any, according to the United Nations. Maternal deaths are declining, but not fast enough: every year 350,000 women often die due to preventable causes during childbirth. Greater political willpower is needed if the global maternal health agenda is to move forward.
This discussion will feature the Ministers of Health of Afghanistan, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Rwanda – countries where there has been tremendous progress in the face of challenge – on the drivers of successful maternal health programs and how such efforts can be accelerated and sustained throughout the developing world.
Declining fertility is a key to lowering maternal mortality, as is an increase in the number of births that occur in hospitals with trained attendants. But underlying these issues is the status of women, which is a cultural, not a medical issue. When women are thought of more as family property than as individuals in their own right, their well-being is not perceived to be as big an issue as it should be. But can we just sit back and expect culture to change? As several presenters point out, the key is education. The better educated an entire society is--men and women--the better protected will be everyone's health. I know, I know--college professors are expected to say something like that, but it is true.

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