Former super-model Christy Turlington-Burns is a well known advocate for maternal health. She recently channeled her activism into a film that takes a hard look at the global plague of maternal mortality. Her documentary, No Women No Cry debuted at the Tribecca Film Festival in April. Earlier this month, Turlington screened the film at the United Nations for Ban Ki Moon and other diplomats.
The film is a moving examination of birth stories and cultural issues surrounding death in childbirth from Tanzania, Bangladesh, Guatemala and the USA. Most of these maternal deaths are preventable through good pre-natal care and decent medical access. Introduced by Secretary-General Ban, there were multiple acknowledgements throughout the post film discussion of Ban’s championship of this crisis, as the United Nations increases its focus on reducing maternal deaths. Ms Turlington-Burns’, as she presented her film and discussed her motivations and the story-telling experience, spoke determinedly about the work to be done. Janet, a Tanzanian woman, 9 months pregnant with her third child, walked 5 miles to the nearest clinic, then 5 miles home because she wasn’t progressing in her labor and had not brought any food with her. Hours later, at nightfall, she trudged back again later when labor intensified. When it became clear Janet needed additional help, the nearest hospital was a horrifically bumpy ride over several miles costing $30 – more than Janet’s family earned in a month. Having delivered four babies, that car ride to the hospital has always been the hardest part – clawing the back of the taxi cab and begging the Manhattan traffic to disappear. I can only imagine how Janet’s body felt as she was lunged from side to side. She still hadn’t eaten, because there was nothing to eat at home or at the clinic. For a glimpse into the film and Janet’s experience, take a minute to watch the No Woman No Cry trailer.