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Improving the Status of Women - the Key to Global Sustainability
We must create a new environmental ethic, where improving the rights and opportunities of women is valued, and this is exactly what Population Media Center is doing.
By: Kathlene Carney
The need to address this global problem is urgent, not only from a human rights perspective but also because empowering women is a key component to advancing sustainable economic development, reducing poverty, improving health, and stabilizing population numbers worldwide. Unfortunately, women continue to be discriminated against every day - examples of which include gender-based violence, forced marriage and childbearing, economic marginalization, and harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation.
To create a more sustainable society, we must address the attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate subjugation of women. To achieve a world in balance we need to change human behavior and ensure that all people are provided with both education and opportunity. This will not only raise living standards, but it will allow for informed decisions about childbearing and family size. However, when half of a country's population - the women - are deprived of these opportunities, realizing such goals becomes impossible.
We must create a new environmental ethic, where improving the rights and opportunities of women is valued and understood as a critical element in achieving global sustainability. And this is exactly what the international communications organization Population Media Center (PMC) is doing.
The media is one of the most powerful influencers of human behavior and it has the ability to reach millions of people at once. PMC harnesses the power of the mass media and popularity of dramas (otherwise known as soap operas or telenovelas)
For example in Nigeria, PMC produced and broadcast a radio drama titled Gugar Goge ("Tell It To Me Straight"). The drama was about a young Nigerian girl named Kande who is forced into marriage when she is only 11-years-old. At the very young age of 12, she finds herself married and giving birth to her first child. However, problems arise during her labor because her young body is not yet ready to give birth and her husband does not allow her to see a skilled birth attendant. After suffering from an obstructed labor for several days, Kande's baby dies and she is left with a condition called obstetric fistula, which literally translates to "a hole," causing her to leak urine and feces. Kande's husband then throws her out on to the streets because of her incontinence and the resulting smell.
Kande's situation is one that is all too common in Nigeria, where obstetric fistula is a widespread problem. While nearly all cases of obstetric fistula are preventable and treatable, it is estimated that at least 2 million women in Africa, Asia, and the Arab region are living with the condition, and some 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop each year.
Kande finds herself in the same predicament as the millions of women suffering worldwide, but she learns that fistula is treatable and is supported by her family to seek treatment. At the end of this episode, PMC ran an epilogue telling listeners where they too could get treatment for their condition and provided them with information about fistula repair centers. As a result, 43% of people seeking fistula repair cited PMC's program as the reason they were seeking services.
One listener, named Halima identified with Kande's story. She too was married off young, at just 15-years-old. Then while giving birth to her second child at the age of 19, she also suffered from an obstructed labor. Her husband would not allow her to see a professional birth attendant. Luckily, the baby survived, but Halima developed a fistula. Her husband then forced her out of the house. Sick and desperate with nowhere to go, Halima went to live with her parents. For two years she suffered from the condition, until one day she began listening to Gugar Goge. She listened with her parents every week, following Kande's story closely, as it reminded her so much of her own life. And this is how Halima and her parents learned that she no longer needed to suffer from this terrible condition, and like Kande, she went to seek treatment, and her fistula was successfully repaired. Halima is now healthy and able to care for her baby.
To learn more about how improving the status of women can positively impact almost all of the most pressing problems we face today and how PMC's programs are changing the lives of millions around the world, please visit www.populationmedia.org.