WORLD INTERVIEW: Erin Thornton, Executive Director of Every Mother Counts

WORLD INTERVIEW: Erin Thornton, Executive Director of Every Mother Counts

erin-thornton_executive-directorEvery mother has the right to access the care they need during pregnancy and childbirth – care that can identify, prevent, and manage complications should they arise. But failure to meet these needs results in the loss of 800 mothers every day, even though up to 98% of these deaths are preventable. 

 Every Mother Counts is working to provide solutions that can make pregnancy and childbirth safer. We know that with the right care at the right time, it IS possible that every mother could have the chance to survive and thrive.

Recently, World Moms Blog sat down with Executive Director of Every Mother Counts, Erin Thornton, to talk about how she got involved with the organization and what drives her to work so hard for maternal health.

World Moms Blog: Erin, you’re the mother of three young girls and you live in the metro-Boston area yet you are the executive director of Every Mother Counts, a New York-based non-profit working in five locations around the world. How did you get involved?

Erin Thornton: My involvement with Every Mother Counts grew out of a 10-day trip to Africa with my former organization, ONE. We had invited  Christy Turlington Burns along and she and I got chatting about maternal health. Maternal health was not an issue ONE focused on and I was really drawn to what Christy was telling me about.

WMB: What about maternal health drew you in?

ET: Well, Christy had just completed the film, “No Woman, No Cry” a documentary about maternal health challenges that impact the lives of millions of girls and women around the world. During our  trip through five African countries, Christy and I spent a lot of time comparing notes on what was needed to move the maternal health agenda forward. Through all my time at ONE, I realized how interlinked so many poverty challenges are to maternal health—that if moms are kept alive, we can better keep kids alive, better give them an education and clean water, etc. Yet still no one was really talking about it.

WMB: What prompted you to leave behind a long career with ONE and join Christy in her pursuit of spreading maternal health awareness as she built this new non-profit?

ET: I had been with ONE since 2002, when I became the first hire in the US for ONE’s predecessor organization, DATA. By 2010, ONE had grown to 120 people in four different global offices. I had two young girls and I was starting to think about making a change. The more Christy and I talked about the need for an “awareness campaign” for maternal health, the more I realized I wanted to be a part of it too, so six-months later, I formally signed on to help her build the organization.

WMB:  In just a few days (May 10), we celebrate Mother’s Day here in the US, can you share with World Moms something about what makes you a passionate believer in Every Mother Counts?

ET: Physiologically, every woman goes through pregnancy the same way and faces the same chances of developing a complication. The difference in how they fare mainly comes down to whether they have access to good health care- or not. Helping more moms enjoy a safe pregnancy and delivery may sound like an overwhelming challenge but we really CAN make a difference. EMC has identified three target areas to focus our support on: 1. transport, 2. education and training for healthcare providers, and 3. supplies for clinics–including birth kits, solar suitcases and lighting. And we’re seeing that these seemingly simple things are making a big difference.

This Mother’s Day, Every Mother Counts is celebrating #WhatIsPossible for every mother.

Every mother has the right to access the care they need during pregnancy and childbirth – care that can identify, prevent, and manage complications should they arise. But failure to meet these needs results in the loss of 800 mothers every day, even though up to 98% of these deaths are preventable.

Every Mother Counts is working to provide solutions that can make pregnancy and childbirth safer. We know that with the right care at the right time, it IS possible that every mother could have the chance to survive and thrive.

So this Mother’s Day, as we look at the future of maternal health, we ask ourselves #WhatIsPossible? And the answer is, a lot.

With your help, Every Mother Counts has already impacted thousands of lives by improving access to critical maternal health care for vulnerable mothers.

During the month of May, we invite you to spread the good news about #WhatIsPossible by sharing this film.

This is an original interview with Erin Thornton posted by World Moms Blog Managing Editor, Kyla P’an.

The image used in this post is from the Every Mother Counts website and is used here with permission.

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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INDONESIA:  Explaining Poverty to Your Child

INDONESIA: Explaining Poverty to Your Child

povertytrainWhen it was time for my son to start school, I knew I wanted him to go to private school and thankfully, he was accepted into one of the international schools near our house.

Private school has its pluses and unfortunately its negatives too.

My son’s classmates are from the upper-middle class, those whose spring breaks were spent going to Japan or Hong Kong to visit Disney Land. The same kids who also have their own iPads and the latest cell phones.

I realized this might cause a challenge for us—with me being a single mom, who had just recently returned to the corporate world—but I try  not to let their different lifestyles make my son feel that he’s different.

So that’s why, on Easter weekend, I took him on a mini-getaway to my new job.

We did not take a taxi to get to my office, which is in a hotel. Instead, we rode the train like I do daily. I wanted to show him this is what his mother has to do to get to and from work. He got to see views that he won’t see from inside a nice air conditioned taxi or private car.

He loved staying in the hotel, just like most kids do, so we had a blast. But on our way home Sunday afternoon, the train was full. Not as full as it normally would be on a week day, still, we had to stand. We were leaning against the wall that separates the engine and the passengers. With the train swaying, it didn’t take long before my son told me he wished he could sit down.

Part of my mama bear instinct wanted to give him a seat but part of my tough love was to allow him to feel and experience how not everyone is blessed with a comfortable life.

I hope by showing him what I have to go through on a daily basis it will help him realize that I am working hard, that as the sole bread winner, I am providing for him. Yes, his father pays for school but outside of that, he is my responsibility and I’m doing my best to take care of him.

Yes, I told him I would love to be able to take him to Disney Land someday but for now, we have other priorities. Bills to pay, medicines to get for my parents, uniforms to alter, the list goes on.

Through our short train ride, my son was exposed to life “outside the fence”. What he saw through the windows of the train: makeshift shacks, houses built only inches away from the train tracks, kids playing soccer barefooted with garbage piling up around them. Hard life. The other side of glamorous Jakarta living.

We discuss this. He asked me why these people are living in such poor conditions. My heart ached having to explain that some people are not as fortunate as we are and that poverty is real.

We have a house to live in, a roof over our heads, while others came to the big city to chase their dreams and never made it. That’s why it is important for him to get his education so he can make a living for himself, one that hopefully he will love. I told him it is easy to look up and want what other people have but we need to be in the now, to be grateful for what we already have. To remember that there are those who need our help, who are struggling just to eat.

My wish is for my son to understand this, to grow up being grateful for what we have and to have a heart that is kind and willing to help others.

How do you explain poverty to your children?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer and single-mom to one in Jakarta, Tatter Scoops.

The image used in this post is attributed to Hideki Yoshida. It carries a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.


Founder of Single Moms Indonesia, community leader and builder. Deeply passionate about women empowerment.

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Washington, USA: To The Mom With The Screaming Kids On Our Flight

Washington, USA: To The Mom With The Screaming Kids On Our Flight

6783510421_ba1c0c4d2b_oIt was the final leg of our most recent trip. It should have been a 5 ½ hour direct flight, but due to weather delays, it ended up being 8 hours inside a plane. My husband and I were traveling with our sons, ages 8 and 4, and we were seated on opposite sides of the same row. I was seated with my 4 year old and an older woman. In front of us was a family: mom, dad, 4 year old boy, and a girl approximately 15 months old on the mom’s lap. It was an evening flight, and the kids in front of me were in pj’s, clearly indicating the parents’ hope that they would fall asleep upon take off. Things couldn’t have gone more differently. (more…)

Tara Bergman (USA)

Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Network!

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INDONESIA: Beating the Traffic

INDONESIA: Beating the Traffic

Photo Credit: CIFOR via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: CIFOR via Compfight cc

If you are new to Jakarta, macet – or traffic jam – is one of the first Indonesian terms you will learn. Jakarta traffic is notoriously bad and affects every aspect of life in the Big Durian.  It determines where you live, shop, work, go to school – and how much you can do in a day.

With a metropolitan population of 28 million people and no rapid transit system, Jakarta is plagued with major transportation issues. Every day more than 13 million cars, trucks, buses and motorbikes hit the city’s flood-prone roads. With traffic speeds averaging below 20 kph and thousands of new vehicles joining the gridlocked throngs every day – it’s a recipe for constant congestion and frustration.

Although it is impossible to completely avoid traffic, I am lucky in many ways. With the exception of the school run, most of my daily life takes place within our local neighborhood:  my office, gym, shops, restaurants, friends and activities are all within 15 minutes from home. This makes things infinitely easier.

Since my husband bikes to work (yes, really!), I have free access to our car. And like most people I know, we have a driver, which is fortunate since I wouldn’t dream of attemping to drive here.

Jakarta driving is not for the faint-hearted. Traffic rules (and lanes) are mostly suggestions, driving strategies are creative, a buffer of a few inches between cars is considered normal, and motorcycles are everywhere. Despite it all, there is a remarkably zen approach to driving here, with little road rage and relatively few accidents. (more…)

Shaula Bellour (Indonesia)

Shaula Bellour grew up in Redmond, Washington. She now lives in Jakarta, Indonesia with her British husband and 9-year old boy/girl twins. She has degrees in International Relations and Gender and Development and works as a consultant for the UN and non-governmental organizations. Shaula has lived and worked in the US, France, England, Kenya, Eritrea, Kosovo, Lebanon and Timor-Leste. She began writing for World Moms Network in 2010. She plans to eventually find her way back to the Pacific Northwest one day, but until then she’s enjoying living in the big wide world with her family.

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SAUDI ARABIA: For Some Women, Not Driving Is A Paralyzing Issue

SAUDI ARABIA: For Some Women, Not Driving Is A Paralyzing Issue

2345068252_a4f24a3901We always talk about “first world problems,” and, I, most of the time, complain about women not being able to drive in Saudi Arabia in the “first world problem” sense. “My driver is late!” or “It’s too hot in the car. I wish he’d switch on the AC before I get in” or “Why does it take so long for my driver to answer his phone!”

It’s easy for me to forget that for the majority of women in Saudi, it is very much a paralyzing issue. As I was leaving Saudi last week, I was in the airport lounge, and one of the women working there was having a private conversation on her mobile which got progressively louder. She kept saying, “Swear he’s ok! Why can’t I talk to him?”

After she hung up she said to me, “My son has had an accident!” I asked if he was ok. She told me she didn’t know and that someone at the scene had called her and told her about it, but they wouldn’t give him the phone and wouldn’t give her details. I asked why she didn’t just go to him, and she told me she couldn’t.

“Surely your supervisor wouldn’t have a problem with you leaving early to go there!” I said.

“I don’t have any way of getting there!”, she said. “My son is usually my driver. I don’t have brothers, and I’m divorced.”

And that’s the simple truth. Her son was on a street somewhere, in God knows what state ,and she was stuck at work. She eventually took a cab and declined the offer to use my car.

I always dread talking about women driving in Saudi because it’s been talked to death, and there’s nothing to discuss, really, since the fact that women should be allowed to drive is such an obvious one. It’s like discussing if women should be allowed to work… or walk even. Not driving means different things to different people. To me, it’s something I don’t think about on a day-to-day basis, unless we have a driver crisis. But even then, I rely on my mother’s, sister’s or brother’s driver to get me where I need to go, and I have never been stranded at home or elsewhere because of it. I forget that this is not the case for everyone.

Yes, some of my friends can’t do lunches on certain days because of the driver issues (lack of reliable ones or lack of ones all together), so when their husbands work they have to stay home. While many, many Saudi families have a driver working for them, not all of them do. And honestly, who cares if I can’t get to my family visit on time or to the shops before they close, when this mother couldn’t get to her son, who I pray was not badly injured in this accident.

And if, God forbid, he was badly injured, or worse, and he is her only “mahram” (male guardian), then she effectively has to put her life on hold till he gets better. And if it’s not a “getting better” situation, then she is stuck. Driving will be only one of her problems.

We do have taxis, which are generally decent, but many women don’t like to use them or the men in their lives don’t like them to. Which is all fine and dandy if these men are willing to be their wives’ personal chauffeurs, but if they refuse, then the women are stuck. But they do sometimes say “no,” and their wives, sisters, daughters comply. I have never really asked my husband how he would feel about me riding a taxi, since there never was a need to before, but I know that even if he didn’t want me to ride one, for what ever reason, he would never tell me I couldn’t.

Work has already begun on the metro system in Riyadh, and I am assuming that it will have a similar set up to Dubai, where there is a women’s tram. (Although in Dubai it is optional to go on that tram.) It will be interesting to see what we end up with, but is public transportation the answer to this problem? No.

Women being allowed to drive is a change that has to happen. It’s going to happen. I can guarantee that, but when? And the assumption that this is a governmental decision is totally wrong as the government is doing what the majority of the population wants.

When the subject of women driving is raised, it is always surprising how many people are against it. Women included. When they decided to introduce girls’ schools, the community also spoke out against it and were fearful and pessimistic. But the government just made the change, and the people got used to it.  Now more than half the college graduates in Saudi are women! So, I hope we just rip the band-aid off.

And maybe the people will come around eventually and want this change, but how long do we want to wait? So many changes have come into our country, culture and environment that people are afraid to open up anymore, but there will be no progress without it.

Maybe I am wrong though. Maybe the views have changed, but the loudest voices are still of those who are against this. In Saudi the moderate voice is the one that talks at home among friends but doesn’t really rock the boat. The extreme views tend to be loud and very well organised.

A little side note to mention is there is no law against women driving. But there is a law against driving without a license, and women can’t get their licenses in Saudi.

It should just be done! Just as the 30 women were elected into the shours counsil by royal decree one morning, this change can happen too. It would, by no means, be mandatory, and whoever doesn’t want to drive, doesn’t have to. But for the women who are paralyzed, stuck and unable to get to their sons when they are hurt, a key to a car is not much to ask.

Do you agree with me that sometimes making unpopular decisions that will better your country is ok? Or is the government’s duty? Or do you think what the people want is more important? 

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mama B from Saudi Arabia. She can be found writing at her blog, Ya Maamaa.
Photo credit to hhdoan who holds a Creative Commons Attribution license. 

Mama B (Saudi Arabia)

Mama B’s a young mother of four beautiful children who leave her speechless in both, good ways and bad. She has been married for 9 years and has lived in London twice in her life. The first time was before marriage (for 4 years) and then again after marriage and kid number 2 (for almost 2 years). She is settled now in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (or as settled as one can be while renovating a house). Mama B loves writing and has been doing it since she could pick up a crayon. Then, for reasons beyond her comprehension, she did not study to become a writer, but instead took graphic design courses. Mama B writes about the challenges of raising children in this world, as it is, who are happy, confident, self reliant and productive without driving them (or herself) insane in the process. Mama B also sheds some light on the life of Saudi, Muslim children but does not claim to be the voice of all mothers or children in Saudi. Just her little "tribe." She has a huge, beautiful, loving family of brothers and sisters that make her feel like she wants to give her kids a huge, loving family of brothers and sisters, but then is snapped out of it by one of her three monkeys screaming “Ya Maamaa” (Ya being the arabic word for ‘hey’). You can find Mama B writing at her blog, Ya Maamaa . She's also on Twitter @YaMaamaa.

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CANADA: Are Strollers Really Convenient?

There’s a coffee shop next to my workplace. A mom group  meets up there, and when they are in session, I have to navigate an obstacle course of strollers.

Strollers, strollers, everywhere, and if you look closely you might spot the ten pound baby nestled at the heart of each.

Before I had a baby, I always wondered why women need something the size of a shopping cart to transport a bundle the size of a loaf of bread.

Even more baffling to me were the women who choose to lug their babies around by a car seat handle. When I was in grade eleven, I was given an eight pound “baby think-it-over”, which required tending through day and night. The baby (who I dubbed Jan Sebastian and grew deeply attached to, to the dismay of my Family Studies instructor) also came with a plastic car seat.

Tucked in my arms, Jan Sebastian didn’t weigh much and was easy enough to transport. But when I tried to carry him in that plastic seat, my shoulder started to ache.

It made me wonder what I was missing – why do so many women subject themselves to this? (more…)

Carol (Canada)

Carol from If By Yes has lived in four different Canadian provinces as well as the Caribbean. Now she lives in Vancouver, working a full time job at a vet clinic, training dogs on the side, and raising her son and daughter to be good citizens of the world. Carol is known for wearing inside-out underwear, microwaving yoghurt, killing house plants, over-thinking the mundane, and pointing out grammatical errors in "Twilight". When not trying to wrestle her son down for a nap, Carol loves to read and write. Carol can also be found on her blog, If By Yes, and on Twitter @IfByYesTweets

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