Sunday, May 9, 2010

The best Mother's Day present ever

Back in October, I read a Daily Nation article that forever embedded an image in my mind: an overly pregnant 30 year old woman on the corner of a muddy, plastic polluted street in the slums of Nairobi sitting with extended legs giving birth to her first born child. With the nearest hospital or maternity clinic over 30 minutes away and without access to an ambulance, this commuting mother was unexpectedly forced to introduce her son immediately to the painful reality of life in poverty.

Given that there were (miraculously) no complications during her road side delivery, this new mother will be one of the billions celebrating Mother's Day today. Tragically, however, there are millions a year that aren't able to celebrate, as more than 500,000 would be mothers die each year during pregnancy. Perhaps the true tragedy, however, is that over 95% of these deaths occur in developing countries and are largely preventable.  

Here's the good news though: for the nearly 1 million mothers in East Africa's slums that give birth each year, next year might bring a new reason to celebrate, as a new social venture called Jacaranda Health is seeking to transform the way maternity care is provided in these informal communities. Founded by a former colleague of mine from Acumen Fund, Nick Pearson, this social enterprise will be combining business and clinical innovations to create a fully self-sustaining and scalable chain of clinics that provide reproductive health services to poor urban women. Specifically, Jacaranda's strategy centers around two core services: mobile vans/ambulances and maternity clinics, and the plan is to pilot the model in Nairobi and then to scale up to 30 clinics within the next 5 years.

And here's more good news: you can become involved. Out of over 300 applicants, Jacaranda has made it into the top 10 finalist for Ashoka's Changemakers competition, and if they are voted into the top 3, they will receive up to $30,000 in grant funding. The winners are chosen by popular vote, so Jacaranda needs as many as possible to log in and vote (you can do so here). The process takes a few minutes (you have to register first) and has to be done before Tuesday, but it's definitely worth the small effort!

In the words of Ashoka: Everyone has a mother. Everyone is a changemaker. Join us and change the world so that all women can give life.

And of course, a Mother's Day post would be far from complete without a Happy Mother's Day shout out to my own Mom, who not coincidentally is the source of my passion for social enterprise, human justice, equality and basically everything pure and beautiful. Thanks for everything Mom I still haven't figured out how you do it! 

Mom and the Williams football squad!