There is a universal principle of childhood physics that we all remember well: the joy of spinning in circles. Perhaps it was spinning while locking hands with a playmate, in a teacup at Disney World, dancing in pirouettes, or simply turning in place -- it was a thrill to send our surroundings into a kaleidoscopic blur. This was followed by a dizzy fit of giggles until our internal compasses caught up, and the world came back into focus.
As International Day of the Girl Child approaches, I think of the obstacles that stand in the way of girls and their education. But I also imagine things the way they should be: with them attending university, speaking boldly and confidently, and being valued by all of us for the full spectrum of who they are.
The Water for the World Act currently before Congress puts the power of the U.S. government behind those efforts. It supports effective, localized sanitation improvement programs with transparent monitoring systems, all without adding a dime to the deficit. It deserves your attention, and your support.
As a child growing up in the rural outskirts of Hong Kong, "wash your hands" was a frequent -- and wise -- admonition. The simple act of eating a piece of fruit or a chocolate bar with soiled fingers and licking those delicious flavors off already dirty hands may have resulted in a stomachache, or so much worse. I was lucky. Even today, intestinal worms caused by lack of access to water for handwashing affects nearly a quarter of the people on this planet.
What would we do differently tomorrow if we knew that the lives of 16 million women and children were at stake? Because they are. In the three years since the launch of Every Woman, Every Child, 260 entities have committed nearly $60 billion to programs intended to save and improve the lives of the world's most vulnerable women and children.
In his book Organizing Genius, Warren Bennis notes that the world's greatest problems can be solved only by creative collaboration and that "the most urgent collaborations require the coordinated contributions of many talented people." Public-private partnerships that bring together the best talents, expertise, and resources from the government, non-profit and business sectors have proven essential for tackling the most complex challenges in global health and international development.
Until I met Mariama, ten years after her agonizing delivery, I had never heard of vesicovaginal fistula (VVF). That's because in the United States, stories like hers haven't been told in more than 100 years. Today, VVF keeps company with obsoletes like smallpox and polio in the shadows of Western medicine, where its symptoms are referenced in the past tense. But in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, more than 2 million women still suffer from the condition.
According to Save the Children's latest State of the World's Mothers report, Finland is the best country in the world for mothers. This is a tremendous achievement, but not an accident. There is a wide consensus in Finland that maternal and infant health is a high priority, and our national budget reflects that.
Nigeria is a hard place to be a mom. As a midwife there, I should know. Many women who are in need of medical care there don't get it for a variety of reasons. Either they can't afford it, they live too far from a health facility, or their husbands haven't allowed them to go. Some women literally die waiting for this permission.
In rural communities throughout Africa, Asia and Latin American, committed young women derive satisfaction and pride from helping other women to shape a better future for their children. Yet every one of these amazing young women also envisions a future married and with a family of her own. Wistfully, they admit that eventually it will likely be necessary to leave this demanding yet deeply satisfying work behind.
Johnson & Johnson is partnering with (RED) to raise awareness of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and to unlock up to $100,000 for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS. Each like, tweet or pin of this infographic gets us $1 closer to keeping HIV-positive mothers alive and helping to ensure that their children are born healthy and HIV-free.