My One Cent: Nicole Ellis
"Every mother deserves the chance to have a healthy pregnancy and raise healthy children. It’s a basic and universal human right."
February 7, 2018
Nicole Ellis is CARE’s Policy Communications Manager in Washington, D.C. Having seen CARE’s programs in more than 20 countries, Nicole says working for CARE is “deeply personal.” This is Nicole’s My One Cent story:
In 2009, I joined CARE after working on Capitol Hill for almost four years. Today, I serve as our Policy Communications Manager, ensuring that CARE’s advocacy priorities, such as the foreign assistance budget and humanitarian assistance, are featured prominently in the news and reach influencers like members of Congress and the Administration.
In my 8+ years at CARE, I’ve been lucky enough to see our work in more than 20 countries, spanning Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The most inspiring part of my travel has been witnessing firsthand the impact U.S. investments have made in the lives of so many families and communities. And I’m not just talking about education, food or emergency assistance. I’m talking about the generational impact that these small investments – roughly 1 percent of our budget – create in the lives of millions of people every second of every day.
However, at this time, the foreign assistance budget is facing deep cynicism and drastic setbacks. Despite the tremendous and growing global need for these small yet powerful investments, the Trump administration proposed deep cuts to the foreign assistance budget in FY18, and we are anticipating even larger cuts in FY19. This past year, we also saw devastating cuts to lifesaving, life-changing programs for women and girls, including family planning and maternal health care services.
As a mother to a two-year-old daughter (and another on the way), I’m deeply concerned about the current political environment and the risk these programs face moving forward. Every mother deserves the chance to have a healthy pregnancy and raise healthy children. It’s a basic and universal human right. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Without access to quality health care services, including providers, testing and medication, my pregnancy and the health of my daughter could have looked very different. And my Mom and great-grandmother would also agree. Two weeks after giving birth to my twin sister and I, my Mom almost hemorrhaged to death while home alone. Luckily, because of the privileges we have as Americans, my Mom was able to quickly get to the hospital, where she had a blood transfusion and the critical care she needed to safely recover. However, my great-grandmother wasn’t so lucky. Two days after giving birth to my grandfather, her seventh child, she hemorrhaged to death. That was in 1933, yet women around the world still face the same challenges today. In fact, every 90 seconds, a woman dies from a pregnancy-related complication. And postpartum hemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal deaths worldwide.
But the good news is: these deaths are entirely preventable. And we have the tools and resources at our fingertips. That’s why our continued investment in the world is so important. Pregnancy and childbirth should not be a death sentence. That’s what motivates me in my work every day. And that’s why, as a communicator, storytelling is so important. Members of Congress need to know and understand how important these investments truly are…for mothers, their children and the generations of children who will come afterwards.
But right now, I’m not cynical. This isn’t the first time we’ve faced an uphill battle with Congress and the Administration. And it’s not the first time we’ve faced budget cuts. The development community has always pushed back and persevered, and there are a lot of champions out there who believe in foreign assistance. I trust that, in 2018 and beyond, these champions will continue to shine through and stand up for women and girls everywhere. I know my Mom, my daughter and I will be standing right beside them.