Students lead the way in raising awareness of maternal mortality amongst community leaders
Students from St Swithun’s school, Winchester organised a community leaders’ forum called Dying for Life to raise awareness of maternal mortality in the developing world. Inspired by their visit to the Global Student Forum earlier in the year, the girls led a number of presentations to prominent community leaders who attended the event on Wednesday 7 December at St Swithun’s school. As Nick Pollard, co-founder of the Global Student Forum, said “This is an historic event for GSF. It is the first time that students have taken responsibility for beginning a community campaign to pass on what they have learned through the Global Student Forum.”
The aim of Global Student Forum is to enable school students to critically explore contemporary development issues and their role as global citizens. GSF conferences are open to sixth form students and delegates return to their schools with support and resources to educate their peers about the issues they have explored – and take action for a more just and sustainable world. In St Swithun’s case, the pupils have taken this a step further by organising their own community campaign.
Dying for Life is a GSF project and aims to raise awareness of the fact that nearly every minute a woman dies of complications in pregnancy and childbirth – 99% of these deaths occur in the developing world. Every year, two million children worldwide see their mother die of pregnancy related complications.
The forum was opened by Jane Gandee, headmistress of St Swithun’s school, and Nick Pollard, co-founder of Global Student Forum and the event was endorsed by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, Steve Brine MP, John Micklethwait – editor of The Economist, Jon Sopel – host of the BBC's Politics Show and the Campaign Show and Baroness Celia Thomas. Messages of good luck were received from a number of high profile individuals including Dame Judi Dench who said “I applaud the initiative of the students at St Swithun's and wish them great success with the forum in raising the profile of Maternal Mortality Rates in Developing Countries”.
Among the 80 delegates attending were Lady Joan Appleyard, representing the Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, Anna McNair Scott, Chair of Hampshire County Council, Professor Joy Carter, Vice Chancellor University of Winchester and Peter Bowen-Simpkins, Medical Director of the London Women’s Clinic and supporter of Wellbeing of Women Charity.
Following the event, there was wide-spread support from delegates to increase the level of awareness and support for the Dying for Life campaign. The girls’ vision is to make Mothers’ Day in 2012 a day in Hampshire to raise awareness of the issues surrounding maternal mortality and to raise funds to help lower the rates in developing countries. Head girl at St Swithun’s, Ali Bentall, says “The entire student team has felt a sense of empowerment from this GSF initiative and from having the opportunity to raise awareness amongst key community leaders about the extremely alarming statistics surrounding maternal mortality”.
As part of this campaign, St Swithun’s school will be hosting a special evensong service in Winchester Cathedral on Sunday March 18, 2012 (Mothers’ Day). This event will be open to the public.
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