Meeting Nick Clegg and a time for action – #blogladesh
Can people really make a difference? When we’re talking about such global, evasive, complex problems such as poverty, disease, hunger, and on such large scales, can small groups of people speaking out really have any impact?
I guess that’s why we’ve been trying to find out over the last few weeks. We’ve blogged and tweeted and made videos and travelled half way round the world. We’ve pushed YOU to add your voice to ours and to the voice of Save the Children and you have – nearly 60,00 of you in this country alone. 10 million of you have heard about #Blogladesh. You’ve read about watched the stories of the people we met, and you’ve cried tears and you’ve been moved to talk about what you’ve seen.
This week, the little voices, our voices, are being given over to the hands of 150 of the World Leaders as they meet in New York to discuss what action will be taken globally towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, targets set to finally ACT on the poverty and inequality affecting such a huge proportion of the world’s population and which are currently way of track. If any one can affect change, pushed by the global community’s passion and outrage and strong will, it’s these guys.
Last Thursday I got the chance to meet Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg before he left for the UN Summit in New York. I had five minutes. Five minutes to try and get across everything I had felt and experienced in Bangladesh and what he needs to DO, what he needs to be fighting for. I was nervous but felt so proud that we had been able to get our message this far. I just hoped I could do the team and the project justice in such a short space of time. I took photographs I had taken, blown up big on card, photos of the faces of two of the people we had me in Bangladesh, a mother and a child called Bibi Nurtaj and her son Shanto, who’s story you can watch here. I wanted him to see their faces, I wanted him to remember them, as I told him briefly of Bibi Nurtaj’s story, of the conditions she was bringing her child up in, of how Shanto had barely survived severe acute malnutrition and was now facing life blind in one eye as the result of prolonged diarrhoea, and still vulnerable to barrage of infections and illness. I told how Bibi Nurtaj had asked Sian to take Shanto away with us, of her desperation, how as I mother I could only begin to imagine the kind of life that would make you want to give up your own child.
And to his credit, Nick listened. I spoke emotionally, finding myself getting upset remembering, and he did listen. And I told him, as he must have been told so many times but I was glad to be able to tell him again, that he had the power to help change situations like this and that he should. I encouraged him to go out and meet some of these families himself, that I thought it would change the way he saw things, like it had me, and he responded that it was something he wished to do very much and he was committed to fighting for the reduction in maternal and newborn mortality and that those were the targets he was focusing on next week. I challenged him that the problems don’t stop when these children have survived babyhood, that we had seen with our own eyes the ongoing challenge to keep children alive in the face of poverty and hunger, and he agreed but said this would be a good start.
It is a good start. And I was glad to hear some fire and some passion in his voice as he spoke. These ARE issues he cares about.
And that was that. I left him with the photographs and my five minutes was up.
I guess the question now is will he keep his promises? Will the World Leaders find a way to unite and aggressively tackle the travesty that is 9 million children under the age of five still dying easily preventable deaths? Will they give it the will and the priority that it demands? Will they see that we CAN’T let this keep happening, that we have a moral responsibility, irrespective of the economic or political climate, to give these children a fair chance at life?
The money needed to fix this is small. But the resolve needed to make it happen is big. It needs a united and committed plan of action.
Our Blogladesh team mate Sian is out on New York following the events of the UN and reporting back. The UN Summit has revolving around it a whole week’s worth of campaign and awareness raising events which Sian is attending, interviewing important political figures and experts on issues of International Development. You can follow her reports on her blog and through the great videos being posted on the Save the Children YouTube Channel. And don’t forget to keep following @SaveChildrenPR for news and coverage of the Summit as it unfolds.
Back here at home the enormity of what’s happening keeps hitting me, the POTENTIAL for change has never been so great. All my thoughts are with the people in New York and the decisions being made. The realist in me expects that what comes out of it won’t be enough, that our voices will still need to find a way to keep shouting, and God only knows I will, because I can’t stop now, but let’s hope it’s a start, a good start.
Now’s your chance Nick, and all the rest of the people in power meeting in New York right now.
Don’t let the world down.
I’ll leave you with a video made to celebrate our trip and the people we met there, showing you what we’ve been fighting for and what we will continue to fight for.