After the 64th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York last month, Jordan’s Queen Rania, Wendi Murdoch (wife of Rupert) and Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo’s chairman and CEO) welcomed more than 300 of the world’s most influential women for dinner. The topic of conversation was an issue that needs to be at the top of every world leader’s agenda — maternal mortality.
Her Majesty Rania Al Abdullah, Queen of Jordan
Last year, 60 million women around the world gave birth without professional care. They are women like Sharifa, just 23 years old, from Afghanistan, who screamed in pain as her relatives tied her to a ladder, and carried her, for hours, to a clinic, only to be told to go to hospital 200 kilometres away. Her husband had to rent a car, and drive along roads so dirty and pitted that she choked on dust and fainted. When she was resuscitated, she was told that her baby was dead, and she wouldn’t have any more children.
It doesn’t have to be this way. When you educate a girl, you kick-start a cycle of success. It makes economic sense. It makes social sense. It makes moral sense. But, it seems, it’s not common sense yet.
Wendi Murdoch, wife of Rupert Murdoch
I grew up knowing my mother had killed her mother. A tragedy, yes, but in those days in Xuzhou, China, dying in childbirth was just a fact of life. And, sadly, it still is in many parts of the world. More than a million children —like my mom — are left motherless each year.
Access to emergency medical services, health education, family planning and contraception could prevent 80 per cent of maternal deaths for less than $1.50 per woman in the 75 countries where 95 per cent of maternal deaths occur. Think about it: we could save a woman’s life for less than the price of a subway ride. So, why aren’t we doing it?
Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo
Where I was born in India, pregnant women receive months of pampering from their mothers and other family members. Because my mother received this care during her pregnancy with me, she was there to give me the same treatment when I gave birth to my two children in the United States.
I often think of the women who are not as fortunate. Who comes to their aid? For all too many women around the globe, the answer is no one. As women, we share a special passion for this issue. But it should not be our issue alone.