Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Melinda Gates, TOB and a Voice from Africa

By the bounty of Twitter, I was led to this post featuring an open letter to Melinda Gates by a Nigerian woman in the biomedical field. You may have heard that Gates plans to pump $4.6 billion in birth control into Africa to "liberate" the women of that continent. "I see this $4.6 billion [in birth control] buying us misery. I see it buying us unfaithful husbands. I see it buying us streets devoid of the innocent chatter of children. I see it buying us disease and untimely death."

Now working in England, Obianuju Ekeocha (age 32) points out that the African women she knows and among whom she grew up, do not look on childbearing in the same way that the billionaire American does. "Unlike what we see in the developed Western world, there is actually very high compliance with Pope Paul VI's 'Humanae Vitae.' " There is a natural, societal appreciation for the language of the body (that the cosmopolitan North had to learn from Pope John Paul II).

There is a healthy acknowledgment, too, that their villages do not have the medical infrastructure that widespread access to contraceptive chemicals and devices presume: "...Where Europe and America have their well-oiled health care system, a woman in Africa with a contraception-induced blood clot does not have access to 911 or an ambulance or a paramedic. No, she dies."

Then there's the environmental impact: "....as $4.6 billion worth of drugs, IUDs and condoms get used, they will need safe disposal. Can someone please show us how and where will that be? On our farm lands where we get all our food? In our streams and rivers from whence comes our drinking water?"

Ekeocha doesn't just tell Gates (and the rest of the wealthy western world) where she has failed to think things through; she suggests ways that the allocated billions could respond to the needs of African women and children, beginning with prenatal and pediatric care, and continuing through food and education programs and support for women-run microbusiness and for already functioning organizations that deal with issues of domestic violence, sex trafficking and forced marriage.

Ekeocha's letter (and a follow-up email to the blogger who posted it) shed real light on the issues behind one very confused Catholic woman's efforts to use her incredible wealth on behalf of others.

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