Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Christy Turlington: Every Mother Counts
In the lead-up to BOLD's 5th anniversary reading and webcast of my play BIRTH I have the priviledge of getting to know each BOLD5 Honoree even better. In this post, you'll get to meet Christy Turlington-Burns! Here's our interview:
Christy, thanks so much for "giving birth" to not only "No Woman, No Cry," but also Every Mother Counts. We wanted to honor you with a BOLD5 Award because you've used your film in a similar way to how BOLD has used the play Birth, to raise awareness about maternity care issue and help mothers have better birth experiences.
You show so clearly in your film how your birth experience so deeply affected your passion to make "No Woman, No Cry." In the developing world a mother could have clearly bled to death with the same complication. Why did you decide to do a film instead of, say, a book or simply become a spokesperson about this topic?
I wanted to bring audiences as close to other women around the world as possible and no other medium could transport them in the way film does. My goal was to have women virtually imagine what it would be like to be pregnant in common circumstance in the four countries to understand the vulnerability of so many.
Can you tell me what it was like film "No Woman, No Cry" and what the best moment and hardest moment was?
It was an incredible journey making this film. It took nearly two years to make. We met dozens of inspiring women who were so brave and so strong with little to no support and one of the hardest things was having to choose which stories to share in the film. We focused on barriers to accessing care at critical junctures in the pregnancies of four women. Some illustrated more aspects than others and so those became clear that they would convey the scope of the problem.
I know in any creative piece there are always stories you don't tell because there just isn't time in a film to tell them. What story - or stories - did you film that you wish you could have told?
We filmed with two other women in Tanzania and each of their stories were incredible. You can catch a piece of Lightness at the end of the Tanzania footage. She was 16 and three weeks overdue when we found her on the side of the road. Her mom flagged our car down and asked for a ride to the clinic. It turned out that she needed an emergency c-section but the hospital was an hour away and she had no transportation. She had yet to complete her primary school education when she got pregnant and had to leave school. The father of her baby had run away. Her own father abandoned the family because he felt shamed, so her mom, who was just 35 herself, and the mother of four other children was expected to care for the new baby with little means. We also filmed Agnes, who had lost her baby after a prolonged labor ten years before and was still suffering from obstetric fistula, which is one of the worst childbirth morbidities and one that 2 million women suffer with in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. We learned that she was eligible for a free repair surgery, which she has since received. She is now an advocate in her community.
When did you know your passion for better maternity care was going to go beyond making the film "No Woman, No Cry?" When did you know you'd also give "birth" to Every Mother Counts?
I became a maternal health advocate the moment I became pregnant. It was clear to me that women were not sharing their experiences enough with one another and that too many of us are scared or disconnected to our bodies and don't feel empowered in the experience when it is perhaps the most empowering experiences a woman can have. I had an amazing first birth experience event though I experienced a serious complication. I wish for every woman the same experience- to have access to information, services and the right to choose when and how she gives birth and the support she needs to have an empowering experience.
Can you tell me more about Every Mother Counts and its mission? What do you hope to achieve?
Every Mother Counts is an advocacy and mobilization campaign to increase education and support for maternal and child health. EMC seeks to engage new audiences to better understand the challenges and the solutions while encouraging them to take action to improve the lives of girls and women worldwide. The keystone of the campaign is www.everymothercounts.org, an interactive platform providing the tools to raise awareness, education and action. I hope that by using the film and my advocacy platform to engage families to join a movement and to provide people with educations, resources and actions they can take to participate in a meaningful way.
I know my kids know a lot about maternity care just from seeing my play Birth and being around the BOLD movement. What do your kids know about your work and what's their reaction to the reality of maternity care today? Any favorite things they've said?
My daughter Grace is almost 8 and she understands the work I do and how her birth inspired my current work. She is beginning to understand why I feel compelled to travel around the world to collect stories and highlight the individuals and programs that are making a difference. My son is five and still wondering how a baby can come out of such a small space...
Do you have any other creative projects around maternity care brewing that you'd like to share?
The EMC campaign is aligned with the Millennium Development Goals, which was established by the UN in 2000. There is less than four years to reach these goals and MDG 5-to improve maternal health and reduce maternal deaths by 3/4 by 2015 is the one that is lagging the most. We hope that our campaign will help to make an impact toward these goals and help to prevent senseless deaths in pregnancy.
Christy along with 4 other outstanding arts-based maternity care activism will be honored as the BOLD5 for BOLD's 5th Anniversary Reading and Webcast of the play BIRTH. For tickets and to register for the webcast go to www.GetBOLDaboutBirth.com.