Every Voice Counts: Use your voice and change the world
Advocacy – it’s the centerpiece of our mission statement and the focus of what we do at Every Mother Counts, but what exactly does it mean? Essentially, advocacy means getting people organized so they can make their intentions clear and put them into action. Advocacy is how history is made.
Every generation champions causes that advance their standing as full citizens of the world, improving their own lives and those of the next generation. Over the past hundred years countless causes have been at least as challenging as EMC’s mission to improve global maternal health and reduce maternal mortality. But, imagine the world if advocates hadn’t met these challenges:
- In the early 20th century, there was suffrage, the women's right to vote.
- After World War II, it was women’s right to work and support themselves and their families, after soldiers returned from war and took their jobs.
- Mid-century brought the civil rights movement as television broadcasts reported women and children being attacked by police dogs all because they wanted the same human rights as whites.
- The sixties brought the right to use contraception (whether married or not), giving women more choices and freedom to plan their lives.
Today, more than a decade into a new millennium, there’s no doubt we’ve made progress, but if we look at women on the whole around the world, we still don’t have full access to the privileges and human rights afforded to men. Every Mother Counts was founded with the intention to focus on one critical issue that proves that women’s lives are still widely considered expendable. That issue is childbirth. Every day, 800 women die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth even though 90% of these deaths are preventable.
Making pregnancy and childbirth safe for all women may seem an overly ambitious goal but so did all the examples above. How did our foremothers make the impossible seem possible? By becoming advocates who made so much noise they got the world’s attention. They demanded change and continued to push until they made progress despite facing serious resistance. Through the power of advocacy, they moved the ball forward for generations to come.
At Every Mother Counts, advocacy means telling the world that the lives of all mothers, girls and women, no matter who they are or where they live are important. It means demanding changes in policies and practices that hold girls and women back.
That’s why we’ve made Every Voice Counts our September focus. Because when every one raises her voice, tells her story, champions a cause and demands change in her own life and on behalf of her family, things can change in her community, in her country and around the world.
Advocacy starts by stating what change must be made. For us, it’s alarmingly simple: Every woman’s life is of equal value and every woman deserves access to the care and support she needs to survive pregnancy and childbirth.
The next step is getting the message heard and building a community to the point where change is no longer an ambitious dream but something that feels inevitable.
Back in the 1980s there was a shampoo commercial where an actress told two friends how great her shampoo was and they told two friends and so on. Pretty soon, the TV screen filled up with tiny pictures of happy women with shiny hair. Advocacy depends on similar word of mouth by people who take it upon themselves to share their convictions with friends and family. When it’s effective advocacy campaigns magnetize people to a cause. Those people tell two friends and pretty soon, your message goes viral. We call it the multiplier affect.
Of course it’s not just about getting the word out. It's also about making your mission so widely heard and well known it rises all the way through to top policy levels. It goes from being popular, to being critical, to making a permanent difference.
Effective advocacy reaches people in a variety of different ways, through film, photography, blogs, magazine and newspaper articles, demonstrations, television broadcasts, music and by purchasing products from companies who partner with the advocacy campaign you’re aligned with.
Effective advocacy means doing your homework, learning all you can about a subject, gathering statistics and data and convincing people with political power (who are paid to represent what you care about) to make changes and decisions that insure you achieve your goal.
It may sound daunting, but when you’re as passionate and committed as we are, advocacy is exciting, empowering and kind of fun. Sometimes we’re in our jeans, strategizing, writing blogs and answering emails. Other times we’re storming Capitol Hill making sure those elected officials know how many of us care deeply about this stuff. No matter what we’re doing, advocacy means telling the world that Every Mother Counts, that every mother has the power to change the world and that each of us is responsible for helping accomplish that.
This month, as we focus on how Every Voice Counts, we encourage you to be a champion for girls and women everywhere. Whether you start with something big or something small, every voice adds up to create big noise and big change. This September, we invite you to:
- Share your story on our virtual wall and become part of the message we’resending the world.
- Contribute your perspective on motherhood, empowerment and what it means to be a woman to our blog.
- Use your voice through volunteerism. We have some great ideas to put your practical skills to use.
- Tune in to the U.N. General Assembly and Clinton Global Initiative later in September to check on how commitments made in your name, by our country’s leaders are progressing.
However you choose to get involved, think of advocacy as your way of filling the world with happy, healthy women because when you tell two friends, we’ll tell two friends and pretty soon, we’ll go viral.
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