As shown in the statistics above, women comprise the majority of the population in eight out of ten of the world’s poorest countries. On top of that, in many of these locations women are subjected to harsh environments, often experiencing violence and rape with little to no access to education and healthcare. Even if they are lucky enough to be part of a stable home environment, they are likely to experience unexpected pregnancy, as they do not have access to contraceptives within their committed relationships. They, and their children, end up being the most affected by poverty.
"When you invest in women, you invest in the people who invest in everybody else, and if you gradually start to take action, it won’t be long before you realize that investing in women is good for your mind, good for your soul and good for your business." (Melinda Gates).
I recently read this article by Melinda Gates: ‘I’m Living Out My Faith in Action’ and was intrigued by it. In it, she discusses her Family Planning 2020 initiative that was launched in 2012. The goal of the initiative is to make voluntary artificial contraception available to 120 million poor women by 2020. In the article she explains that if poor women in these parts of the world had access to contraceptives, giving them the ability to plan for and space their births out (as many women do throughout the U.S., Europe, and many other countries in the world), maternal mortality would decrease and the chances of their children growing up much healthier would greatly increase.
Although this is only one area of women’s health to address, I think it’s a big one. Why? Because enabling these women to have a little more control of their lives in this area could empower them with time to work, plan, and educate themselves, impacting the quality of life for future generations.
I see women’s health as a Biblical Justice issue because if I am concerned with leveling the playing field and meeting the spiritual as well as physical needs of all of humanity, a part of that means making the resources I have available to me, available to all. And I believe that educating women on how to take care of their physical bodies and plan for their families, equips them with the tools necessary to create a higher quality of life for themselves, for their families, for their communities - ultimately, giving them the opportunity to raise themselves and their families out of poverty.
In countries like the U.S. we have the luxury of planning our lives, to a certain extent, due to the availability of birth control. If my husband and I decide to wait to have children for five years to ensure that we have a stable home to welcome them into, then we can. We can work and save for years while educating ourselves on the childbearing process and parenthood, so by the time we have children, we at least feel as prepared as we can be. If this type of healthcare was provided for poor women, it could, for the most part, provide their users with time - time to prepare, plan, and get educated so that when they do have kids, they do not have to continue in the same cycle of poverty but can have opportunities their parents didn’t have.
Whether or not you agree with contraceptives, you can’t ignore the fact that women comprise the majority of populations in the poorest countries around the world - if we can provide women around the world with tools to help pull themselves up, then they can pull up those around them. “You lift up a woman - she lifts up her whole family - and that lifts up a community.” (Melinda Gates)
If you are successful it is because somewhere,sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help someone less fortunate just as you were helped. - Melinda Gates