Changemaker:Theresa Shaver

Location:United States

I am playing my part for reproductive and maternal healthcare by staying bold and breaking down silos between maternal and newborn health, maternal health and nutrition, maternal health and gender, and more.

Throughout our history, White Ribbon Alliance has always taken risks, allowing us to build a global grassroots movement that continues to push boundaries, forge unlikely partnerships and speak truth to power.

As White Ribbon Alliance’s founder, I am often asked what the early days of our movement were like. Words like exciting, inspiring, heartbreaking, terrifying, and even frustrating come to mind when recalling our initial efforts to make childbirth safe and joyful for all women instead of the death sentence it was for too many. Like most things worth doing, it wasn’t easy.

Along with the other founding members of White Ribbon Alliance, I was driven by a combination of grief and hope. Grief over the preventable deaths of mothers and babies worldwide and hope that a coalition of dedicated people could make a difference. A shared conviction that no woman should die while bringing life to a child drove us to campaign for maternal health all over the world, including places with no history of investing in women’s health and that were even less open to advocacy.

As a midwife, I fundamentally understood that addressing maternal mortality required more than clinical interventions alone. Since its founding, White Ribbon Alliance has recognized that a sense of urgency was needed, and that political commitment and financial investment were vital. At the same time, White Ribbon Alliance has insisted that individual communities must be equal partners in changing the status quo, and that community involvement was essential to creating lasting change for mothers and their newborns.

In founding White Ribbon Alliance over 20 years ago, at a time when maternal health was an after-thought in global health and development circles, my vision was to make maternal health everyone’s business and to give voice and value to women and communities around the world to drive change in their own lives.

White Ribbon Alliance’s approach of helping women be heard and bravely asserting that women are just as much an expert in their own healthcare as are midwives, doctors, and others with professional health degrees, was new back then. White Ribbon Alliance challenged the status quo and faced resistance. But, that bold spirit got White Ribbon Alliance off the ground and it is that same fighting spirit that, 20 years later, is taking the movement to new heights. 

Just as our small band of committed advocates were then, White Ribbon Alliance activists across the world will not be deterred today from advocating for what we know works best: women and girls leading the way for their own health and rights. 

Throughout our history, White Ribbon Alliance has always taken risks, allowing us to build a global grassroots movement that continues to push boundaries, forge unlikely partnerships and speak truth to power.

Thank youTheresa Shaver

for playing your part.

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