Benin – Some 500 women have pressured political leaders to help their poverty-hit nation by taking to the streets.
The brave women have been campaigning for the poor in Djougou, Benin – presenting the Mayor and Health Minister with a petition calling for Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 on child and maternal health to be met. They have also demanded better attention from clinic workers so women do not die from negligence during childbirth – and received government promises of action.
Their advocacy campaign – “Birth without Risk of Death” – is aimed at improving maternal and infant health, as part of the global Micah Challenge campaign aiming at halving world poverty.
Micah Challenge coordinator in Benin, Jean Kpetere, was delighted with the campaigning, saying “The women now understand their important role in improving maternal health. They now plan to set up a watchdog so they have accurate information and can check up on health facilities. The women want to get accurate information so they can go to health authorities with facts. They want to be listened to.”
During a whole campaigning day of action that lasted 19 hours, the ladies wore bright t-shirts that proclaimed a line from Proverbs 31, “A woman submitted to the Lord is worthy of praise”. Then they marched with banners that declared ‘No prosperity without good maternal health’ and ‘Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God’ – a line taken from the Bible book of Micah.
Their march was covered by three radio stations and two TV stations – taking the message to the rest of the nation and helping to pressure the politicians to take action.
Several weeks ago the women were inspired to help after hearing about maternal and child health issues from a senior doctor in Benin. They were told that nearly half the women and girls in Benin live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day and that poverty means lack of opportunity. They also learned the shocking facts that maternal mortality is extremely high in Benin with 397 deaths per 100,000 live births – compared to around 7 in most of Europe. And far too many children die before their fifth birthday.
Amanda Jackson, who heads up advocacy and campaigns for Micah Challenge international, said: “If women can be strengthened in their role as mothers and community leaders it will not only benefit them but the next generation will flourish, and in a country where 45 per cent of the population is under 15 years, that is a crucial opportunity. This was a successful campaign to help hit the MDGs in Benin. The mayor and district health minister both promised to take action. The women know they have taken the first steps to saving lives. They are inspirational.”
Micah Challenge is currently mobilising millions of Christians across the world to advocate on behalf of their country’s poor on the MDGs by the deadline of 2015. They are helping nations like Zambia to reach their Christian and Church communities, so political leaders can be reminded to keep the promises they made on the MDGs in 2000.