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Photobucket State of the World's Mothers

by LeanneB, SheKos editor

If you've ever wondered where is the best place in the world to be a mother, I can answer that question. This year, it's Norway. Australia comes in second, followed by Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark.

This information came from the "11th annual Mothers' Index", a ranking of 160 countries that is part of Save the Children's 2010 "State of the World's Mothers" report.

You are probably wondering where on the best-to-worst scale the United States appears, right? This year, we came in 28th. (Afghanistan ranked last; at least we beat them!) That's down from 27th place last year. The largest factor in that ranking was the rate of maternal mortality, which is one in 4,800 - one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the developed world. We're also well behind other developed and wealthy nations "in terms of the generosity of maternity leave policies."

The Index is based on an analysis of indicators of women's and children's health and well-being, and clearly illustrates that providing mothers with access to education, economic opportunities and maternal and child health care gives mothers and their children the best chance to survive and thrive.

Another conclusion drawn in the "State of the World's Mothers" report is that having women on the front lines of providing medical care in poor and developing countries is a critical factor is maternal, infant, and child survival and health.

Every year, nearly 350,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth, and nearly 9 million children die before reaching their fifth birthday. Almost all these deaths occur in developing countries where mothers, children and newborns lack access to basic health care services. While child mortality rates in the developing world have declined in recent decades, it is of no solace to the 24,000 mothers who must mourn the loss of a child each and every day. This is especially tragic since most of these deaths could be prevented at a modest cost.

This year’s report looks at how female health workers in developing countries are helping to save the lives of mothers, newborns and young children. It highlights women-to-women approaches that are working to bring essential health care to the hard-to-reach places where most deaths occur. It also shows how millions more lives each year can be saved if governments invest in these proven solutions.

The key findings of the report are disturbing. Here are a few:

  1. An alarming number of countries cannot provide the most basic health care that would save mothers’ and children’s lives. Developing countries have too few health care workers to take on the life or death challenges facing mothers, their babies and young children. Worldwide, there are 57 countries with critical health workforce shortages, meaning that they have fewer than 23 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 people. Thirty-six of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to insufficient numbers, health workers are often poorly distributed, with the impoverished, hard-to-reach and marginalized families being most poorly served.
  2. Female health workers have an especially critical role to play in saving the lives of women, newborns and young children. Evidence from many developing countries indicates that investments in training and deploying midwives and other female health workers can make the difference between success and failure in the fight to save lives. Social or cultural barriers often prevent women from visiting male health providers even when they know they – or their children – are ill and need help. Especially in rural areas, husbands and elder family members often decide whether a woman may go for health care outside the home, and may deny permission if the health worker is a man. And for health concerns that are uniquely female – those related to reproductive or sexual issues, pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding – it is common for a woman to prefer a female caregiver. When women report greater comfort and higher satisfaction with the care they receive from other women, they are more likely to use professional services, and to seek help before treatable conditions become life-threatening to themselves and their young children.
  3. Relatively modest investments in female health workers can have a measurable impact on survival rates in isolated rural communities. It costs a lot of money to train a doctor or operate a hospital. But in developing countries, lifesaving health services can often be delivered cost-effectively by community health workers, when given appropriate training and support. Women with a few years of formal schooling can master the skills needed to diagnose and treat common early childhood illnesses, mobilize demand for vaccinations, and promote improved nutrition, safe motherhood and essential newborn care. These community health workers are most effective when they are rooted in the communities they serve and easily accessible to the mothers and children who need their help most. In one recent study in Bangladesh, female community health workers with limited formal education and 6 weeks of hands-on training contributed to a newborn mortality reduction of 34 percent.

The report also offers recommendations for how to improve the survival and quality of life for mothers and children in such countries. The suggestions include the training and deployment of more health care providers, especially midwives and other female health workers; investing in education for girls around the world; and providing incentives for female health workers to stay in the areas where they are needed the most.

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Photobucket  THIS WEEK IN WOMEN'S HISTORY: Four Fascinating Leaders

      by joedemocrat, SheKos contributor

  • This week in 1789, Martha Washington became America's first First Lady (the term wasn't used at the time). However, she didn't support George Washington's election as President, and refused to attend the inauguration. She didn't enjoy her role as First Lady, saying, "I think I am more like a state prisoner than anything else." Her views on slavery and other issues are not known.
  • This week in 1898, Golda Meir was born. She was Israel's first ambassador to the Soviet Union after Israel became a state in 1948. She also became Minister of Labor and worked on housing and construction programs to deal with the large influx of new residents. In 1969, she formed the Israeli Labor Party and was elected Prime Minister.
  • This week in 1921, Del Martin was born. She is considered one of the founders of the GLBT rights movement. In 1964, she helped form the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, in an effort to unite church leaders with gay activists. She worked to have the American Psychiatric Association remove homosexuality as a mental illness. She was the first lesbian to serve on the Board of Directors of the National Organization of Women. She also served on the White House Conference On Aging under President Bill Clinton. In June 2008, she married her partner of more than 50 years in the first legal same-sex marriage in California.
  • This week in 1939, singer Judy Collins was born. She is a successful U.S. folk singer with hit singles such as Both Sides Now (1968), Chelsea Morning (1968), and Send In The Clowns (1975). She became involved in social activism and is a active Democrat. She performed at President Bill Clinton's 1993 inaugural, singing Amazing Grace and Chelsea Morning, for which Chelsea Clinton was named. She also testified in support of the Chicago Seven. She is currently an advocate for abolishing landmines and increasing suicide awareness. Enjoy her popular 1968 song Both Sides Now.

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Photobucket  WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE: The Pay Gap

      by pat of butter in a sea of grits, SheKos contributor

How much does it cost you to earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes? Somewhere between $700,000 and $2 million over the course of your working life.

Just imagine what you could do with that money. Start a business. Take a lot of really nice vacations. Eat higher quality food. Buy a better house in a nicer neighborhood. Send your kids to a private college. Single women, and single working mothers, would have their poverty rates slashed if they were paid at a comparable rate as men. Of course, men who work in occupations traditionally filled by women, such as teaching and clerical work, suffer some of the same disadvantages, but even in those occupations, a pay gap remains.

Working families in America lose $200 billion every year as a result of that wage gap, or around $4000 per year per family. This gap, by the way, is calculated after adjusting for differences in education, location, age, and hours worked, so it's already taken into consideration the fact that more women than men work part time.

This table shows weekly pay rates according to occupation and gender for full-time workers. Interestingly, administrative and managerial jobs have some of the greatest gaps of any occupation. The wage gap tends to be lower in some areas than others; for example, pay is nearly equal among male and female health aides. Among physicians, however, women earn only 58 percent of what men earn. Why is this? I'm only speculating, but perhaps it's because men tend to be more concentrated in the higher earning specialties such as surgery, whereas women are more often pediatricians and general practitioners.

Unfortunately, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity, we don't appear to be heading in the right direction. The gap widened slightly between 2007 and 2008, from 77.8 to 77 percent. You can see the pay gap for your state at this link (pdf). With so many Federal workers, Washington, DC, led the nation with a pay gap of 88 percent; Wyoming comes in last with women earning only 64 percent of men's pay.

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Photobucket  IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

      by Oke, SheKos contributor

  • In Threats of Anti-Abortion Violence, Soon Forgotten, Frederick Clarkson writes about a recent case of planned anti-abortion violence, little covered by the traditional media, in which the alleged perpetrator says that he has the "religious freedom" to use deadly force against those he considers guilty of "murder against the unborn." A fascinating diary on the makings of a militant anti-abortionist and how little insight traditional news sources provide on such individuals.
  • In One simple question, three non-answers on Iowa gay marriage, desmoinesdem diaries about an interesting public debate that took place earlier this year in Iowa, and the simple question asked of the three candidates for governor: "Can you identify one tangible way Iowa has been harmed during a full year of legal same-sex marriage?" Unsurprisingly, no candidate directly answered the question, but what they said is interesting, nonetheless, and the diarist provides an insightful analysis of the non-answers.
  • In A Big Win for Social Justice as the Prop. 8 Trial Progresses, Equality California has an interesting take on an issue that came up during the Proposition 8 trial in California -- the right of organizations coordinating their response to such issues to keep their communications confidential. Thankfully, Equality California prevailed, and this represented not only a win for Prop 8 opponents, but also for First Amendment advocates. Take a moment to read this interesting diary and see what one public interest organization is doing for your rights.

And from outside the Orange:

  • The Violence of a Recession

    Our economic crisis is about a lot more than lost jobs and evaporating 401Ks. It’s closing off options for women in abusive relationships.
     
    Today marks the end of Women’s History Month and I spent these last couple of weeks at colleges across the country talking about feminism, racial justice and media. From Michigan to Florida to Minnesota, I heard students debate what activism looks like for their generation while fielding their questions about immigration and hearing their fears that when graduation comes they might not find a job...

    ...A student at Eastern Michigan University, Laura Hoehner, 24, works part-time counseling women who are getting beat up by their boyfriends or husbands. Sometimes the violence is physical; always it’s emotional and psychological. Increasingly, she says, it’s economic.

  • My Mother's Abortion Improved All of Our Lives

    When my mother was in her 80s, she told me matter-of-factly that she had had an abortion.

    In the bad old days the operation was illegal, but we lived in New York City, close to many sympathetic doctors. She told me many details. There was secrecy, an hour-long trip to Manhattan on the subway and the company of her sister-in-law. Afterwards, the procedure having gone smoothly, she rested for a while in her sister-in-law's nearby apartment.

    This must have occurred between 1943, when my baby brother was born, and 1949, in that post-Depression decade before the postwar boom began to raise our boat a little. I neglected to ask her why she had chosen to have an abortion, but I can make some astute guesses based on what I have pieced together in adulthood about my parents' circumstances while my brother and I were little.

Originally posted to SheKos on Thu May 06, 2010 at 11:57 AM PDT.

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