Zonta Club of Canberra


Thank you, Madam Speaker. Pregnancy and childbirth are inherently risky. Here in Australia, we have thankfully done much to reduce the risks, but even a healthy woman who is well prepared for labour and delivery knows she may be facing complications. The situation is much different in the developing world. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘women in the world’s least developed countries are 300 times more likely to die in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications than women in developed countries … At the same time, a child born in a developing country is almost 14 times more likely to die during the first month of life than a child born in a developed one’.[1]

This means that ‘around 300,000 women and 3 million newborns die each year from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth’.[2] The good news is that, in many cases, it takes very little to prevent some of these deaths. The World Health Organisation specifically recommends the use of disposable birthing kits in health facilities that are not adequately equipped with clean supplies, as well as in emergency situations or when delivery occurs at home. Strong evidence from around the world shows that these simple kits can prevent many childbirth-related infections.[3]

I rise today to publicly thank the two Zonta Clubs in Canberra, which annually join together to invite members of the community to assist them in assembling birthing kits to be distributed globally in areas of need, along with training on how to use them. It was my privilege three weeks ago to attend along with hundreds of my fellow Canberrans to help with this important endeavour. The Zonta Clubs of Canberra are part of Zonta International, a global organisation that seeks to make sure that ‘every woman is able to achieve her full potential’ and that ‘women have access to all resources’.[4]

We volunteers came in shifts to pack the following items into little plastic bags: gauze, a plastic sheet, soap, cord ties, gloves, and a sterile blade. These are all simple items, Madam Speaker, but for women who face delivering children in non-sterile and often very harsh environments, these six items can literally mean the difference between life and death. Assembling these very basic birthing kits created a happy opportunity to spend time with friends and strangers, chatting, sharing, and getting to know one another better. It was easy, to be honest, to forget how important our simple efforts were … and then I would remember delivering my five children safely in hospital before imagining the millions of women who give birth at home, under a tree, in remote villages, and so forth.

I am grateful, Madam Speaker, for the privileges that we enjoy in this beautiful nation. I am likewise grateful to the Zonta Clubs of Canberra for organising this event and for inviting me to participate, something I have done for many years now. I was also pleased to see Mr Alistair Coe, Leader of the Opposition, in attendance, assembling birthing kits alongside the rest of us. This is a good opportunity, Madam Speaker, to point out that one doesn’t need to be a woman to help empower women. Thank you again to Zonta for the wonderful, life-changing work they do. Thank you.

[1] https://www.unicef.org/media/media_47145.html.

[2] https://www.bkfa.org.au/.

[3] https://www.bkfa.org.au/our-work/birthing-kits/.

[4] https://www.zonta.org/About-Us/Mission-and-Vision.

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