As part of World Moms Blog’s collaboration with BabyCenter’s Mission Motherhood™, our World Moms are writing posts on maternal health around the world. In today’s post, Elizabeth Atalay in the USA writes about the changes to her body during and after birthing and how the experience of birthing has united her to mothers who suffer from obstetric fistula in the developing world.
“Giving birth has a way of connecting women through an awakening of intimate understanding, also known as TMI (too much information)! We share stories with each other about topics previously unspeakable. Hemorrhoids! Incontinence! Milk leaking from breasts! Water breaking in public places! Yikes. The awe of pregnancy and the miracle of our bodies giving birth to new humans are intertwined with the humility it forces upon us like no other experience.”
Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India.
She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post, ONE.org, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls.
Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.
As part of World Moms Blog’s collaboration with BabyCenter’s Mission Motherhood™, our World Moms are writing posts on maternal health around the world. In today’s post, Nicole Melancon in the USA writes about the importance of “Lie and Wait Houses” when it comes to maternal health for women in Ethiopia.
“The Project Mercy Lie and Wait House was about a three hour drive south of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, in the heart of rural Ethiopia. From the outside, the pink-colored concrete building was simple, except for a small sign stating the center’s name. Inside was one large room with two small beds, a white plastic chair and a dirt floor. On the chair, Menesch, aged 40, sat while nursing her three-month old daughter, her eighth child. The baby, like all of her children, had been delivered at home with no trained labor assistant.
Next, on one of the beds laid Menesch’s older daughter…”
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.
This time next week, I’ll be in Ethiopia with my daughter. My Ethiopian daughter. She is six years old, and four of those have been with us. Four years which have been wonderful and rough all at the same time.
Before she was with us, we already spoke about returning to her birth country. Later. When she would be a teenager, in search of her identity. It would be a roots trip for her.
It turns out that six-year-old adoptees have glaring roots questions too. One day, she came up to us, plumped down on the couch and sighed dramatically.
I don’t know who I am!
I explained to her that she is the daughter of two mommies. One in Belgium, one in Ethiopia. She loves to hear that.
But not this time.
No, I mean…how do I know where I fit in the whole wide world?
I honestly told her that’s a difficult question. I don’t even know how to answer that one for myself.
She was devastated and sighed with even more drama. She’s good at that.
If it’s difficult for you, how am I supposed to find the answer then? You know where you come from. How am I supposed to know where I’m going if I don’t know where I come from?!
These kind of conversations led us to decide to take a roots trip with her now, instead of waiting for her to reach puberty. Moreover, we’ll keep on returning every few years, to keep her in touch with her roots. We know from fellow travelers that Ethiopia is addictive anyway.
Ever since we booked the trip, she has found a kind of peace. Returning to her country really means a lot to this little girl.
Of course, returning won’t all be magical, as she imagines it. No doubt, she will experience a culture shock, just like we did the first time we visited.
We try to prepare her for the poverty she will witness. The poverty she and her family were in, as she knows. It will be hard for her.
But Ethiopia is far more than poverty. To me, it’s the most beautiful and safe African country, with the kindest of people and of course, the best coffee. We’ll visit wild life centres, hike in the mountains and have injerra, the traditional dish, as our Christmas dinner.
I can’t wait to discover Ethiopia again through my daughter’s eyes.
How do you deal with identity questions from your little and big ones? Do they know struggles as well?
If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...
Reggae band SOJA partnered with UNICEF’s Out-of-School Children initiative to produce the video “Shadow” to draw attention to the importance of education for all of the world’s children. Globally, an estimated 58 million children of primary school age and 63 million young adolescents are not enrolled in school. Like the girl in this video, many of them are girls. Yet data demonstrates that reaching the most marginalized children may initially cost more but also yields greater benefits. This video was filmed in Jigjiga, in the Somali region of Ethiopia, where 3 million children remain out of school. For more on global trends regarding out-of-school children, visit the UNICEF website.
This year, the UN has decided to place a special focus on the role of health care workers in FGM. Although the practice of FGM cannot be justified by medical reasons, in many countries it is executed more and more often by medical professionals. This constitutes one of the greatest threats to the abandonment of the practice.
(c)TARA TODRASS-WHITEHILL / REUTERS / LANDOV image retrieved from Aljazeera America
Jennifer Prestholdt is a lawyer and the Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights, a volunteer-based human rights organization that works locally, nationally and internationally. Her work in human rights takes her around the world, but she spends most of her time in Minneapolis, MN, where she lives with her children (two sons and one daughter), her husband, an elderly cat and a dwarf hamster.
As Jennifer’s kids are now all in school (1st, 4th and 6th grades), she is finally finding more time to do the things that she used to love to do, especially running, writing and knitting. Jennifer loves to travel and has had the dubious distinction of having been accidentally locked in a bathroom on five continents so far. Australia and Antarctica await!
In January 2011, Jennifer made a New Year’s Resolution to start writing about her experiences in order to share with her children the lessons learned from 15 years of work in human rights. The result is her personal blog, The Human Rights Warrior. The name comes from her son Simon, who was extremely disappointed to learn that his mother is a lawyer, not a warrior.
It was a late afternoon in June when Elizabeth Atalay and I, both fellows in Ethiopia with the International Reporting Project, arrived at the nondescript gates of AHOPE for Children on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. The clouds had yet to open up and lash out in their daily angry downpour. But we knew it was coming soon for it was rainy season in Ethiopia.
I had anticipated this meeting for a long time and was a bit nervous about the world I’d see behind those gates. I had heard about AHOPE for Children after reading the powerful true story of Haregewoin Teferra, a middle class Ethiopia woman who dared to help the growing number of abandoned and orphaned children at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in her country. Award-wining journalist Melissa Fay Greene’s book, “There is No Me Without You” opened my eyes and my heart to the difficult lives of orphaned HIV-positive children and now Elizabeth and I were going to meet some of them.
The impact of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia is nothing short of heartbreaking. It were statistics like these below that inspired Greene to research the plight of HIV/AIDS orphans in Ethiopia and let the tragedy be known.
Per the United Nations, in 2000 Africa was “a continent of orphans.” HIV and acquired AIDS had killed more than 21 million people, including 4 million children. More than 13 million children had been orphaned, 12 million of them in Sub-Saharan Africa. 25% of those lived in 2 countries: Nigeria and Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, 11% of the children were orphans.
Reading the heart-wrentching stories of the children in Greene’s book left me feeling awfully sad. Yet towards the end of her book, in 2005, the plight of adults and children impacted by HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia and the rest of the developing world changed. Antri-retrovirals (ARVs) which had been widely available in the Western, wealthiest world, had now become available in poorer countries like Ethiopia. The meaning of being HIV positive changed from being a death sentence to a hope to live.
Mengesha, the Director of AHOPE Ethiopia with some of the children.
AHOPE for Children was founded over ten years ago by American Kathy Olsen as an American non-profit charity to assist in the funding of a home for HIV positive children in Ethiopia. AHOPE stands for “African HIV Orphans: Project Embrace” and is the only orphanage in Ethiopia that solely cares for HIV positive children. AHOPE for Children and AHOPE Ethiopia are two separate organizations (AHOPE is based in the US and AHOPE Ethiopia is an Ethiopian non-profit organization) working together to help children with HIV/AIDS. The role of AHOPE for Children is to raise money to support AHOPE Ethiopia; AHOPE Ethiopia is the day to day caring and programs for all of the kids.
AHOPE Ethiopia runs children’s homes, Little AHOPE for younger children, Family Group Homes for older kids, Youth Transition Homes for young adults, and community outreach programs for children impacted by HIV/AIDS. The sole mission of AHOPE is to provide these children with a loving, supportive “family” and prepare them for an independent future while also providing care for HIV.
Mengesha, AHOPE Ethiopia’s Director smiles for the camera.
Elizabeth and I met with Mengesha, the Director of AHOPE Ethiopia, at the Little AHOPE compound which is home to 27 children. Currently there are 95 children in AHOPE Ethiopia homes and over 100 children receiving support through AHOPE’s community outreach program.
We entered Little AHOPE to the sounds of children playing outside and were met by several smiles and giggles perhaps a reaction to our blond hair and light skin. At first glance, these children didn’t seem any different than our own. They were playing, singing, jumping and vying for our attention. Yet each one of these children were different as they are all HIV positive, fighting other related illnesses and orphaned.
Our first hour at AHOPE was spent speaking with Mengesha, who has worked at AHOPE for several years and has recently become AHOPE Ethiopia’s Director. Mengesha is a warm, loving man who is passionate about AHOPE and the children. Most of the children at AHOPE are either single or double orphans who have tragically watched one or more parent die from AIDS and has been abandoned with no family member willing or able to care for them. These children have the extra burden of being HIV positive meaning they have many special needs.
AHOPE has a loving, fully trained staff of nurses, pediatricians, care-givers and social workers who ensure each child gets the individual attention, love and care they need. AHOPE aims to provide the children with a sense of belonging to a family and as the children grow, they transition to Family Group Homes. The Family Group Homes are community-based homes run by a “mother” and “auntie” where the kids are integrated into the community. The children attend school, receive their necessary medications, go on field trips and do almost everything else a healthy child would do. Once a child becomes an adult, they move to a Youth Transition Home that prepares 18-24 year olds with independent living.
After Mengesha concluded his overview on AHOPE, it was time for a tour of the home and to meet the children. At first the children were a little bit shy around us however their shyness quickly disappeared as soon as Elizabeth took out her Polaroid camera. The children loved having their photos taken and printed out for them to keep, right before their eyes! Elizabeth was very busy as a queue had formed of excited kids wanting their turn behind the camera.
Meanwhile I got to talk with some of the children and learn about their hopes and dreams. Many of the children had high hopes for their future and all of them wanted to make something out of their life. One teenager said she dreamed of becoming a doctor and helping care for kids like her. HIV positive. Another young boy dreamed of being a teacher. Thankfully, with AHOPE these children all have a hope for the future and an opportunity to be who they want to be.
Some facts on HIV/AIDS and Ethiopia:
▪ An estimated 33.3 million people worldwide are infected with HIV/AIDS.
▪ In 2009, 1.8 million people died due to HIV/AIDS, and another 2.6 mil-lion were newly infected.
▪ More than 68 percent (approximately 22.5 million people) of those infected are in sub-Saharan Africa.
▪ Worldwide, 2.5 million children under 15 are living with HIV/AIDS, and 370,000 were newly infected in 2009.
These are just some of the staggering statistics on the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Estimates indicate that in 2009 in Ethiopia approximately 1.1 million people were living with HIV, with a prevalence rate of about 2.3 percent.
Children in Ethiopia are also profoundly affected by HIV/AIDS. In 2009, nearly 73,000 children under age 15 were living with HIV.
▪ A fascinating documentary that can be watched for free over the internet: “And the Band Played On” again documents the discovery of AIDS, the appallingly delayed reaction to do anything, the development of ARVs and the spread of AIDS throughout the world to become one of the worst epidemics Africa has ever seen.
Third Eye Mom is a stay-at-home mom living in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her two children Max (6) and Sophia (4). Her children keep her continually busy and she is constantly amazed by the imagination, energy and joy of life that they possess! A world wanderer at heart, she has also been fortunate to have visited over 30 countries by either traveling, working, studying or volunteering and she continues to keep on the traveling path.
A graduate of French and International Relations from the University of Wisconsin Madison, where she met her husband Paul, she has always been a Midwest gal living in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Chicago. This adventurous mom loves to be outside doing anything athletic (hiking, running, biking, skiing, snowshoeing or simply enjoying nature), to travel and volunteer abroad, to write, and to spend time with her beloved family and friends.
Her latest venture involves her dream to raise enough money on her own to build and open a brand-new school in rural Nepal, and to teach her children to live compassionately, open-minded lives that understand different cultures and the importance of giving back to those in need. Third Eye Mom believes strongly in the value of making a difference in the world, no matter how small it may be. If there is a will, there is a way, and that anything is possible (as long as you set your heart and mind to it!).
Visit her on her blog, Thirdeyemom, where she writes about her travels and experiences in other lands!