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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2008, 04:15 PM

New York City - Backstage at the Clinton Global Initiative

(As it appeared in Slate)

Woke up this morning, and the first thing I did was phone my son Hashem to see how he was feeling. He was napping, and I didn't get much out of him, but it was still comforting to hear his sleepy little voice. I can't wait to give him a big cuddle.
And with that, I headed off to the Clinton Global Initiative for the opening session, which focused on education, health, poverty, and climate. And what a lineup: President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, former Vice President Al Gore, Bono, Coca-Cola Chairman Neville Isdell, Lance Armstrong, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, plus, of course, the charismatic and charming President Clinton. A pretty dazzling panel.
Backstage in the holding room, we chatted about everything from the progress on the MDG and the challenges of the financial crisis, to Deerfield Academy (my husband's alma mater), and President Clinton's appearance on The Daily Show.
It was a nice surprise to meet Lance Armstrong. Not only was I taken aback that he knew who I was—he even knew I was a runner. We exchanged notes on the joys and aches of running—something I'm looking forward to getting back to next week at home.
So much was said on the panel. What a learning experience. I could spend hours writing about it—there were so many interesting ideas and experiences shared. So much passion.
And it's that combination of passion, focus, creativity, risk-taking, and a sprinkle of fun that sums up my good friend Bono. He kicked off his remarks with a simple question, which I paraphrase: If the United States alone can find $700 billion to save Wall Street, why can't the world find $25 billion to save 20,000 children who die each day? Makes you think, doesn't it?
As for Al Gore, I admired him before for his advocacy for the environment and the impact of climate change, but after talking with him and listening to him, I could understand why he has convinced so many people to change their ways and make new lifestyle choices. I promised myself to do more and to find ways to try harder. That's the kind of effect he has!
The session topics included public-private partnerships in education, something that is taking off in Jordan. I talked about Madrasati, a project I started in April back home. It aims to rejuvenate 500 of our most rundown schools. We've done 100 now, and the looks on the children's faces when I visit their classrooms make it so worthwhile.
And just when jetlag started to kick in, so did the rest of my schedule, with three back-to-back events.
It was an honor to introduce Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at an event to celebrate progress made on the MDG, but he also cautioned about the huge amount of work, partnerships, focus, and finances needed to ensure that we meet the 2015 deadline.
I co-hosted a dinner to help shine a global spotlight on the issue of maternal health with Wendi Murdoch and Sarah Brown, who support the wonderful work of the White Ribbon Alliance.
The statistics are staggering: Every minute, a woman dies in childbirth, and for every one that dies, 30 more suffer complications. If you're a woman giving birth in Sierra Leone, you have a 1-in-8 chance of dying. In 2008, these numbers are just wrong. But, sadly, they're correct.
A few months ago, I came across this poignant and heartbreaking poem, by Marie-Therese Feuerstein, which I felt compelled to share.
"Maternal Mortality"
People don't really understand
How women die in childbirth 
The details 
Are almost 
The living foetus 
Striving for life 
Fighting to be born. 
The life-going sanctuary 
Of the uterus 
Becomes the prison, 
The tomb.
Or the mother, 
Weak from the pain 
Of delivery 
Finds nothing 
Seems able to quell 
The gushing of her blood. 
There are no more cloths 
To absorb the flow, 
And only two more hours 
To her life.
If we cannot improve 
The quality of women's lives 
At least improve 
The quality of their deaths …
How can we "sell"
Maternal mortality?
This human tragedy 
is not available 
On video. 
It is a "taboo" subject 
With human sexuality 
Which is already 
A taboo subject.
No-one has interviewed 
The dying woman. 
We don't know 
What she would have to say 
To us. 
Someone should interview 
The children 
Whose mothers have died. 
They may well wonder 
Why their mothers 
Had to be pregnant again 
In the first place.
It is difficult to sell 
A commodity 
That is too common. 
Anyway, dying is a familiar occupation. 
"Why should we 
Get excited about maternal deaths? 
There are so many other kinds!"
Perhaps we have to sell
Maternal mortality 
More as a fin-de-siècle 
The question is,
Does maternal mortality matter?
If it doesn't,
Perhaps we should approach, with caution, 
Entry into a century 
Where women will go on dying 
In increasing numbers 
And where … 
It still won't matter.


Comments (5)
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Najah Shuqair
Monday, February 7, 2011

Who ever reads this comment, I wish if you create a link to the page that had been written and get us an entery to our page to fix an error, I mean a spelling error. Thank you.
Please do not put this comment as part of my page, it is just a wish to give us writers to control our page to fix mistakes, add or delete words. Other Webs allowed us to do that.
Thank you for understanding.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hey Najah, we are working on that.. will roll out new changes to the website very soon...

Najah Shuqair
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Your Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah:

I have been reading and following all the developments that you did and still doing for Jordan. You are doing an excellent job.
I visited New York last summer with my husband and we loved it and I called it " the city that does not sleep".
I love the poem "Maternal Mortality". It describes in details about women who give birth and how ends in their death. It's very moving and sad. This is the truth of life. Life is very valuble and the most important thing is how to make our life very positive and helpful for others and for us. We must have the caring and passion for each other. Mothers plays very important role in our lives. She sacrifies her life in order to give a life for a new born. Some people don't know how much mothers are so important in our life. It doesn't matter what age we reach, we still need our mothers. Mothers who stay up late to read and put their kids to sleep or stay next to them when they're sick. When they cook, they feed their childrens first and when they buy somthing, they buy for their kids first. They think about their children and it doesn't matter if they're young or old. The mother will still be a mother until she dies.
I love my mother so much and for this reason I am going down to Amman to be with her when she has to go for her operation. Two weeks ago, she mentioned that she wish if one of my sisters in Jordan be with her and I thought I should be the one because the others are busy with their kids and work. I am so busy too but I think different because I am a very caring person who likes to help any body who needed my help. For this reason I wrote my mother the below poem as an appreciation of her being a part of my life. I will never give her what she deserves.


You are the sun that shines
on cloudy winter days
and warms my heart.

You are the moon that lightens
the long dim nights.

You are the candle I light
to brighten my heavy heart
when it is dark and sad.

You are the scented roses
I smell in springtime.

You are the fresh air that enters
my lungs and keeps me alive.

When the thought of you
jumps into my mind
birds sing happily in my heart.

With affection for all the mothers of the world,

Najah Shuqair

Ken Samac
Sunday, December 13, 2009

Her Majesty Queen Rania,
Good of you to visit New York and speak with all the good people mentioned in your blog message i.e. Al Gore etc. However, being a US citizen and having traveled to many cities within our wonderful country; New York is one of my least favorite. I am sure you have visited the Western US; it is by far the most beautiful terrain of our great nation --- in my opinion of course.
P.S. Most importantly, I hope your son (Hashem) is feeling better now.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I will never forget being told the reason to work hard in mastering the art of living is for the purposes to master the art of dying. The story goes that when we look back to our day there is but one or two things that stick out as important. The same goes if we look back to our week, our month, our year... Ironically, on our death bed, again there is but one or two things as well. If those thoughts are heavy it's said in the next life there will be rocks weighing heavily upon that life. If the thoughts rise effortlessly to the top so then will the next life begin light like butter. I never put much thought into reincarnation but it has so far been the best explanation I have found to date. Death is not the end and so even when the blood bandages are tossed away it matters. Morality matters. As said in the passage, "Entry into a century where women will go on dying in increasing numbers and where... it still won't matter."