Behind every world leader is a mum. Mums matter.

First published for Oxfam at http://tinyurl.com/2vosq4b

Hasina Begum, 35, stands in the river which took her home, Char Atra, Bangladesh.

Hasina Begum, 35, stands in the river which took her home, Char Atra, Bangladesh.

Not enough money to feed your children. Fear, uncertainty, loneliness.

“It is women who suffer”, she said.

This is not an advert for a development charity, but Gail Cartmail of Unite union talking about how government cuts here will affect people.

Disproportionately the poor, in particular women, mothers.

Despite us all owing our lives to them, world leaders are forgetting mothers, daughters, girls, still, across the globe.

A thousand women die from pregnancy complications each day, for every woman who dies, 30 more suffer chronic illness or disability.

Preventable deaths

Ten years ago our leaders pledged to eliminate extreme poverty by 2015, with eight Millennium Development Goals.

At the MDG summit in New York next week, it is the fifth and worst performing goal, to improve maternal health, that international charities are pushing.

Although more than 90 per cent of maternal deaths are preventable, pregnancy remains a leading killer in developing countries.

Nick Clegg, who will be attending the conference, has now committed the government to focussing on MDG 5.

Women in Nepal are campaigning against domestic violence

Women in Nepal are campaigning against domestic violence

In Afghanistan- the world’s worst place to give birth– one woman dies every half an hour due to pregnancy related complications.

Clegg told the Guardian action would double the number of women and newborns saved (at least 50,000 women in pregnancy and childbirth, 250,000 babies) and allow 10 million couples to access family planning.

This is in addition to June’s G8 summit commitment to spend £750m on tackling maternal mortality and an overhaul of aid programmes.

Gendercide

A book by Nicholas Kristof, columnist for the New York Times and his wife WuDunn called Half the Sky details some of the other horrors still facing women in the 21st century.

With 60 to 100 million women missing, honour killings, acid attacks and sex slavery they call the current situation “gendercide”. Millennnium Development Goal 3, to promote gender equality and empower women, must not be overlooked.

According to Equality Now, in Somalia, 98 per cent of girls have their genitals mutilated.

Less shocking, but equally damaging, says Kristof, is the exclusion of women from healthcare and education.

Unlawful?

Despite harrowing stories internationally, mothers continue to suffer.

The Fawcett Society has requested a judicial review into the emergency budget in June; they say 72 per cent of cuts will be met from women’s incomes.

“Many of the cuts are to the benefits that more women than men rely on, and the changes to the tax system will benefit far more men,” they said.

Ahead of the spending review in October, newspapers are also reporting that women will lose.

More women work in the civil service, and some departments will be cut by 40 per cent.

According to a report released by the Chartered Management Institute, the gender pay gap in the UK will not close until 2067.

Nearly the same amount of time since the Equal Pay Act first legislated against sex discrimination in the workplace.

The CMI is calling for transparency, Mike Petrook said: “People should not be discriminated against because of one letter on a birth certificate, it’s the job that earns the money, not the individuals.

“If companies don’t do this, they will lose their best talent as they are not reflecting the market place.”

Dangerous and unpaid

Unpaid work done by women is thought to contribute billions to the UK economy every year.

In Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, unofficial care work accounts for more than 80 per cent of all women’s jobs.

Almost two thirds of women in the developing world work in dangerous, low-paid or temporary jobs.

Centenary of National Women’s Day

Next year on March 8th we will celebrate 100 years of National Women’s Day. But how far have we come?

Two out of every three countries now have the same number of boys as girls in school, and women now occupy almost 40 per cent of paid jobs outside of farming, compared to 35 in 1990.

Sri Lanka, Thailand and Honduras all took fewer than 10 years to dramatically improve women’s chances of surviving pregnancy. Thanks to some progress on this MDG the percentage of global deliveries attended by a midwife or doctor has risen from 9 per cent to 19.

We ought to celebrate reducing the number of women dying during childbirth from 1,400 to 1,000 a day. But that is still a third of a million every year to save.

Mums matter

There are now more people called David than there are women in the British cabinet. Women across the globe are still unequal and unheard.

Join:

Oxfam and the Women’s Institute now work together on maternal mortality, and they need your support.

Read:

Half the Sky is from a Chinese proverb, where women are said to be so important as to hold up half the sky

Be positive:

Suffragettes hadn’t known anything other than political inferiority, but they didn’t give up. According to the CMI, women in the UK are resigning in record numbers from positions where they aren’t treated the same as their male colleagues.

If we accept that the most well off countries must help those who are less fortunate, it is up to us, as women in relative comfort, to find the strength to help our sisters who are in greater need.

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