As you have probably heard, Nelson Mandela died today; he was 95 years old. He “died peacefully at his Johannesburg home after a prolonged lung infection” according to current South African President Jacob Zuma. Even though the world had plenty of time to come to terms with Mandela’s impending death, it makes his loss no easier to bare.
Mandela was a human rights leader and a proponent of peace and democracy. He showed the world that forgiveness and reconciliation can be more powerful forces than hatred and retribution. He is widely credited with unifying South Africa after its apartheid era. He was and continues to be an inspiration to civil / human rights activists, peace advocates, and progressive politicians / people around the world. He changed the world for the better, and will be sorely missed.
The best way to honor his legacy is to continue to champion the ideals he stood for.
Some family planning proponents emphasize health and longevity benefits; others talk of human rights.
In the mix of available arguments, Population Action International has been focusing on the promise of economic prosperity. The organization advocates for women and families to have access to contraception in order to improve their health, reduce poverty and protect their environment.
“Right now, 222 million women, or 1-in-4 women of reproductive age, in the developing world do not want to become pregnant but need modern contraception,” said Dilly Severin, director of communications at the group, known as PAI. The organization “has a history of highlighting the common sense connections between fulfilling a woman’s right to contraception and the health, economic and other benefits that flow from it.”
African political and cultural leaders made statements about the importance of youth to the demographic dividend, the economic growth that may result from changes in a country’s age structure, Weinstein-Levey said.
“They recognized that investing in youth’s sexual reproductive health and rights is critical to helping young people and to helping African economies reach their full potential. Many of these nations are on track to achieve the demographic dividend, but could significantly expedite progress with the boost of family planning,” she said.
Mothers and infants in sub-Saharan Africa face the greatest risks, according to Save the Children’s annual State of World’s Mothers report 2013, which assesses the well-being of mothers and children in 176 countries. The bottom 10 countries on the Mothers’ Index are all in sub-Saharan Africa, with infants in Somalia having the highest risk globally of dying on their birth day. First-day death rates are almost as high in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, mothers in Somalia and Sierra Leone face the second and third highest lifetime risk of maternal death in the world, respectively.
Surely, reducing infant and/or maternal mortality are at least as important in “protecting the sanctity of life” as contraception / abortion are…
The “common sense” benefits between fulfilling a women’s reproductive rights and poverty reduction are not new or novel–they are generally accepted in development economics. What is new / novel is a Pope who puts poverty alleviation above opulence, and human rights above religious dogma.
The Bible say’s “judge not lest ye be judged”. Pope Francis seems to be an accountable man; he has judged the global financial system, now he should judge the Catholic Church. It is hypocritical to blame the global economic system for perpetuating inequality, while ignoring the role his organization plays in allowing poverty to persist in the developing world.
Furthermore, while the Pope (and indeed any individual) has a very limited ability to affect the entire global economic system, it is very much within the Pope’s ability to shape the thinking and policies of the Catholic Church.
It appears Pope Francis “practices what he preaches”, by living a humble life and even sneaking out at night to help the poor.I am not Catholic or even religious, but I support the stances Pope’s Francis has taken thus-far. However, instead of just finger-pointing, there are steps he can take that would allow the Catholic Church to take the lead in the battle against extreme poverty.