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Mums Matter to Mancunians - from conception to launch

Posted by Charles Price Campaigner and shop volunteer, Manchester

22nd Jan 2013

It was over a year ago when we first thought of bringing together all our campaigning efforts for mothers' health in an exhibition in our beloved City of Manchester.

 The People's History Museum seemed an ideal place - they joined our Pramble campaign back in 2010 and have a large gallery which happened to be just the right size for an enormous 6.5 x 3.5m blanket, which we had previously completed as part of earlier maternal health campaign - MOMM: 1400.

 "The MOMM:1400 blanket is not only a way of commemorating the women who die every day in pregnancy and childbirth, it's also a great example of what a large number of ordinary people can achieve by working together," our veteran Manchester campaigner Mike Toohey explains. 

And this is what our exhibition proposal to the museum emphasised:  our campaigns certainly focus on developing countries, but it is the enthusiastic Mancunians who bring them to life and make them happen.

As soon as we got the museum's approval, we began to work on developing and preparing 'Mums Matter to Mancunians' ... Little did we know quite how much work was going to be involved! 

We started developing the exhibition and carried out  extensive research - the sources range from The Thackray Museum of Medicine in Leeds to 'Social Movement, Action and Change: The Influence of Women's Movements on City Government in Mumbai and London Gender Work and Organization,'; from The World Health Organisation to The British Medical Journal.

After much research and many more discussions, we finally agreed that the exhibition should combine the campaigns our Manchester Oxfam Group have worked on over the past years, with issues of maternal health at UK and global level. As always, Mike explains it well: "The exhibition allows us to set our campaigns in context with a lot more information on how maternal mortality was reduced in this country, and the situation in the developing world today".   

The result is a journey through maternal health rights, from the Victorian era, through the changing status of women, the Second World War,  the birth of the NHS and, finally, looking at maternal health in the developing world.

As the launch date loomed, we started firing out invitations and press releases and tweet about #mm2m - and the hard work paid off: MPs Lucy Powell and Hazel Blears expressed a clear interest in coming for the launch;  we got coverage in The Manchester Evening News' City Life and online with 'I love Manchester' and many more-check them out here.   

Finally, on January 19th, the great day arrived! With an introduction from the group's very own Julie Goreham, we heard from:

  • Phil Heywood, former Professor of Primary Care and VSO volunteer who talked about his experiences on maternal health projects in Cambodia.
  • Derin Adefajo, Oxfam MOMM: 1400 & Pramble campaigner and trainee midwife, who spoke about her motivation for volunteering on maternal health campaigns and how this inspired her to re-train as a midwife.
  • Chris Worrall, Project Manager for Oxfam's Health and Education Campaign who talked about Oxfam's work on maternal health.

If we combine political will and passionate campaigning we can make a difference. The progress of maternal health care in the UK has been great- and making similar progress a reality in other countries is not impossible. Even the current global maternal mortality rate is reduced compared to when the MOMM: 1400 blanket was knitted together some four years ago.

We believe that 0.7% of national income used for overseas aid can contribute greatly to improve global maternal health. The UK budget in March can further advance health care progress for mums in countries like Ghana, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. The positive impact of focused aid can certainly move maternal mortality rates (MMR) towards the UN's 5th Millennium Development Goal of reducing MMR by 75% by 2015.

Feeling inspired and would like to do something too? You can join our Manchester City group to get involved in campaigning. Or email your MP and tell them that you care about mothers worldwide and that they should help to make the 0.7% commitment happen.

Mums Matter to Mancunians runs atThe People's History Museum until April 19th and there will be a second event on Mother's Day this March 10th. Watch this space for more information!

Blog post written by Charles Price

Campaigner and shop volunteer, Manchester

More by Charles Price