NCBH was regarded as a national model for its innovative and compassionate care practices (Photo By BSIP/UIG via Getty Images).
By Nan Strauss, Former Amnesty International USA Researcher
With just three days notice, the North Central Bronx Hospital (NCBH)’s Labor and Delivery service was shuttered after thirty-six years providing quality maternity care to 1500 women and babies a year. The award-winning midwife-led program at NCBH was regarded as a national model for its innovative and compassionate care practices, meeting the needs of at-risk women in an under-served community.
Eliminating NCBH’s successful program will reduce the quality of care and options available in this under-served community. The woman-centered, midwifery model of care practiced at NCHB is especially effective in addressing the health disparities faced by women of color and low-income women, but will no longer be an option in the area.
The closure will make it more difficult for low-income women to access care, increasing travel time and costs, and will end community-based care in the area. Surrounding hospitals that will be forced to absorb the additional 1500 births each year are already stretched thin.
Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda (right) attends the 2008 Benefactrix Ball presented by YMCA at the Beverly Hills Hotel (Photo Credit: Leon Bennett/WireImage).
As we reflected on 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls and its themes, including early marriage, violence against women, and sexual and reproductive health, we got to wondering: What does all this integrated human rights talk look like in practice?
In your experience,what does participation mean in the context of women’s rights in your country?
For women to participate, it [is] important that they know and are aware of their rights, have the social empowerment to engage and the space to exercise their voice. Women’s community groups, organizations and networks…have provided the platforms for such participation.
Women’s human rights activists gather in El Salvador to demand Beatriz is granted the life-saving treatment she needs (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).
As you’re reading this, the Salvadoran authorities are STILL biding their time discussing the merits of Beatriz’s case, the young mother we posted about earlier this month. While she’s in the hospital experiencing early stage kidney failure, the authorities are holding the key to her life that is quickly fading.
We’ve promised updates on this case. Unfortunately, we know that Beatriz has been subjected to another week of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, and have no news regarding action by the authorities to save her life – in accordance with her wishes, and the recommendation of the health professionals responsible for her care.
Imagine you are in a hospital. You have lupus and you are experiencing kidney complications as a result. You have a one-year old son at home who was delivered by cesarean section weeks early because of pregnancy-related health complications. You’re pregnant again, and have been diagnosed as high-risk.
You found out after three sonograms your fetus is anencephalic, meaning that a portion of the fetus’s brain - consisting mainly of the cerebral hemispheres including the neo-cortex - doesn’t exist. With very few exceptions, fetuses with anencephaly do not make it to term and none survive infancy.
There is a great deal of evidence backing this up.
Every year, 40 billion working hours are lost to water collection worldwide, mostly by women and girls. This violates their rights to employment and education by taking up time and energy; and their rights to safety and dignity by exposing them to injury, animal attack, and physical and sexual violence. Since the water they collect is usually unsafe (if it were safe, chances are they wouldn’t have to walk far to get it, because a tap would be available near home), it violates their right to health, exposing them to Neglected Tropical Diseases, diarrhea, even uterine prolapse from carrying heavy loads.
Lack of sanitation and safe drinking water violates the right to safe and adequate housing. Combined with poor hygiene, it makes people sick because they ingest fecal matter without even knowing it, creates breeding grounds for insects carrying diseases like trachoma, and contaminates water sources; water-borne illnesses impact children most, keeping more kids from school and causing trauma for the many parents whose children don’t survive these diseases, up to 2,000 each day.
Mumbai slum residents protest the destruction of their homes by multi-national corporations. PHOTO: RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images
I’ve spent the past two weeks working with a number of NGOs focused on women’s human rights in the urban slums surrounding Mumbai. These communities are a ground zero for human dignity, where basic needs are not met and human rights are routinely crushed by poverty and the pace of urbanization.
Mao Hengfeng, a human rights defender in China, a wife, and a mother of three, has just been released from her most recent bout of detention and torture — an experience so brutal that her life is at urgent risk.
Her crime? Advocating on behalf of women’s reproductive rights, the victims of forced evictions in Shanghai, and other Chinese human rights defenders.
Mao’s most recent arrest was a result of her protest in front of the Beijing municipal intermediate court expressing support for human rights activist and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo. On March 4, 2010, Mao was sentenced to 18 months in Re-education Through Labor.
Amnesty International has long advocated for the right to accessible, affordable and adequate health care that responds to the particular needs of women. The assurance that women have access to the full range of contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration is a powerful and encouraging statement about the importance of women’s preventative health care.
On Saturday, a new nation was born: the Republic of South Sudan.
Formerly a semi-autonomous region within the Republic of Sudan, the new state is the result of a referendum on independence in which roughly 99% of the predominantly African, Christian or animist Southerners elected to split from the largely Muslim, Arab North.
For more than two decades, the two had been engaged in Africa’s longest civil war, a conflict in which staggering numbers of innocent civilians paid the price: 4 million displaced, 2 million killed and 2 million women raped.
A Violent Peace Although a 2005 peace accord officially ended the war and guaranteed the South the right to peaceably choose whether or not to form its own state, violence continues in disputed territories of Southern Kordofan and Abyei.
This Wednesday, May 11, a Mother’s Day briefing on Capitol Hill will shine a light on the maternal health care crisis in the United States. Featured guest Christy Turlington Burns, maternal health advocate and director of No Woman No Cry, will join Amnesty International researcher Nan Strauss and others to advocate for the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011.
Drafted to address some of the most pressing recommendations in Amnesty International’s report on maternal mortality in the US, Deadly Delivery, this innovative bipartisan legislation would:
Christy Turlington Burns is a mom, global maternal health advocate, author, filmmaker, public health student, yogi and model. Her directorial debut, No Woman No Cry, shares the powerful stories of at-risk pregnant women in four parts of the world, including the United States.
Join Amnesty International house parties to watch the film’s broadcast premiere on the Oprah Winfrey Network this Saturday, May 7 (the night before Mother’s Day), at 9:30 ET/PT and again on May 8 at 1pm ET/PT.
We spoke with Christy recently about her work to improve maternal health worldwide: