Yulia Koval-Molodtsova
Yulia.komo@gmail.com
Why We Care: Stories of Reproductive Health
On the night of April 29, 2014 U.S...
often have to be regulated by men. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY) talked about her
commitment to improving lives of women and c...
Some of the key facts that stood out in the presented film story about Uganda
and Gladys Kalibbala’s work on covering stor...
Jessica for telling these stories. Jessica Yu rounded up the discussion by saying that
many of these problems and solution...
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Why We Care event overview

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Report on an event featuring the screening of a story from Participant Media’s new documentary “Misconception” by an award-winning director Jessica Yu, which was followed by a panel discussion and Q&A on international family planning issues (U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, April 29, 2014, Washington, D.C.)

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Why We Care event overview

  1. 1. Yulia Koval-Molodtsova Yulia.komo@gmail.com Why We Care: Stories of Reproductive Health On the night of April 29, 2014 U.S. Capitol Visitors Center (Washington, D.C.) hosted an event featuring the screening of a story from Participant Media’s new documentary “Misconception” by an award-winning director Jessica Yu, which was followed by a panel discussion and Q&A on international family planning issues. “Misconception” has just premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival during the previous week. The film offers a new perspective on world population by “taking cues from the groundbreaking research of statistics guru, Hans Rosling”1 and providing insights into how all these population-related numbers matter on an individual level through three distinct stories from different places around the world. The event was organized by the United Nations Foundation and was opened with welcome remarks by Peter Yeo, Vise President of Public Policy at UNF, and several Members of Congress. The event was called “a private screening” and there were about 100 people present, most of them working in the reproductive health field. The selection of speakers for the event opening was very powerful and relevant. Rep. Ami Bera (CA) talked about things that made him personally connected to the topic of women’s health, such as him being a physician and a father of a daughter. Rep. Lois Capps (CA), who worked for 20 years as a nurse and health advocate, shared her experience of introducing the so-called Global MOMS Act, which focused on authorizing greater assistance for global maternal health efforts. Rep. David Cicilline (RI) mentioned how unbalanced and unfair is the fact that women’s health and bodies                                                                                                                 1 http://tribecafilm.com/filmguide/53208a6cc07f5df7d2000551-misconception  
  2. 2. often have to be regulated by men. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY) talked about her commitment to improving lives of women and children around the world, and a specific effort on reducing the incidence of obstetric fistula, a devastating condition that results from prolonged labor without medical attention. Former Congresswoman Jane Harman impressed the audience by being a mother of 4, grandmother of 4, step- grandmother of 7 and step-great-grandmother of 4! She quoted Madeleine Fulbright’s words - "There's a place in Hell reserved for women who don't help other women" - and added that there was one for men refusing to help women as well. With these remarks the stage was set for the screening and further discussion. Peggy Clark, Executive Director of Global Health & Development at Aspen Institute and Jessica Yu, a film director made a brief introduction talking about different ways of starting a movement with many voices speaking in a very honest way about why these issues are so important to all of us. Peggy Clark introduced “Why We Care” campaign featuring personal stories by the global leaders for reproductive health, such as Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland (1990-1997), Jenny Shipley, the first female prime minister of New Zealand, Annie Lennox, an award-winning singer- songwriter and a social activist and many others. Jessica Yu introduced one of three central characters of the documentary – Gladys Kalibbala, a journalist from Uganda, who left Africa for the first time in her life to be at the event. Yu talked about how her crew started making a film about numbers and ended up with a film about people. She said that population-related discussions and efforts often overlooked the issue of children and their future, lack of opportunities. This was one of the reasons why they decided to address that aspect in the film and to talk about how this cycle of abandonment and deprivation of opportunities for all of us can be altered.
  3. 3. Some of the key facts that stood out in the presented film story about Uganda and Gladys Kalibbala’s work on covering stories of abandoned children and young mothers: an average woman in Uganda gives birth to 6 kids; a number of illegal abortions is very high and about 20% of maternal deaths happen due to illegal abortions; some girls start getting pregnant at the age of 11 and have to give up or abandon children year after year. Several stories of children and young mothers are presented and developed through the eyes of Gladys. She takes pictures of abandoned children and places them in her weekly column at the New Vision newspaper. She investigates some of the cases trying to find children’s families, and reaches out to community for help and support. The film is full of details, close-ups, and voices. There are several positive storylines, for example, when a sick baby who was abandoned in the hospital because his mother couldn’t afford to pay for his treatment, received support and medical care and was returned to the mother along with some counseling and empowering advice. In the discussion following the screening Gladys was asked about the impact her column had in the society. She explained that she hadn’t yet received any response from the government, and even her fellow journalists told her they feared commitment that this column brought along. The biggest impact she made was on the local people, the community. She can see how it touches them and changes their way of thinking about these children and their families, and this keeps her going. One of the best indications of the audience reaction were the sobs and laughs during the screening. Jessica Yu captured a balanced mixture of tragic and comic. Vanessa Kerry, one of the discussion experts, Founder & CEO of Seed Global Health who worked in Uganda herself, said she was overwhelmed and thankful to Gladys and
  4. 4. Jessica for telling these stories. Jessica Yu rounded up the discussion by saying that many of these problems and solutions require political will; they are often seen as grand and unmanageable. However, the last thing we should do is to throw up our hands: “Gladys and other film characters showed us that small things make a great difference.” The screening and discussion were followed by a networking reception and reflection featuring a photo shoot with personal statements of the event participants on “Why We Care.” The event was a great example of a social documentary being a central piece of a critical conversation on the international reproductive health issues, creating a new level of impact and becoming a part of a larger movement.              

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