In 2030, my Khadija, you will not have to conform to any man's rule, you will not be anyone's play-dough, and you will not be moulded into figures of any man's invention. Come 2030, my baby girl, I hope you will be asking your mom about how she helped make this era the girl generation: a time when your children are born free.
Celebrated on May 5th each year, the International Day of the Midwife recognises the invaluable role of midwives in health. As the Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), I would like to personally thank midwives for their inspiring work in delivering quality care to women and newborns.
Of the 3 million babies the world loses every year in their first month of life, 99 percent are in the developing world, meaning this is simply an issue of poverty and lack of resources. The weeks following birth are an incredibly vulnerable time, but astoundingly 2 million newborns could be saved with a few low-cost measures.
I've been on the front lines of tending to and advocating for the needs of children for more than 30 years. In countless countries around the world, I've held newborns struggling to make it through the day. I've looked into the innocent eyes of toddlers abandoned by the people who should have loved them most.
When we think of what a child needs, we think of food, water, shelter and of course, love. Access to education, health care, safety and freedom are also crucial. However, after meeting countless children around the world when I travel, I've come to realize there is one thing a child needs the most: hope.
Growing up in Senegal, I lived in what we in the global health community might call a "pronatalist" environment -- meaning that women and communities prefer large families. Contraception was, and often still is, difficult to come by, and many women die as a result of childbirth complications (289,000 per year worldwide, in fact).
I've been the small boy feeling he must face the world on his own, and the teenager in a war-torn country fearing for his life and the lives of his family members. For as long as these situations persist in the world, I speak from experience and believe there will always be love and families that can help these children overcome trauma and reach their full potential.
I don't know if I saved that child from anything. I don't know if he carried my support with him as he grew or if my words slowly faded away with time and age. I don't know if my whispers were audible enough to carry him through whatever obstacles he might have faced once he left residential treatment. But I do know that he taught me a very valuable lesson: Meet the children where they are and always love them anyway.
I meandered through room after room with children in cribs or lying on mats and saw a kind of a holocaust. The children in that orphanage, as in most institutions, were "ruined" by the lack of attention and malnutrition. Caretakers were not trained to be connected to the children. In fact, they were told not to love the children because there would be nothing to be gained.
Florentine and Raso met in the waiting room the day their toddlers were scheduled to see Mercy Ships' orthopedic team. Their children suffer from the same congenital deformity called clubfoot, which causes the feet to twist at the ankle and curve inward. Both children are about 20 months old, but neither has taken a first step.
However imperfect our health system may be, we generally have the information and tools at our disposal to identify and select the best options for our individual needs. In the developing world, however, making these same informed decisions is actually an acutely-felt barrier, one that often prevents women and their families from enjoying good health.