They are two of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
Thoraya Obaid says about them: “Lois and Jane demonstrated that citizens in the US understand that family planning, safe motherhood, and HIV/AIDS prevention are essential”.
Lois Abraham says: The fund, “doesn’t impose cultural values, by working with the culture, you set the groundwork for change to be long lasting”. And: “It is amazing what a little generosity can do”.
Jane Roberts said: “No other country has ever de-funded UNFPA for other than fiscal reasons. The country of Mali, which is one of the 10 poorest countries in the world, gives $3,000 a year. It’s just … something that you do. It’s part of a social contract, and we have reneged on this contract. Lois and I find this absolutely appalling”.
Jane Roberts and Lois Abraham – USA
Money put to use, The first $1 million raised was used very practically:
- In Timor Leste, for example, the money went to fill modest but utilitarian needs;
- Purchasing two-way radios to connect the only two hospitals providing emergency obstetric care;
- Training three Timorese doctors outside the two hospitals to perform Caesarean sections, an urgently needed service;
- Providing 80 motorcycles for midwives to reach women living in areas with poor roads or without public transportation.
34 Million Friends of UNFPA got its start in July 2002 with the coincidental, almost simultaneous, inspiration of two strong women, Lois Abraham and Jane Roberts. Both were outraged by the US decision to withhold from the United Nations Population Fund $34 million in congressionally appropriated funds, and each was determined to do something about it. 34 Million Friends has become a grassroots movement supported by 100,000 individuals and donors who have contributed more than $2 million and demonstrated widespread commitment to UNFPA’s work to improve the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities around the world.
Jane Roberts, a teacher and tennis coach from Redlands, California, and Lois Abraham, a lawyer from Taos, New Mexico, had never met. But their independent inspirations to appeal to fellow Americans to donate the money their government was withholding brought them together. More than 100,000 people were as outraged as Jane and Lois by the following story:
The US made a commitment of $34 million to the United Nations Population Fund in the 2002 budget, with Congress approving the funds and President Bush signing the bill containing the appropriation. The Fund provides family planning and reproductive health services to some of the world’s most impoverished and underserved women in 142 countries. The U.S. government reneged on the 2002 commitment and withheld funding in 2003 and 2004, for a total of $95 million. The reason given for refusing to release the $34 million is that the Fund provides aid to Chinese government agencies that force women to have abortions. In spite of a State Department investigation that found no substantiation for the allegation, the Administration stuck by its decision to withhold funds.
Jane and Lois wrote to fellow Americans, telling them of the consequences of a $34 million budget shortfall to the UNFPA: 2 million unwanted pregnancies per year, nearly 800,000 abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths, and 77,000 infant and child deaths. Their initiative took flight in August and by the following May, contributions had exceeded $1 million. Men and women from every state in the US continue to contribute. The story has sparked widespread media interest and more donations arrive every day. A sister campaign, Friends in the European Union, has been launched in Brussels.
While US leaders politicize women’s family planning and reproductive health services, 100,000 Americans, led by two women, have demonstrated their understanding that women’s health services is a humanitarian issue, though heavily politicized. (Read all on 1000peacewomen 2005).
… each had reached the same decision: She had to do more than write a letter to her congressional representative. Each contacted the fund, asking what she could do. After the fund’s staff connected them, they quickly decided to raise the $34 million themselves. The two women have “given their hearts and souls,” to the project, says Roberts. They began raising money through letters to newspapers, e-mail, lobbying, lectures and appearances. This spring, they announced they were expanding their efforts to Europe. The statistics are startling: 40 women per minute seek an unsafe abortion in the developing world, primarily because they lack access to family planning facilities. The fund operates in more countries than any other agency and it only goes where it is invited. (full text).
Lois Abraham and Jane Roberts describe how ordinary Americans have flocked to back United Nations activities on population and development. (full text). http://www.ourplanet.com/imgversn/152/abraham.html
Today, 350 million couples lack access to a range of safe and affordable family planning methods and about half of all women in developing countries deliver their babies without skilled medical assistance. (full text).
Fighting Bush’s U.N. health cuts, a dollar bill at a time. When right-wing zealots got $34 million cut from global family-planning funds, two women vowed to raise money from their friends to replace it. A million dollars later, they’re just getting started, By Michelle Goldberg. (full text).
Jane Roberts says: “The short-term goal would be a list of 34 million Americans on the website who have reached out to the world’s women with a small gift. The long-term goal would be for me to play a part in encouraging a worldwide constituency of people who, by small gifts to UNFPA every year, announce to their governments and to the world that equality for women and girls, reproductive health in its myriad connotations, and choices about family size should be the world’s very first priority. Nothing else will save more human beings and help sustain the planet”. (full text).