For Mother's Day this year, a dear friend hosted a luncheon in honor of Kangu, the maternal health non-profit I founded three years ago. In her living room, I spoke with a group of moms, describing Kangu's crowdfunding technology and how we help pregnant women and newborn babies survive and thrive in the poorest communities around the world.
We had a great conversation, but thinking about it afterwards, the answer I gave to one woman's question didn't quite sit right with me. She had asked: what do you hope Kangu will achieve?
In response, I told her about the 1 million women and children we are on track to reach with safe birth services. I described a new partnership that will show rigorous evidence of our impact. I talked about how we are contributing to building stronger health systems in Uganda, Kenya, and Nepal.
But I realized afterwards that I had completely missed the point. What I should have said is this:
In this day and age, no woman should die in childbirth. Period. We know how to prevent it, and in most cases, it is neither difficult nor expensive to do.
But here's the thing. Women do not die because of childbirth. They die because they are deprioritized. In poor communities, with extremely scarce resources, they just do not make the cut.
I created Kangu because I believed that if the hardest-to-reach women were made visible, we would no longer accept that pregnant women labor in the dark, on dirt floors, without professional help. If we knew what we could do to help, we would no longer stand by while women die preventable deaths, suffer debilitating injuries, and mourn the loss of child after child.
We no longer need to wait for others to decide that it is time to value women's lives. We can do it - ourselves, and right now. We can meet pregnant mamas online and fund, in whole or in part, their access to respectful and high-quality healthcare services. We can tell pregnant women, one after another, "You are not alone. There is healthcare for you and your baby. You deserve this, and so much more."
That is what I should have said on Mother's Day.
When I reflect on the question of what I hope Kangu achieves, I think - yes, the numbers are good, the impact data are important, and the systems are crucial. But the point is, and will always be, the mamas.