She had a name. She was a wife. She was a mother. She was a daughter. She was still a child herself at 18 years old. Now she becomes a statistic that is not quite at the forefront for a number of reasons.
These women are poor and they are mainly women of color. They are from Panama, the Sudan, Afghanistan, and yes even our own doorstep: New York.
I went over to Time.com and was struck by this moving and hauntingly real slideshow which brought me into the pain of childbirth, the uncertainty, the resolve, the relief, and unfortunately the death of Mamma Sessay. She was forced into a marriage at 14 years old. By 15 years old, she was having children.
As I trudge along in my own pregnancy at 17 weeks and some days, I don't question whether or not I will have to worry about care. I don't worry if I will deliver our my third child in a dirty hospital room with little technology to take care of me.
Every woman questions whether or not something will go wrong, but at this stage of pregnancy, it gets easier to focus on touching your new baby soon, as opposed to worrying about whether or not you will make it out alive. Well, at least if you are in privileged enough to have health care insurance or some kind of care in a "First World Country."
I feel guilty staring at her picture. I feel like I've done nothing to deserve these blessings. I wonder if I have earned enough. As I sit and watch her face and her untimely death, I can't help but thank and question God at the same time for all that He has given me. My kids were born in nice hospitals, one of them being newly remodeled and furnished with plasma television screens, DVD and CD player, beautiful wood paneling...
How is her situation fair?
Her story is tragic because she was let down, as so many of these women often are. At the whims of men, at the whims of their society, village and customs. I don't want to bring my "imperial" view of femininity into the forefront as something awesome, because our situation here isn't that great. With that said, as women living in the United States (for the most part), we have a choice as to when to have our kids, and to even have our kids or not.
We can marry with the understanding that we will never have children. We can marry on our own terms as well. Women like Mamma are too often voiceless because they are at the mercy of people who only see them as bodies and vessels, and not human beings. Couple that with living in a country that was pillaged of its worth by colonists and their greed, and cruel dictators and/or corrupt leadership, and you have the beginnings of a crisis, if you don't have one already. Don't even get me started on the ambivlanece Western eyes display when you mention these women. The farther away, the easier it is for us to ignore them...
As usual, our world put emphasis on trifling things like the BET Awards and Chris Brown's antics on stage, or dogs with vuvuzelas. If you have been pregnant in the last 10 years or so in the States or Europe, you're bombarded with images of usually too skinny celebrities carrying children and what maternity couture they are wearing while one woman will die every minute in childbirth somewhere across the world.
Does being born into poverty automatically mean that we should not care anymore? I know it seems like there are a million causes out there. As someone who has devoted time to volunteering, I know the feeling. It's overwhelming, but there is absolutely no reason why women of color in poor countries should continue to suffer when we can do just one small thing to help.
Here are some links in case you would like more information, would like to donate, or even take action in your own neighborhoods. Remember, this is happening in our own country right now, and it's affecting our babies as well. I will be touching base on Tennessee's tragically high (it is akin to some third world countries, people. And guess who's suffering the most) infant mortality on my blog tomorrow as well. Pass it along on Facebook, Twitter... Let's get the word out.