August 27, 2014

Quarter of a Century?!

Yesterday I turned a quarter of a century old (ekkk!). Like every other birthday, my mother did not fail to remind me of how much pain she endured to bring me into the world. “You know, I was in labor for almost two days with you? Do you know how much that hurt? You were a small baby but with such a big head – you almost killed me!” Although at first I began to sigh and gave a sarcastic “Yes, mom I know…. Sorry I had such a big head back then,” it really made me think about my 25 years of life. My life could have been so different than it is now.

My life could have been drastically different from day one simply because I was born in a developing country. Because of barriers to access health facilities and with no skilled birth attendant by her side, my mother could have easily added to Nepal’s high maternal mortality rates (today’s ratio as high as 16.6 women dying per 2,000 live births) and I could have been another child with no mother.  Luckily, with a healthy mother and father who were able to provide me with the basic needs survive, I also surpassed Nepal’s high infant and child under-five mortality ratio (today’s ratio: 51 deaths per 1,000 live births), just in time to move to the US at the age of six.

I was able to receive a number of basic needs and opportunities in the US that I most likely would not have had in Nepal: regular visits with the doctor, clean water, immunizations, primary and secondary education, adequate nutrition, sex education or opportunity to attend college, among others. I wondered…if I did not have the opportunities I had living in a developed country, would I have been able to do as much as I have at this age? Would I be able to advocate for women’s rights, let alone sexual and reproductive health and rights?

Last week, I read a blog written by Sumita Basnet, born and raised in the rural Morang district, Nepal, who won International Women’s Health Coalition Young Visionaries contest this year. With the $1,000 contest prize she sprang in full force to fight for the health and rights of women in her community. This past summer, she created a drama series to educate her village about relevant issues and hosted a HIV/AIDS testing clinic for one of the most marginalized populations in Nepal (the Dalit community who are out casted in the country). Read more about her inspiring work here.

I hope that if my family did not move to the US, I would have had half the courage, strength and perseverance to stand up for the rights of women in a country where patriarchy and suppression of women is so prevalent. Cuddos to my “Nepali sister” Sumita who is working hard to change that reality! Keep up the good work — your work and so many others continue to fuel my work and passion. Knowing that others are working towards the same goals only makes it more motivating. I look forward to all the change that we’ll create by the time I’m a half a century old!

About Priti Gautam

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