Every 90 seconds, a woman dies of childbirth-related causes. That’s over 1000 women each day. Many organizations are working hard to change these statistics – including Engender Health, a 70-year-old organization that works to build community capacity through training and access to low-cost solutions.
In Bangladesh, where over 85% of births take place at home many of them unattended, or attended by a worker without training Engender Health has trained hundreds of community health workers to deliver a pill called Misoprostol. It costs just 50 cents, less than a cup of coffee, and can prevent postpartum hemorrhage, a leading cause of maternal death. Community health workers delivered over 12,000 pills thus far, and, since that time, not one women has died in birth.
Women’s health, though, is more than just pregnancy and delivery.
I had the opportunity to talk with Pam Barnes, CEO of Engender Health, about the organization’s comprehensive approach to giving women and men around the world access to family planning, maternal health support, HIV and AIDS prevention – work that Engender Health sees as an effective poverty-fighting measure.
“Our mission is very focused on helping women have the number of children they want, not the number their circumstances dictate,” says Pam. “Investments in women and women’s healthcare bring about enormous changes in the community, in the economic well being of women and their families…If women are given an option in terms of how many children they have, they will always have the number of children they believe they can support…they will think about their own education as well as the education of their children.”
Through community-led discussion groups for men and women, called Men as Partners, Engender Health brings men into the conversation. These groups give women and their partners the chance to talk about their hopes and dreams, their goals, and how having children – and staying healthy – fits into that. Engender Health also provides access and accurate information about the contraception options that are available.
It’s the kind of conversation my husband and I had when we got married, about how many children we hoped to have, when to have them, and one that we then revisited after the birth of each child. These are decisions that I believe every woman should have the chance to make, equipped with accurate information and support from her partner.
Pam told me the story of one woman and her husband who’ve participated in Engender Health’s community discussions. She and her husband chose to have three children, then start a small business. They wanted to focus on that business, paying for school for their three children, and avoid having more children for a period of time. Engender Health made it possible for the woman to do just that, and her three children and new business are all thriving.
Through this comprehensive approach that includes maternal health care, contraception, and education and information that help men and women make the best choices for their families, Engender Health is changing lives in 20 countries around the world.
Interested in learning more? You can join Engender Health in the conversation about maternal health and family planning by following Engender Health on Twitter.
Photo Credits: Engender Health/M.Tuschman