As the finance ministers from the Group of Eight prepare to meet in Rome, eight women from poor countries around the world, uniting as the ‘W8, today demanded that action to prevent the deaths of half a million women every year in childbirth.
Their appeal garnered messages of support from Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, along with Nobel Peace Prize winners Jody Williams and Mairead Maguire.
The ‘W8 represent national movements for health and education in India, Georgia, Bangladesh, Mali, Thailand, the Philippines, Nicaragua and Malawi. They are Sandhya Venkateswaran, Miranda Akhvlediani, Rokeya Kabir, Kadiatou Baby Maiga, Jiraporn Limpananont, Leonor Magtalis Briones, Elba Rivera-Urbina and Dorothy Ngoma.
Oxfam International supported the W8’s call for action. Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada, said: ‘Canada must do its part to ensure the tragedy of death in childbirth is ended.
In a letter to G8 finance ministers, the W8 asked them to honour their promises to fund health systems in poor countries and make healthcare free for pregnant women and children. ‘In this economic crisis, the W8 letter said, ‘it is more important than ever that poor people are not turned away from a doctor, and that women have the care they need when they are giving birth to the next generation.
Mary Robinson said: ‘I am very encouraged by this group of highly-respected women leaders from around the world. I join them in calling on the worldleaders meeting in Italy to commit theresources toreduce preventable deaths.
Gro Harlem Brundtland said: ‘Life’s start should not be a death sentence. These eight remarkable women are a voice of conscience. The G8 must now offer countries reassurance that mothers and children will not be abandoned.”
Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, said: “Rich nations have movedheaven and earth to save banks and corporations, while a child dies every three seconds of preventable disease and every minute a woman dies in childbirth or pregnancy.”
MÃ¡iread Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize winner and co-founder of the Community of Peace People, said: “These eight women must be heard. If G8 leaders honour promises to find the money to hire doctors and nurses in poor countries, countless lives will be saved.”