The most revered royals are those who dedicate their blessed lives to improving the welfare of their people, and contributing to seva (service) abroad. Take the King of Thailand, for example, who’s won the hearts and respect of an entire nation through his personal investments in local agriculture and international NGOs. Even as he sits infirm in a hospital in Bangkok, the King of Thailand’s got it goin’ on!
Wives of royal heads are no exception. The candle in the wind herself, Princess Diana, was, and is to this day, the most popular of the royal Brits, for her unending dedication to charity programs across the world. A real ‘woman of the people,’ no one could deny her beauty went much further than skin deep.
Her Highness Sheikha Hassa bint Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan (الشيخة حـصـة بـنت محمـــد بن خليفة آل نهيــان), the first wife of the founder and the first President of UAE, the late emir (ruler) of Abu Dhabi, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, is another philanthropist royal, leading through example.
Her Highness launched Women and Health Alliance International (WAHA) as an international non-profit, nongovernmental organization based in France, with the over-arching goal of addressing maternal and neonatal health in disadvantaged communities throughout the world.
The sheikha has a longstanding commitment to women’s causes and believes that “no woman should die while bringing new life into the world or suffer needlessly for the rest of her life due to a lack of appropriate medical care”. As an international leader, her aim is to engage communities to unite to reduce the unacceptably high levels of maternal mortality in developing countries.
Rock on, your highness!
WAHA has also joined forces with the Fistula Foundation, an organization that funds and organizes hospitals and various forms of outreach across Africa, aiming to prevent and care for the fistula plight. More on that in articles to come!
With outreach in women’s issues of all forms, including the launch of the first Forum of Gulf Women Sociologists, Her Highness still plays an active role in progressing toward an international society of compassion and equality.
And don’t let inspiration escape you the minute you finish reading this. Why not look into donating some time, effort or even a few bucks to your favorite non-profit out there? Start with a google search, you’ll find the act of giving is like a gift to yourself!
A Message from Her Highness:
The September 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were a bold step towards improving the health of women and children around the world, especially in developing countries, where their needs are most acute.
In agreeing to the MDGs, the member states of the United Nations General Assembly committed themselves firmly to measurable targets, achievable by 2015. Key among these targets were to reduce, by two thirds, the mortality of children under five years; and to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters.
Ten years later, it is sadly clear that we are still far from achieving these goals. Mortality rates for women and children remain both extremely high and profoundly objectionable.
The figures speak for themselves.
Every year, half a million women die during pregnancy or because of problems in childbirth. Almost all of these dying women are in Africa and Asia. Between them, they represent 95% of the world’s maternal mortality. In the case of maternal mortality, while the death of the mother is wrong and terrible, it is still not the end of the story: with the mother’s death, the structure of the entire family is damaged to the point of collapse. As a consequence, everybody suffers.
Yet, in the vast majority of cases, maternal mortality is preventable if women have access to adequate health care before and during childbirth. We cannot accept that today women still die in the act of giving birth.
Of those women who do not die in the course of their pregnancy or childbirth, more than three hundred million continue to live with debilitating and stigmatising problems resulting from their pregnancies. Again, the vast majority of these disabilities could be avoided.
Despite the combined efforts of major players in the fight against such post-partum complications, including obstetric fistula, women continue to suffer in silence, and to be subject in some communities to unacceptable stigma. The shame and humiliation experienced by these women constitute a suffering as difficult, if not more difficult, to endure than the physical pain they bear daily. Yet they do endure it, and with a courage that demands our admiration. We will not abandon these women, and we continue our efforts to educate local communities to the importance of these issues.
At the dawn of a new decade, I invite you once again to join our efforts. Our goal is not only to remain steadfast in the fight against child and maternal mortality, but to bring others together in the service of this most basic and important of causes; and, ultimately, to be successful in our fight. In the face of an unacceptable situation, we want to provoke an unprecedented mobilization. The situation demands no less from us. Together, we can reduce maternal and infant mortality.
Together, we can stem the general failure of health systems. Together, we not only can, but must, do everything in our power to facilitate access to quality health care. We must continue to share our knowledge, and to compare the results of our research, with the common goal of providing a solution to the problem of maternal and child health.
The Millennium Development Goals were a significant and important promise, and one that we cannot allow to be broken. I am convinced that it is only by joining together that we can achieve them. Working together, though, I believe we can exceed them.
Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan