Girl Guides improve maternal health and child mortality in Nigeria and Hungary
26 September 2012
Two Girl Guides from Nigeria and Hungary have written about what girls and young women in their countries are doing to tackle the issues of maternal health and child mortality.
These accounts illustrate the importance of the UN's Every Woman Every Child campaign, and the World Thinking Day themes for 2013 – “together we can save children’s lives” and “every mother’s life and health is precious”.
Safe motherhood – a happy child
By Edith Chukwu, Nigeria
Safeguarding the health of mothers and young children is one of the world most urgent needs and a strong focus for Nigerian Girl Guides Association (NGGA).
A lot has been done through non-formal education to educate pregnant mothers on the need to be consistent with their antenatal care.
Young and adult leaders of my Association have also been participating in carrying out a nation-wide immunization exercise in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Health, we do share treated mosquito net to pregnant mothers in village.
This year young leaders went to government-owned hospitals to educate mothers that came for antenatal care on the need to maintain proper hygiene and eat a balanced diet.
Every year in developing countries, millions of mothers and babies die during childbirth or in the first months of life.
These deaths, we believe in NGGA, are preventable if a little more could be done to assist mothers in the rural areas. A long term intervention could be put in place, like regular training of rural birth attendants, to educate them on cost effective ways of having a safe delivery.
In NGGA we are doing everything practically possible to achieve the UN target of saving the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015. We are still calling on government, policymakers, the media and the general public to take more actions.
In 2013, we have planned selected projects to address the issues of maternal and child health, to mark our annual World Thinking Day. A safe motherhood makes a happy child!
Girls and young women can change their situation
By Gabriella Heller, Hungary
I am sitting close to a campfire around with a bunch of girls, singing cheerfully, at the end of a summer camp. You might recognize me from my scarf – yes, you are right, I am a Girl Guide.
I am part of the Girl Guide and Girl Scout Movement which unites 10 million girls and young women around the globe, which is dedicated to the education of these girls, to enable them to develop and experience their fullest potential and become responsible citizens of our world.
A wonderful mission – the problem is that not every girl has the chance to be part of it.
Girls who are trafficked across the borders; girls who face armed men in front of their doors in a town being in war; 60 million girls forced into marriage every year, who may become mothers although their body is not entirely developed and their mind might not be ready for the noble duty; girls being sick due to the lack of clean water; girls being infected with HIV/AIDS, hardly having the opportunity to focus on their personal development, since their existence and basic needs are questioned.
I belong to the lucky ones to those who are born to a safe place – the cosy European state, Hungary – belonging to a safe family and able to live a holistic life.
From a bird view Hungary is an idyllic country without war, with a sufficient economic and social security background and with low mother and child mortality rates. Nevertheless, this does not mean that none of the children or mothers dying could have been saved.
Statistics show that the number of preterm births has increased in Hungary, and this is the major cause of death of newborn babies. The roots of increased risks of preterm birth are associated with unhealthy lifestyles of mothers, stress, alcohol, smoking and infections.
According to unofficial estimates, 14,000 girls under the age of 19 give birth per year, and pregnancies are terminated by adolescent girls in a similar volume.
Adolescent girls who become pregnant at an early age usually only have primary education, and motherhood prevents them from further education which in turn results in lower family income. In addition, we cannot forget the health risks and psychological challenges that girls face in cases of adolescent pregnancy.
Apart from these, unfortunately we can list further phenomena that endanger the proper development of children in Hungary. At present, the poverty ratio is higher at childhood than later in life. When primary needs are not met, it negatively influences not only the early years of life but has long-term effects as well.
Violence is also part of our society. Many children and women suffer from violent actions by their relatives and partners. This violence mostly remains hidden in their homes.
Violence is present in public life too – at schools, at workplaces, and in the forms of prostitution and trafficking. Hungary has become the seventh major country of origin in terms of trafficking within Europe, with a high percentage involvement of adolescent girls. The current legislative framework is insufficient to tackle these problems and help the victims.
We should mention, however, that girls and women are not only victims. They are engaged in many initiatives to change their situation.
I remember the moments I spent at schools with my Girl Guide unit talking to other teenagers on sexually transmitted diseases and distributing condoms as part of a three-year long awareness-raising campaign focusing on HIV/AIDS and adolescent pregnancy.
We have also started a series of workshops focusing on self-esteem, healthy relationships and sexual health and rights, reaching out not only to our members but to girls and young women outside the Movement as well.
These small, local actions have taken place in Hungary – but imagine the power of 10 million girls and young in women in 145 countries. Girls and young women can reach change within their communities.
The most recent WAGGGS programmes that focus on health of girls and women encompass badge-based education curricula relating to HIV/AIDS and other deathly diseases, and gender equality. A new World Thinking Day badge curriculum on child and maternal health will be published later this year.
Girl Guides and Girl Scouts also recently launched a global campaign calling for an end to violence against girls and young women, called Stop the Violence.
Within the frames of such programmes, thousands of local projects will be implemented worldwide to save lives that could be saved – since we all know that “every mother's life and health is precious” and “together we can save children's lives”.
This article is published in collaboration with a larger campaign spearheaded by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and conducted by Heads of State and Government; Heads of U.N. Agencies; CEO’s; Leaders of Civil Society Organizations; and other global leaders who have demonstrated their leadership in the health field, in support of Every Woman Every Child. Learn more at www.everywomaneverychild.org