Westwood Women Unite Against FGM – WF 2014 Kick-off Event

On Tuesday, January 28th, the Women’s Forum held the first of many exciting events of 2014! Attendees gathered at the home of a Women’s Forum Steering Committee member to learn more about Women’s Forum, hear from current members, network, win prizes, and enjoy mouth-watering international cuisine!  The night also included a screening of the maternal mortality segment of the film “Half the Sky” followed by a lively and inspirational discussion of this vital women’s issue.

“Half the Sky” is  a documentary by Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WyDunn based on the best-selling book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The film and book focus on central issues that women and girls face in communities around the world.


One area that the maternal health segment focuses on is female genital mutilation in Somaliland and the health implications of such practices. The film addresses the cultural practice as well as the economic necessity for women cutters whose livelihood and survival depends on the tradition. Attendees of the event questioned what it would take to end the practice, as it was mentioned that Westerners telling a community such as the one in Somalia that it needs to end a long-standing tradition is ineffective. Many attendees agreed that education, as was mentioned in the film, plays an important role in establishing lasting and sustainable change.

The film presented one example of education and sustainable change through Edna Adan Ismail. Edna’s passion for the women of Somaliland led her to establish a maternal hospital whose mission is to not only to care for women giving birth and train midwives and health professionals, but to train peers to educate the current and next generation of mothers and fathers on female genital mutilation.

The Women’s Forum chose this segment of the film to screen, as maternal mortality is a pervasive issue that is not getting the attention and resources it deserves. As a UN Millennium Development Goal, nations have only achieved a 47% (2010) decrease in maternal mortality rates since 1990, far from the original goal of 75% by 2015. The screening was intended to start a dialogue on what we can do as individuals and as a collective whole to continue to raise awareness and create solutions to maternal mortality and other preventable health issues women face around the world.


Some facts about maternal mortality:

  • “Maternal mortality has declined by about two-thirds in Eastern Asia, Northern Africa and Southern Asia.”
  • “Complications during pregnancy or childbirth are one of the leading causes of death for adolescent girls.”
  • “Most maternal deaths in developing countries are preventable through adequate nutrition, proper health care, including access to family planning, the presence of a skilled birth attendant during delivery and emergency obstetric care”

With International Women’s Day around the corner stay tuned for the UNAGB Women’s Forum next event! We hope to see you there!

– Kendall, WF Steering Committee Member