White Ribbon Alliance

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June 2, 2014
Islamabad, Pakistan-An event to launch the Friends of the White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) was held at the residence of the High Commissioner of Canada, Greg Giokas and attended by many supporters, including the Minister for Health, Saira Afzal Tarar. A stage had been set up in the back lawn and an appropriate ambiance had been created with beautiful white flower arrangements created by Waqar-un-Nisa Boolani; white covered chairs and everyone wearing a white ribbon. Even the main protagonists of the event wore white to add that extra zing to the proceedings!

The event coincided with a three-day global summit hosted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Toronto called, ‘Saving every woman every child: within arms reach.’

In his address, High Commissioner Giokas lauded the resilience of the Pakistani people; welcomed the initiative taken by Friends of the WRA; said saving the lives of mothers and children was not only a moral imperative but also the foundation for building prosperous communities for this generation and the next; thanked the minister for being present while praising her commitment to the health of women and children and concluded by thanking everyone involved in this very important initiative to which Canada was deeply committed.

In her address, the leader of the initiative, Dr Ghazna said that women are not dying because of diseases we cannot treat they are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.

“Pakistan and South Asia have the worst maternal death rates worldwide — 40 women die every day in Pakistan,” she said. “The tragedy is that 80% of these deaths are largely preventable through simple measures.”

Adding that Friends of The White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) will explicitly act to address gaps in the healthcare systems that directly affect women’s health, working with the Global Secretariat of the WRA; assisting the GOP and other stakeholders to provide advocacy endorsed and supported by a multitude of organisations, including the Federation International of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO). “Lack of education for girl’s impacts on maternal health,” she said. “As educational levels increase so will the likelihood of care seeking behaviour. Women are not dying because of diseases we cannot treat - they are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving. Through the FWRA we have an opportunity to make a difference, one step at a time, every woman, every time.”

She concluded by thanking CEO Serena Hotels, Aziz Bollani for his support; to her colleagues in the organising committee — Muna Habib; Cristina Afridi; Dr Rubina; the Patrons of the FWRA, Madam Shahnaz Wazir Ali and Rebekkah Wigemark and especially the high commissioner and his team in the CHC for facilitating the launch.

The minister said a few words about how she was from a rural background but had been encouraged not only by her own family but her in-laws as well to become a public figure and help women in any capacity she could. Acknowledging that previously the government had not paid much attention to the welfare of women and children, she promised she would support any initiative that remedied the situation.

To make the evening a little less formal, some entertainment followed, with the very pretty exponent of classical dance, Amna Mawaz performing two numbers, the first accompanied by Iftikhar and the second on her own. This was followed by some vocalising and music by a local group.

It was a pleasant way to create awareness and involve people, so the organisers deserve kudos. Let’s hope the follow up is successful and those mothers and children who are marginalised benefit by this initiative.

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