Making a World of Difference this Mother?s Day

The following post is by Mary Beth Powers is the chief of Save the Children’s newborn and child survival campaign, it is followed by a film produced by LinkTV and Save the Children. It is featured on NextBillion video partner

In the country that Save the Children ranked as the world’s best place to be a mother this year, mothers typically get a year of maternity leave. In the bottom-ranked country of the 164 countries we analyzed, one in 11 women will die from giving birth and one in five young children die of mostly preventable diseases.

Those details from Norway and Afghanistan are among so many that demonstrate the extremely different conditions that women and girls face around the world.

In our State of the World’s Mothers report this year, distinguished individuals from across public life weigh in why it’s in all of our interest to narrow these gaps in health, education and economic opportunities. Former Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy is among them, making the economic case for investing in women and children in poor countries.

U.S. corporate growth increasingly relies on growing markets in developing countries, Mulcahy asserts. When the United States and U.S. businesses help these countries build a foundation of health and education, we are helping ourselves. It’s worth keeping in mind that, today, 10 of the world’s 15 largest importers of U.S. goods and services are nations that have graduated from U.S. foreign assistance programs.

The research is robust on extremely cost-effective investments that will allow more children and mothers to survive and thrive-from skilled attendance at birth to early childhood education. This year, Save the Children partnered with Link TV’s to create a documentary that takes a global tour of motherhood, while highlighting some of the remarkable approaches to change.

Among them is the story of Shilpi in Bangladesh, who participated in Save the Children’s Girls Voices program. Funded by the Nike Foundation, the program both builds upon and seeks to contribute to growing research that empowering girls and young women is one of the most effective routes to reducing child mortality and increasing economic prosperity for all.

The research program served over 42,000 adolescent girls from 2006-2010, and offered the girls a variety of opportunities. In the coming months the results will be analyzed to see what are the “best bet” interventions for improving girls’ wellbeing, including which ones reduced how many of these girls got married at a young age. Typically girls in rural Bangladesh are married by age 15 and have their first child by 16-increasing risks of death to both them and their children, and often cutting their education short.

In Shilpi’s case, she had the opportunity to learn practical saving, bookkeeping and entrepreneurial skills with other girls in her community. You’ll have to watch the video to see what happened!

But I’ll give this much away, it’s quite a happy result. And it adds to the amazing stories of success resulting from efforts that allow mothers and children to live healthier, more fruitful lives. The more mothers and children we reach together, the better off we’ll all be.

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