Interview With Christy Turlington-Burns

Ed Note. I’m pleased to welcome Tabby Biddle to UN Dispatch.  Tabby, M.S. Ed., is a writer/reporter and women’s empowerment advocate dedicated to amplifying the voices of women and girls. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, writes The Goddess Diaries blog, and teaches workshops to help young women find their political voice.

Hundreds of thousands of women and girls are dying every year as a result of childbirth. In fact, there is one maternal death every minute. For every woman who dies in childbirth, there are at least 10 women who suffer significant injuries or are disabled.

The thing is that it doesn’t need to be this way.

“Almost all of these deaths can be prevented,” said Christy Turlington-Burns, the model-turned maternal health advocate, at the Social Good Summit taking place in New York City this week. “There are not a lot of issues out there you can say that about,” she says.

While healthcare is deficient in many developing countries, maternal health care is particularly neglected. For instance, in 2000, the United Nations set maternal health and child health as two of their eight Millennium Development Goals. It so happens that these two MDGs are the ones that have experienced the least progress.

“If we can’t support a woman while she is giving life, then we don’t support women,” said Christy Turlington in an interview at the Social Good Summit.

Just after delivering her first child, Christy suffered a serious complication. While she had a birth team that worked quickly to manage the situation, she was shocked to learn that hundreds of thousands of women die each year during childbirth—and that 90 percent of these deaths are preventable.

Moved to speak out about the importance and necessity of maternal health, Christy made a film documenting the stories of pregnant women from four parts of the world, including Tanzania, Bangladesh, Guatemala, and the United States. Over the last year and half No Woman, No Cry has been showing at film festivals, women and girl conferences, medical schools, the United Nations, the World Bank, and other influential public forums.

“My goal is to make sure that those individual stories are heard so that then we can really rally – those of us who have a voice — who have the ability to speak out about these issues and be heard,” says Christy.

Wanting to take the public awareness from No Woman, No Cry a few steps further, Christy founded Every Mother Counts, an advocacy organization to increase education for maternal and child health, as well as a resource to help people get involved and make a positive difference for women and children.

Most of the women who have died in childbirth could be alive today if they had access to basic maternal health services. We need to look this issue in the eye and see that women are not dying because of untreatable diseases. They are dying because women and girls have yet to be valued as lives worth saving. “We named our organization Every Mother Counts. It’s really that every woman and every girl counts,” says Christy.

Isn’t that the truth?