By Jean Kpetere, Micah Challenge, Benin
Reducing maternal mortality is something women in the Union of Evangelical Churches of Benin (UEEB) are passionate about.
In order to engage all the people of Benin, and in particular the political and administrative authorities in this struggle, these women organised a march with the support of Micah Challenge Benin, which ended in reading out petitions to the Mayor of the town of Djougou, as well as the local health minister, Ouaké-Copargo. This was on Thursday, 23rd February, 2012.
More than five hundred Christian women were mobilised for the advocacy campaign. These women who come from the districts of Atacora and Donga, wished to express their outrage at the lack of attention women receive from health workers during their pregnancies. They have also criticised the authorities for the inadequate health infrastructure and the under-qualified staff. "This is the reason why women are dying!", said the President of the UEEB (pictured below). The campaign is called "Birth Without Risk of Death."
The first stop for the women was Djougou town hall where the message was brought to the Mayor. Upon receiving it, he made a commitment to forward it to the district heads of Atacora and Donga as well as the President.
He congratulated and encouraged the women of Micah Challenge for the importance of the message and showed support for the community of Djougou, who he said were acting in the interest of the whole country.
Then the women headed to the community health center to carry the same message to the local health minister. Just like the Mayor, he promised to work towards reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.
The local authorities commended the determination, commitment and motivation of the women. The mayor described them as "brave women", and the health minster as "engaged mothers".
The advocacy campaign was successful in Djougou; the authorities have pledged to take action for achieving MDGs 4 and 5.
Women were also happy to have been able to truly express how they feel. As one woman put it: "This is the first time I’ve seen the Mayor speak with emotion. It’s proof that our message has worked".
During the march, the women held banners with messages such as: "What does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. Micah 6: 8"; "Creating good conditions for women and children is the foundation for sustainable development "; "Is it normal to die giving life? What are we doing about it?"; "No prosperity without good maternal health "; "People of Benin, let’s all get behind reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. It is in our interest ".
Micah Challenge Benin dreams of seeing more actions like this, reminding leaders of the importance of justice and fairness.
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