What Does The Word #Lead Mean To You? Enter To Win $100 In Save The Children’s #FindTheWords Campaign

What Does The Word #Lead Mean To You? Enter To Win $100 In Save The Children’s #FindTheWords Campaign

ELiza

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”-JFK

I am participating in Save The Children‘s #FindTheWords social media campaign to highlight the importance of early education for children. For this campaign I am 1 of 30 bloggers who will write on 30 words over 30 days as a way to symbolize the 30 million fewer words that children from low-income homes hear by the age of  3.

By age three, children from low-income homes hear on average 30 million fewer words than their peers, putting them 18 months cognitively behind his or her peers when they start school.  Around the world, if all students in low-income countries acquire basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty – Save The Children

The word I was assigned is:

LEAD

Leadership can sometimes come from the most surprising places. Thinks of Malala, known now by her first name alone, who has become a world leader just by standing up for her own beliefs. She was not afraid to break out of the mold and forge a new path towards what she believes in, and this is a case where the new path she forged is one that others chose to follow as well. Because she was being educated, she knew how important it was for her and other girls to continue to be educated.  Knowledge is one of the most powerful tools, and children who are not given the opportunity to learn from an early age are denied their full potential.   According to statistics provided by Save The Children 65% of young kids in need have little or no access to books.  More than two-thirds of poverty-stricken households do not possess a single book developmentally appropriate for a child under five.  And kids whose parents do not speak to them often and are not spoken to in an engaging, and supportive way are less likely to develop to their full intellectual potential than kids who hear a significant amount of child-directed speech.

Malala Yousafzai, Wikipedia Commons

Malala Yousafzai, Wikipedia Commons

Which in the case of Malala is exactly why there were those who did not want girls to be educated, because they know how empowering education can be.  As a parent I try to led by example, I know that learning and development for my kids is not just academic, but across all aspects of life, and I know that they will absorb what they see.  Personally I do not consider myself a leader, nor do I aspire to lead, yet I find myself on occasion in leadership roles. I’ve ended up advocating on Capitol Hill, acting as social director, sitting on various boards, as president of the PTA for my child’s school, and directing or producing media content.   It is a lot of leadership for someone whose first choice would not be to lead. That said, I am also distinctly not a follower.  Never have been, and what I think inspires me to step up into these positions is my belief that if you want something to happen, or something to change, you can not just sit back and wait for someone else to do it.  You need to make it happen. This is the same reason that I was eager to take part in the #FindTheWords campaign.   Society needs to be aware of the importance of early education for all children, and for the future of the community as a whole. Citizens who live up to their full potential are better able to contribute to society and to break the cycle of poverty. You can help spread the word as well!

What does the word LEAD mean to you?

You can enter to win $100.00 gift card by sharing this post, the campaign on social media, leaving a comment about what the word Lead means to you, or by taking a picture that represents the word LEAD to you and post it to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. To be entered to win don’t forget to use the proper hashtags #FindTheWords #Lead and tag @elizabethatalay
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Save the Children provides kids in need with access to books, essential learning support and a literacy-rich environment, setting them up for success in school and a brighter future. Learn more about Save the Children’s work in the US and around the world HERE.

Of Wanderlust And Coming Home

Of Wanderlust And Coming Home

Elizabeth AtalayI try to keep a cool adult demeanor as I open the tiny package at my seat. In it I find a pair of socks, a diminutive set with toothpaste and toothbrush, and a sleep-mask. I want to turn to the older gentleman in the plane seat next to mine as I pull out each item to show him with bright eyes and exclaim “Look how cute this toothbrush set is!” but I manage to keep my cool.

Wanderlust ;  a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.

Wanderlust is my favorite word.  Aside from being fun to say, it most aptly captures my enthusiastic desire to discover new places.   The more I traveled, the more I learned about new places I’d love to see. Put me on an airplane and I am as giddy as a child. I love to travel, and it’s not just about the destination. The journey itself thrills me as well. That sense of excitement and adventure as a trip launches. The forced stretches of time on the trip to read, write, or watch as many movies as I can fit in.  I love the diminutive compartments of the meals, accompanied by tiny bottles of wine.   I enjoy conversations struck up with other travelers, slices of lives in transit. Where we are, where we are going, and where we’ve been.  I’m excited by the anticipation of a new place, and of entering the unexpected.

Read the rest of this entry

#MakeWomenMatter

#MakeWomenMatter

She would never tell her family. They could never know.

SAMSUNG CSC

I was amazed that the young woman was brave enough to tell her story at all.

With a teary smile she explained that she was telling us because she was just so happy that her life was not over as feared.  She was just so relieved to have found someone to help her.  The week before she had called her friend to say goodbye. Read the rest of this entry

Health Post At Mosebo Village, Ethiopia

Health Post At Mosebo Village, Ethiopia

Elizabeth Atalay

We had just spent the night at the source of the Blue Nile River. Lake Tana sits in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, and as our caravan of Land Cruisers wove through the countryside from Bahir Dar to Mosebo I took in deep gulping breaths of sweet fresh Ethiopian air. The lush colors of our surroundings looked to me like they had been enhanced in Photoshop in the way that everything seemed to pop.  How could I feel this emotional connection to place that was never mine? A place I had never been?

Though this is my first time in Ethiopia, the verdant landscape brought me back to other rural parts of Africa I’d traveled through in my youth, similar topographies that had stayed with me ever since.  This time I’d returned to the continent as a new media fellow with the International Reporting Project to report on newborn health.  We were heading to one of the villages housing a Health Post which serves the local and surrounding population of approximately 3,500 people.

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

Mosebo Village is part of Save The Children’s Saving Newborn Lives program, and as such is looked to as a model village in the Ethiopian Government’s plan to reduce maternal and newborn mortality.  Mosebo is a rural agrarian community that produces wheat, teff and corn.  There I met seven-year-old Zina whose mother, Mebrate was about to give birth.  Through our translator Mebrate estimated her age to be around 26, and told us that Zina was her first child.  As we learned from interviewing many mothers along the way, her age estimate was really more of a suggestion, and at times might be a full decade older than the expecting mother’s true age. I suspect this is somewhat the case with Mebrate as well.   She said that for economic reasons she and her husband had waited to have a second child, but again, as we also learned, this might not be the full story. Losing a newborn in the act of childbirth is so common, and almost expected in rural Ethiopia, that it is not spoken of openly.   Almost in the way a western mother might not offer up a miscarriage amongst her healthy born children if asked how many children she has.

When she had Zina, Mebrate had gone to her parent’s home to give birth, as women in Ethiopia often do. It is estimated that 80% of Ethiopian mothers will give birth in their home, often without a trained health care attendant. Towards the end of Mebrate’s first pregnancy she went to live with her parents as her family instructed, until after the baby was born.  In that way her mother could help her deliver, could care for her and the baby, and feed her the traditional porridge after birth. Although there were no complications during her delivery, sadly, many young mothers giving birth at home are not as fortunate. The time period during and around birth are the most vulnerable for the lives of both the mothers and babies. The Saving Newborn Lives Program aims to reduce maternal and newborn mortality beginning with awareness programs and pre-natal care on the local level at Health Posts like the one we visited in Mosebo.

Mosebo Health Post

The Mosebo Health Post and Health Extension Workers

We had met Tirgno and Fasika, the two Health Extension Workers at the Mosebo Health Post earlier that day as they showed us the two room interior, and explained their role in improving maternal and newborn health.  They work to raise awareness in the community about the importance of pre-natal care, and the potential dangers of giving birth at home for both mother and child. Newborn health is interdependent with maternal health, and the most prevalent causes of newborn mortality, infection, Asphyxiation, pre-maturity or low birth weight, and diarrhea can often be avoided with proper care.   These days in Mosebo after receiving pre-natal care at the Health Post women are then referred to the regional Health Center for deliveries.

Zina shyly smiled when we ask her how she felt about having a new sibling, she stood straight and tall listening intently as we asked her mother about the babies’ arrival.  When Mebrate goes into labor this time, with her second child, she will embark on the walk along rural dirt roads for around an hour to the nearest Health Center to give birth.

This story was reported by Elizabeth Atalay from Ethiopia where she traveled as a fellow with the International Reporting Project (IRP). This post is a modified version of one first written for World Moms Blog.

Health Extension Workers Impact On #EthiopiaNewborns Via ONE.org

Health Extension Workers Impact On #EthiopiaNewborns Via ONE.org
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Atalay

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Atalay

“My turning point, was I lost a mom of six from bleeding,” said Dr. Abeba Bekele when speaking about her commitment to maternal and newborn health in Ethiopia. She distinctly remembered that moment as her turning point.

After having practicing medicine for five years in deep rural areas of the country, “I saw the issues, the problems, the challenges,” she said. “What made me decide actually to go into public health…..was I lost a mom of six from bleeding. Just bleeding on a couch because there was nothing, no supplies in the facility, we didn’t have IV fluids. The family was not willing to give blood for various reasons. But there was nothing in the hospital. So we tried to do everything, I had two midwives with me, and myself, and we lost her. I said, OK this is it. I don’t want to continue my life seeing these types of challenges. I have to go into prevention.”Now the Thematic Sector lead at Save the Children Ethiopia’s Saving Newborn Lives Program, Dr. Bekele has stayed true to that vow. Maternal deaths have been reduced by two-thirds since the year 2000, from 1 in 24 to 1 in 67.Ethiopia has been praised as a success story in Child Health, having reached Millennium Development Goal #4, to reduce child mortality, ahead of the 2015 schedule. Yet while the mortality rate of children age 1 month to just under 5 years has annually declined by 6.1%, the neonatal mortality rate in Ethiopia is only declining at a rate of 2.4 %. Newborn deaths account for 43% of all deaths under the age of 5 years old.Save The ChildrenThe major issue in Ethiopia is that approximately 80% of women give birth at home, often without the presence of a trained health care worker. The majority of the population lives in rural areas with poor access to health care.Dr. Abebe’s own story also illustrates that even in the presence of the most skilled physician, without resources, or transportation to a hospital from a remote area, lives can still be lost. The fact that less than half of newborns are protected against tetanus is another major contributing factor, especially for home births in unsterile conditions.The country’s success on MDG 4 illustrates that with dedicated financial and intellectual commitment, Ethiopia’s goal to reduce the number of newborn deaths by 2015 can be achieved. The Health Extension Plan implemented by the government to target the issue is deploying trained Health Extension Workers, and the Health Development Army, both key delivery platforms at the primary level.

The ultimate goal is one health care post for every 5,000 regional inhabitants attended by two Health Extension Workers. Then one larger health care center serving every five health care posts and one major hospital for each of the 800 districts of Ethiopia. Health Extension Workers train for one year after graduating high school in the communities in which they will serve. The Health Development Army volunteers have been key to the success of the program on a local level by educating their own communities.

In such a large, diverse country, there are cultural challenges to getting mothers and communities to adopt new health practices. In the southern region of Ethiopia when women were not coming in to the new Health Care Center to give birth, they figured out that the women did not feel comfortable with the birthing position on the table. When they changed it to a more culturally suitable option, women began to come in to give birth. Working with formal and informal community leaders has also proved important.

Dr. Abeba Bekele has kept her pledge from that moment when she lost that mother years ago as she continues to implement change in her country through her work with Save the Children. The government of one of the poorest countries in the world seems committed to preventative health care measures, and with education the thinking in rural communities is beginning to change. The great hope is that the newborn mortality rate will soon significantly change as well.

This is a slightly altered version of an article that appeared on ONE.org.  ONE Mom Elizabeth Atalay was in Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project Fellow on a New Media Fellowship to report on newborn health. Follow her journey on Twitter with hashtag #EthiopiaNewborns.