Championing change

Dorothy Ngoma being interviewed by a camera crew. (Ian Williams/Oxfam Canada)

By Dorothy Ngoma, G20 citizen contributor

dorothy52.jpgSixteen women die in my country each day due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth.
They die because of post-birth infections, because of a lack of drugs, because they can't get to a midwife in time. They die because their bodies are small and stunted, ill-equipped for the rigours of childbirth because of chronic malnutrition and the back-breaking work that reshapes their spines and tilts their pelvises. They die because even when they do reach a clinic, sometimes there are no drugs, or gloves or blood for transfusions.
That is some of what I told the media Thursday morning at a breakfast for international journalists covering the G8 and G20 summits.
I sat with Bill Nighy, a British actor and Oxfam ambassador, who has campaigned on the Robin Hood tax, which would be levied on financial institutions, even appearing in a short video as a banker bumbling his way through an interview about the tax. He said he was mystified as to why anyone wouldn't support this idea. I am too.
Why have 350,000 women been allowed to die year after year since 2005, when the G8 first made the promise that they would increase aid to $50 billion? Because the money wasn't delivered. Even the G8 themselves say they haven't quite reached their target. Oxfam says they are $20 billion short and this tax would help them pay what's owed.
I was struck by something one of the other panelists said.
"It is of no benefit to the women and girls living in Africa if [the G8] are stealing money that should be going to their education in order to pay for their health."
I was asked by a journalist how I felt about the Canadian government's position that although it is championing maternal health, its own contribution to the initiative will not go to fund abortion services for women. This is a tricky question, obviously. In my country, abortion is not legal. And yet we know that 30 per cent of the women who die - one in three - die while attempting to end a pregnancy.
I told the journalists that our world leaders must acknowledge that unsafe abortions are killing women - and they must show the leadership to find a solution.
I will be watching for the contents of the G8 communique. I will be watching to see whether the money is new - not double counted, not a commitment already made and announced - and I will be watching to see whether the 16 women who died today in my country have been honoured by this initiative.

Related: Citizen Bytes