Women’s Health Takes Center Stage at UN Population Awards
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 24 2016 (IPS) – Social Scientist, Carmen Barroso and Polish Organisation, Childbirth in Dignity received the United Nations Population Awards here Thursday for their outstanding work in population, improving individuals’ health and welfare, and specifically for their decades-long leadership in women’s rights.
“I dedicate this award to anonymous health providers everywhere, who day in and day out help women to exercise their rights and preserve their health,” said Barroso on accepting the award.
Barroso has been actively involved in reproductive health and population issues for more than forty years. She was selected for her leadership in developing programmes, funding and policies related to sexual and reproductive health and rights and for mobilising the voices of people in the South around those issues.
In 1966, Sao Paulo, Brazil, a country rising under the weight of a military dictatorship, Barroso was a 22 year old college student living off of her husband’s meagre salary. Committed to achieving social justice, they did not plan to start a family for many years, and had a very important vision of their future.
On birth control for a long time, she was becoming uncomfortable with the hormones she was putting into her body. A doctor offered her an alternative: IUDs. When she started, she began having copious periods of painful cramps, but she decided to wait in hope they would go away. But they didn’t. One day, she missed her period.
She froze with horror: “All of a sudden, the castle of my future came crashing down.”
At the time, abortion was a taboo subject. She never thought it was something that would happen to her, but now she knew that was what she wanted, and went to the doctor.
He performed the abortion, telling her to keep it secret and cover it up as a miscarriage.
“I would not be here today if it weren’t for the courage of a doctor operating under restrictive laws. Because of him, we were able to live the future we dreamed of.”
Later Barroso became a senior researcher with the Chagas Foundation, where she pioneered innovative evaluation methods and later created Brazil’s first and foremost women’s studies center, despite protest from colleagues who saw it as an “imperialistic import of feminist ideology.”
Dr. Barroso became the first non-American to be appointed as director in the US MacArthur Foundation, and she recently resigned from her tenure as Director of Planned Parenthood International, Western Hemisphere.
Childbirth in Dignity Foundation
Twenty years ago in Poland, pregnant women had little freedom to choose the environment in which they gave birth. Lack of privacy, loneliness and inadequate support were the rule, with women having to go through mandatory episiotomies, and other arcane procedures such as not having time with their newborn child immediately, or having their significant other in the room during childbirth, made the experience far from joyful, in fact, humiliating in many cases.
A nationwide campaign, “Childbirth with Dignity” which empowered women to share their stories, caught international attention, causing government legislative action like Perinatal and Postnatal Care Standards in line with World Health Organization (WHO) standards. Partners are now allowed in the delivery room, mothers can have visitors, and newborns are able to breastfeed, being placed in the mother’s arms to bond right after being born making childbirth an easier experience for mothers.
Childbirth in Dignity Foundation was awarded for their strong advocacy and support of the rights of women and newborns for over 20 years, and for empowering women, as patients, to demand their rights in relation to childbirth.
Both laureates were chosen from among several international nominees, by the Committee for the United Nations Population Award chaired by Paraguay, and including Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Haiti, Iran, Israel and Poland. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) serves as secretariat for the award.
Past laureates selected by the Committee included individuals and organizations, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Dr. Allan Rosenfield, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and the Population Council.