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The United Nations Population Fund

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Guest writer – Jane Roberts

I learned about Karen and Faithless Feminists from a member of our fairly new group here in Redlands, CA, Freethinkers Around Redlands. We have dinners, a book club, take hikes, have an “atheist booth” at Market Night. Wonderful people. There are hundreds if not thousands of such groups forming around the U.S and this movement is at least one healthy beam of light in the darkness.

Karen and I have much in common. We both love the French language and both are fanatics for women here and around the world and especially for their access to all that reproductive health entails.

I am co-founder of 34 Million Friends of the United Nations Population Fund which we started in 2002 when George W. Bush defunded UNFPA.  Now Trump of course. Horrible man! To date we’ve raised a little more than $4.4 million. UNFPA struggles to offer safe motherhood, family planning, and freedom from gender based violence to the world’s most bereft of women. For a long time I kept my identification as an atheist under a blanket because, if truth be told, UNFPA often needs to work through religious leaders who then, in turn, give their blessings to UNFPA. During my trip to Mali and Senegal with UNFPA in 2003 we almost always called on the local imam or priest or pastor before meeting with villagers. This was “de rigueur”.

Now, I no longer hide my atheism. You would probably get a kick out of reading my “God and Men Behaving Badly” in Free Inquiry magazine at www.34millionfriends.org (scroll down) where I disclose that Donald Trump and I were on the same honorary committee supporting UNFPA in 2002!!!!!  “My God” to coin a phrase!

OK, so what is the United Nations Population Fund? It was formed, believe it or not, at the behest of President Richard Nixon who thought that the world should be cognizant of population issues and be able to make informed policy regarding population trends.  Since that time, it has stretched its mandate to include working in over 60 countries around the world for reproductive health care which includes safe motherhood, family planning, and freedom from gender based violence. With UNFPA’s support, deaths in childbirth have been reduced from about 500,000 to about half that number in the last 20 years.

The one area about reproductive health that I want to talk about in this essay is obstetric fistula. This affliction used to exist fairly frequently here in the U.S. before the arrival of “modern” care including C-sections.  In the third world, it is a real scourge. A fistula is a tear between the birth canal and the bladder and/or rectum which renders the girl/woman incontinent. It usually results from a long difficult labor and often the victim is a young girl who has been married too young!  The baby almost always dies.  The girl/woman leaks urine and/or feces unless she has reparative surgery. If she doesn’t receive surgery, she becomes an outcast. Just imagine living like that!  When I went to Mali in 2003 with UNFPA, I visited the Point G hospital in the capital city of Bamako where I met at least 25 young women who were suffering from fistula and were waiting for their surgeries from UNFPA trained doctors. They sang me songs. It was heart rending. UNFPA repairs fistulas all around the world and partners with Catherine Hamlin’s fistula hospital in Ethiopia which Oprah has made famous.  Fistula is just one small area where UNFPA is making a huge difference. You can see why I want everyone in the US to learn about 34 Million Friends.

I want to touch on one more subject in what I hope will be the first of many blog posts at this website. We all know that human beings are the product of evolution, that we have about 98% the same DNA as chimpanzees and that we modern humans have existed for perhaps 200,000 years. We are big brained mammals PERIOD!  As I understand it, almost all human beings outside of pure Africans have a little Neanderthal DNA. Could it be that since the beginning of our history, powerful males have harassed us, dragged us into caves, raped us, felt they owned us? Are the present “scandals” anything more than an evolutionary imperative? If that is true, what part of our brains tells us that this is not good, not right? Is it “religion” and/or common sense? Is it moral evolution?  Much to ponder.

And evolution seems to have put the breasts of us women which serve the double purpose of attracting the male and feeding the infants about as right up front as they can get unless they were attached to our face.  HMMM. More to come.

Cheers, Jane

www.34millionfriends.org

December 9, 2018

 

About the Author Karen Garst

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