I remember how red my face turned when my parents first told me about sex. I can still hear the power in my mother's voice when she told me I always have a choice about when and if I want to have a child. She made sure to end every one of our talks with a reminder about whom we need to thank for equal rights and safe access to reproductive care.
It's no surprise that I work for Global Fund for Women today. It's a place where I am lucky enough to speak and dream with women from Colombia to Afghanistan about a world where women and girls everywhere have voice, choice and the resources to achieve their human rights.
But right now I'm a little worried. Since 2010, 32 states in my own country, the U.S., have enacted laws that restrict women's access to healthcare -- specifically contraceptives and safe abortion services. When I turn on the news, I hear politicians and pundits spew opinions about medically unnecessary ultrasounds and forcing women to tell their employers why they want birth control.
Why Women's Health?
Because pretty much everywhere you go women are the main healthcare decision-makers for their families and themselves. Because it's hard to work when you are sick. Because when women control their bodies they control their destinies.
Regardless of one's politics, it's clear that there are concerted efforts to turn back the clock -- and reverse some of the gains women fought so hard for 40 years ago. The waves of controversy in the U.S. are having a ripple effect on women around the world -- women the Global Fund supports.
However there are places in the world where the clock is not being turned back. For example, even in the face of conservative legislation backed by the Catholic Church, Uruguay took a giant step when its Senate voted to decriminalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This legislation is the result of a decade of tireless advocacy by two of Global Fund's Uruguayan grantee partners, Mujer y Salud Uruguay and Mujer Ahor. When the president signed it into law, Uruguay joined Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico City as the only places in Latin America and the Caribbean where a woman can legally obtain an abortion without restriction in her first trimester.
What's the lesson to be learned from our courageous sisters in Uruguay? When you get the right resources, such as money, education, and community outreach, to the right, well-connected groups, you're on the path to transformative change that benefits everyone. Talk about local victory with global impact.
Take the Lead
What would the world look like if women of the "developing world" had access to family planning and maternal and newborn health services? The lives of more than 1.5 million newborns and 250,000 women would be saved each year. More than 50 million fewer women would experience unintended pregnancies, lowering the cost of providing maternal and newborn health services.
Theo Sowa of long-time Global Fund grantee partner and CEO of African Women's Development Fund said, "Women should not only be users of family planning but should also be the leaders in realizing [their] goals."
We need to act on Theo's advice and be the leaders we know we are and can be. We should continue connecting with women in our own communities and beyond to advocate for our collective rights.
This Mother's Day, get together with a couple friends and visit your local women's organization. Invest your time, talent, and resources in raising women's voices. Take the lead and remember you are uniquely positioned to change your family, community, and the world.
By Zoe Blumenfeld, the Communications Manager for the Global Fund for Women, which is the largest publicly supported foundation that advances women's human rights by investing in women-led organizations worldwide.