What President Clinton, Maternal Health and Blogging Have in Common

BlogHer Original Post

In the past 11 years, the Clinton Global Initiative, led by former President Bill Clinton, has commanded 194 "commitments" -- promises from corporations, NGOs, and world leaders -- totaling $6.5 billion in aid given to make the world a better place. This year, almost 32% of the commitments directly impact women and girls. They include college funding for 10,000 students, training girls and women in technology, and giving 10,000 out-of-school children in Pakistan the opportunity of an education -- among many other innovative and impactful programs. In fact, it’s a given among the CGI crowd that educating girls, ending sexual violence against girls and women, improving maternal health and increasing women’s access to capital is the key to stabilizing the world and strengthening national security.

Morra Aarons Mele, President Bill Clinton, and Emily McKhann of The Motherhood
Morra Aarons Mele, President Bill Clinton, and Emily McKhann of The Motherhood

I had the honor of sitting down with President Clinton for a roundtable discussion on what’s on his mind when it comes to global issues. He said something I’ll never forget, and to me it directly ties into our roles as bloggers and powerful women in social media. He said:

We live in a time when it’s more important than ever before to know things -- not just facts, but to be able to put things in a coherent, sensible pattern. And we live in a time, if you just want to talk about the economy, where the model that works for economic growth and prosperity is cooperation.

But the model that works in politics is conflict. Where having a successful attempt to create a successful center of prosperity, whether it’s a biotech center in San Diego or a computer simulation center Orlando or you name it that requires an almost obsessive attention to detail, and to building networks of cooperation. What we love in politics is conflict that can be stated as quickly and as hotly as possible. There is a huge disconnect between not just in substance but in the method between what produces prosperity and what produces good politics, and frankly good news coverage. There are places in America that have no recession, and not one of them looks like the anti-government ideal of the Tea Party crowd.

This got me thinking about the most effective ways we use our online networks to make social change. At its best, our online community of women is a model of cooperation. Things get dangerous and nasty when we take a page from the nasty political discourse of today, and declare war on each other. We blog to connect; we blog to feel recognized. We blog when we feel vulnerable about something and we’re seeking support or some reassurance that we’re not alone.

Pew data shows 61% of women bloggers list motivating others to action as a major or minor reason they blog; 51% of women bloggers list influencing the way others think as a major or minor reason they blog. Contrary to what it can feel like sometimes, only 15% of women bloggers say they blog to make money. We meet friends, we form deep bonds and we form tribes within the larger ecosystem of the blogosphere and social media.

And then, every so often, we are moved to action. It could be a huge issue, or it could be that someone we care about asks us to do something. I'm moved now by huge issues occurring in the vast world outside my daily life- issues I'm blessed to never have to think about.

In my few days at the Clinton Global Initiative and at the UN Foundation/Mashable Social Good Summit, there were many discussions about maternal health and its vast impact on the world.

A midwife from Kenya who is part of the White Ribbon Alliance said, “As long as mothers die, we are not secure.” Everyone in the world has an interest in keeping mothers alive. Increased global economic health of women is not only a boon to women in the developing world, but to American women.

And as long as children die, mothers will grieve.

I can think of times over the years when social media has brought us together to grieve for our children. But now I’m focused on how it can bring us together to prevent the unnecessary death of children. And I’m amazed at the innovative online campaigns we can take part in to save mothers and children’s lives. “Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine,” said Peg Willingham, Executive Director of Shot@Life, a new UN Foundation campaign that will deliver life saving vaccines to children in the developing world. Simple, and effective.

This week in New York, Christy Turlington movingly spoke about her campaign for maternal health, “Every Mother Counts.” In speaking about maternal deaths, she said “Almost all of these deaths can be prevented. There are not a lot of issues you can say that about.” Two of the UN's Millennium Development Goals are related to improving maternal and child health. Christy went on to say, “If we can't support a woman while she is giving life, then we don't support women” -- a sobering but true statement.

And ABC News has launched the Million Moms Challenge, a program ABC explains as “a call-to-action, a campaign for hope, a movement for change.” The Challenge calls on American moms to connect with moms in the developing world around issues of maternal and child health.

Mothers who blog are constantly asked to support things. We have ask fatigue, a lot of us, and we have a lot of sweet offers being dangled in front of is. We can choose to put our voices and our power behind marketing products, or we can put them behind changing the world, one small act at a time. We can do both, because we are multi-faceted people and we need to earn a living. But if we work together, we can save a lot of lives, and make a commitment of our own.

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