“You cannot use the murder of my grandmother by the Nazis as cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza” – Sir Gerald Kaufman MP

Ronan L. Tynan

The continuing murder of civilians in Gaza makes it very clear that most of Israel’s political elite, and especially Prime Minister Netanyahu, feel confident they can commit warcrimes against the Palestinians with impunity, because regardless of any criticism they might have to endure they can always count not only on US leaders, but most of the EU’s political elite as well?

Indeed, the apparent contempt Prime Minister Netanyahu shows for the lives of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, when talking about his pounding of Gaza offers no hope for peace in the Middle East, all the more alarming with the region already in flames?  In short, no room for optimism I thought until I saw a remarkable speech by Jewish MP Sir Gerald Kaufman in the House of Commons, in which he bluntly accused Israeli politicians of cynically trading on the Halocaust, and demanded that they not use his grandmother who was murdered by the Nazis as cover for their murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. “My grandmother did not die to povide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The present Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt of gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Halocaust as justification for the murder of Palestinians. The implication is that Jewish lives are precious but the lives of Palestinians do not count.”

Sir Gerald was speaking about the last Israeli invasion of Gaza and brilliantly exposed how Israel’s leaders have virtually inverted our perceptions so that we identify with the oppressor, so much so that even journalists have had their sense of outrage turned on the oppressed instead of exposing the injustices being done to them.

Sir Gerald went on: “On Skynews a few days ago the spokeswoman for the Israeli Army was asked about the killing, as of that time about 800 Palestinians, the total is now 1,000. She replied instantly, 500 of them were militatants. That was the reply of a Nazi. I suppose the Jews fighting for their lives in the Warsaw Ghettoe could have been dismissed as militants?”

Referring to the then Israeli Foreign Minister Livni who said Israel would not negotiate with terrorists, Sir Gerald pointed out that her father was Chief Operations Officer of the Jewish terrorist group which had blown up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in which 91 people were killed including 4 Jews. “Israel was born out of jewish terrorism,” he asserted. He went on to detail other egregious Israeli terrorist atrocities in case we have any doubt about the validity of his thesis. To understand Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu’s strategy this time in Gaza, Sir Gerald Kaufman’s speech is probably invaluable.

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World Economic Forum Meeting in Nigeria Can Help Secure Release of School Girls Abducted by Boko Haram

Chanting "Bring Back Our Girls, Not For sale, African Lives Matter," protesters outside the Nigeria High Commission in London demanding action to rescue more than 200 school girls abducted by Boko Haram. Image: @RonanLTynan

Chanting “Bring Back Our Girls, Not For sale, African Lives Matter,” protesters outside the Nigerian High Commission in London (Sunday 4 May, 2014) demanding action to rescue more than 200 school girls abducted by Boko Haram. Image: @EsperanzaDocs


RONAN L TYNAN

@RonanLTynan

#BringBackOurGirls

The World Economic Forum (WEF) may seem an unlikely candidate to become even unwittingly embroiled in frustrating efforts to rescue the more than 200 school girls kidnapped by the extremist and very brutal Boko Haram, but President Goodluck Jonathan made the WEF complicit in his failure to even attempt to rescue them because he did not want this shocking crime to dominate the headlines with a major Forum meeting starting in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Wednesday. That event will be chaired by former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and will be attended by many world and business leaders including Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang. Founded by Professor Klaus Schwab the WEF describes itself “a driver for reconciliation efforts in different parts of the world” and its event in the Nigerian capital this week will give the organization a unique opportunity to make a difference and help ensure something is done to rescue the school girls whose plight Nigeria’s President tried to brush under the carpet, with his government even suggesting they had been rescued!

President Jonathan has already been embarrassed into going public about his government’s failure to act, with many protests in Nigeria, and many parts of the world, in response to accusations by the girls’ parents his government has made no effort to find or rescue them. All reports on the ground appear to confirm that with no evidence Nigeria’s police or army even tried to pursue those responsible. Even worse, to cover that inaction in his address to the nation the President accused the parents of not co-operating with the police.

Indeed, the President’s failure to act even extended to efforts to downplay the numbers with the authorities only last Friday, after the school girls were kidnapped on April 14, confirming that 276 were abducted, 53 managed to escape and 223 are still held by Boko Haram.

More worryingly reports are emerging that some of the girls may have been trafficked and enslaved – “sold as brides for as little as $12”. However, these shocking claims only confirm the need for urgent action on the part of the Nigerian government and the WEF meeting in Nigeria starting Wednesday in Abuja could be an important platform to maximize pressure for action to secure their freedom.

I am sure that Professor Klaus Schwab does not want the continuing disappearance of these school girls to be even remotely connected with the holding of a World Economic Forum meeting in Nigeria. However, he will have a unique opportunity on Wednesday to make clear that although the international media initially ignored this appalling crime that a school girl in Chibok Nigeria has the same right to an education as a girl in Zurich, New York, London or Dublin by publicly committing that World Economic Forum meeting in Abuja to helping to secure their release by all available means.

‘Boko Haram’ translates as ‘western education is forbidden’ or ‘western education is sinful’ -but either way, this very dangerous and reactionary group cannot be allowed to devalue the lives or infringe the basic right of Nigeria’s girls to an education. There can be no equivocation that this very dangerous and reactionary group is wholly responsible for this shocking crime in taking 276 school girls from their dormitories in the middle of the night. But if we fail to keep the pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan and his government we all become complicit, and Professor Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum on Wednesday hopefully will not forget that, and use the occasion to act as a platform to mobilize support to secure their release and underline that the right of Nigerian girls to an education matters.

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Mothers Against The Odds – Trailer

MOTHERS AGAINST THE ODDS is a ground breaking film that sheds light on one of the great unresolved scandals against women in modern Irish history which only came to light for filmmakers ANNE DALY and RONAN TYNAN when they sought to compare the experiences of mothers in Ireland and Kenya. Narrated by Oscar winning actress Brenda Fricker, this film took Tynan and Daly on a three year odyssey that totally up ended their original expectations as there were confronted by very uncomfortable questions about Ireland’s treatment of women that remain unresolved.

Why were some Irish mothers subjected to a brutal procedure when they sought to give birth with shocking life long consequences? Why were their pelvic bones broken during child birth, without their permission, in a brutal procedure now compared by some to female genital mutilation (FGM)? In confronting these questions this film reveals with compelling insights how unimaginable cruelty can be inflicted on women and girls when their rights are not respected.


Filmmakers Anne Daly and Ronan Tynan expected few surprises when they set out to make this film. Mothers in Kenya had a very high risk of dying during child birth and Ireland was according to the statistics one of the safest places in the world to give birth. However, their experience in Kenya, and the questions raised there, opened their eyes to the all but hidden histories of a number Irish mothers, who were forced to endure a level of cruelty, up to recent times, that was both shocking and incomprehensible – and totally at odds with their original expectations. In fact, Kenya brought into sharp focus a very compelling story at home, which remains both a very controversial and still unresolved part of Irish history.

Observing the treatment of many Kenyan mothers today helped them to understand how some Irish mothers, in former decades, found themselves at the receiving end, during child birth, of treatment that in any other context, might even be considered as a form of torture!
How could a medical procedure, symphysiotomy, which one leading Obstetrician described as from the “Dark Ages”, be performed on some Irish mothers, when they went into hospital to have their babies, without their consent, and that in so many cases literally destroyed their lives? All the more surprising when the Cesarean section was virtually routine in many hospitals when problems births arose at the time.

Talking to mothers in Kenya going through different, but very similar experiences, to that endured by Irish mothers in former decades offered insights that makes this documentary really compelling. Irish and Kenyan mothers share a common bond that resonates in a very moving way. In explaining why women can be so vulnerable one Kenyan midwife in the film was adamant that the reason is simple and very clear: “Women are treated the same as children, they should not speak….” Women are second class citizens in a real sense in sections of Kenyan society. They are perceived to be of value certainly, but only in the sense that they “can be traded like assets”.


Kenya today as the film shows how easily such cruelty could be performed against vulnerable Irish mothers, without their consent. Kenyan women must submit to the prevailing demands of traditional culture, religion and the “superior” status of their husbands. A very conservative type of society, that also prevailed in Ireland, up to recently in historical terms. Indeed, a very good indication of just how hard it has been to free all women in Ireland from medical procedures, performed for religious rather than for health reasons, is provided by the fact that the last smyphysiotomies were performed in the early Eighties.


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LINK TO PETITION HERE: ‘Tell Ireland to Stop Obstructing Justice for Symphysiotomy Victims’ http://www.thepetitionsite.com/807/989/501/tell-ireland-to-stop-obstructing-justice-for-symphysiotomy-victims/


If people who are tortured are described as being forced to endure inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment we have no choice but to conclude that the interviews we filmed with Irish mothers for our documentary Mothers Against The Odds might qualify in that roll of infamy. The reasons why they were subjected to a symphysiotomy often without their consent represents a dark and unresolved chapter in Ireland’s history as they still await justice.

We have filmed interviews with people who were tortured and some of the testimonies by Irish mothers forced to have a symphysiotomy describe treatment in some instances that was more horrific. Anyone interested can make up their own minds by looking at Mothers Against The Odds or seeking out those mothers who were forced to endure that procedure.

When we started filming Mothers Against The Odds over three years ago we had not even heard of the symphysiotomy procedure or were aware of the shocking pain and suffering inflicted on mothers since it was introduced in Irish maternity hospitals in 1944, with the last one as far as we can establish being carried out in 1984.  We set out to make a film comparing the experiences in childbirth of Kenyan and Irish mothers. Women have a 25/1 of dying having a child in that well-known African country so we expected Kenya to offer the most traumatic and painful stories.  We were shocked however to find in Ireland mothers forced to live with the consequences of treatment during pregnancy that even Irish politicians from all parties felt was on a par with female genital mutilation.

Some talk of African societies often in very patronizing terms as “traditional” and “conservative” or even “backward” and “cruel” especially in their treatment of women.  There is no denying we found real problems for women and girls in Kenya where many are second-class citizens.  But women are raising their voices and seeking change, and there are hopeful signs for the future. Against that background we were quite unprepared for the traumatic, shocking and extremely painful interviews we conducted with a number of Irish mothers who call themselves Survivors of Symphysiotomy.

For the women it was also very difficult to give these interviews, as they had to relive what were quite horrific, very painful and difficult experiences.  One mother even confided that when she did the interview she would become depressed for sometime afterwards but felt it very important in her quest for justice to go through that process.  Perhaps the following evidence of mind numbing cruelty will help you appreciate what some of these women went through.

In the documentary Nora describes what it was like having her pelvis severed: “I saw the hacksaw, I know what hacksaws are. He started cutting my bone and my blood spurted up like a fountain.” She remembers how the doctor looked annoyed that he had gotten her blood on his glasses. Until she spoke to her son Wayne about it many years later, Nora believed she had gone through a C-Section. “You’ll never get rid of [the pain] until you’re not living anymore.”

To watch the film click on the blog post entitled MOTHERS AGAINST THE ODDS above.  But please sign the petition to ‘Tell Ireland to Stop Obstructing Justice for Symphysiotomy Victims.’

Many thanks

Ronan Tynan          Anne Daly

Filmmakers

‘Mothers Against The Odds’

And Co-Founders Esperanza Productions

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MOTHERS AGAINST THE ODDS

Mothers Against The Odd, a powerful and compelling documentary by award winning filmmakers Anne Daly and Ronan Tynan. Made in Kenya and Ireland it shows the kind of unimaginably cruel treatment that can be inflicted on women and girls, when they seek to give birth, if their rights are not respected. Narrated by Oscar winner Brenda Fricker, this Esperanza Productions documentary, took Tynan and Daly on what they describe as “a three year odyssey” and totally up-ended their expectations.

“When we set out to film Mothers Against the Odds in Kenya and Ireland, we expected few surprises in comparing the two countries, especially given that Kenyan mothers have a 25/1 chance of dying giving birth, while Irish mothers enjoy much better odds at 48,000/1. However, our Kenyan experience opened our eyes to the all but hidden histories of a number Irish mothers, who were forced to endure a level of cruelty, up to recent times, that was both shocking and incomprehensible – and totally at odds with our initial expectations. Our experience in Kenya brought into sharp focus that very compelling story at home, which remains a very controversial and still unresolved part of our history. Observing the treatment of many Kenyan mothers today, helped us to understand how some Irish mothers, in former decades, found themselves at the receiving end, during child birth, of treatment that in any other context, might be described as torture!”

“How could a medical procedure, symphysiotomy, which one leading Obstetrician described as from the “Dark Ages”, be performed on some Irish mothers, when they went into hospital to have their babies, without their consent, and that in so many cases literally destroyed their lives? In a so-called Western country how could an operation, which members of parliament from all parties recently compared to female genital mutilation in Africa, be performed in Irish hospitals, without these mothers even being informed?

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Alarm Bells at 57th Session UN Status of Women #CSW57 – Chilling Effect on Filmmakers ‘Mothers Against The Odds’

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Alarm Bells at 57th Session UN Status of Women #CSW57 – Chilling Effect on Filmmakers ‘Mothers Against The Odds’

Anne Daly  &  Ronan Tynan

 

 

Alarm bells went off when we read reports last week as to why it was proving so difficult for a major UN conference in New York to agree on action to end violence against women and girls.  This is because we had just filmed a documentary in Kenya and Ireland called ‘Mothers Against The Odds’ and found that the reasons being advanced to hold up agreement were the cause of very serious, indeed unimaginable pain and suffering being imposed on some women and girls when they sought to give birth. The Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt had sought to incorporate in the text the right of any country to justify denying women’s rights on the basis of national laws, culture and religion; factors that explain why so many women and girls are often not only denied proper maternal health care, but their urgent medical needs are over-ruled by society’s perception of what is right, with very cruel consequences for them.  

 

All societies tend to attach great importance to having children.  But we found that is quite different from seeking to ensure that all mothers without exception have a happy and safe delivery.  In fact there are few human phenomena where the rights of the primary person – the mother – in a process that can be life threatening are so easily flouted and ignored.  The truth of that statement was brought into very sharp relief for us in comparing the experiences of mothers in Ireland and Kenya, and the kind of violence some of them experienced when they sought to give birth.  Indeed, it proved such a revelation that it also opened our eyes to one of the great unresolved scandals against women in Ireland. That was not what we had expected. But press reports this week about problems at the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, with representatives from 131 countries, reminded us just why we got such a surprise when we sought to film ‘Mothers Against The Odds’.

 

To be truthful we went to Kenya expecting to find very painful challenges women can face when they seek to give birth given the statistics which suggest that a mother’s chances of survival can be as low as 25/1 in some areas. While the picture is indeed difficult, it is clear that the country is in a development phase and there is hope for the future because women are seeking to assert their rights.  But one cannot hide the reality that it can be dangerous to give birth because many women for the most part are second class citizen.  To be more specific: their rights are infringed and their lives even put at risk by the prevailing culture and traditions in some places when they become pregnant. Mind you, it is also very important to underline that maternity care is not free as we discovered. Many women are poor and some are even detained in the hospitals until their bills were paid.  So that while culture and tradition pose real challenges, economic deprivation can prove fatal in certain situations.  In fact the status and lack of respects for the rights of poor women, makes their poverty more oppressive, and obviously makes them even more vulnerable when problems arise during pregnancy as the mothers themselves explained to us. 

An experienced Kenyan midwife described the reality of that lower status by informing us that women tend to be treated like children.  They can be perceived as no more than assets to be traded in some instances because they have no voice. This underlined the well-worn truth that the quality of a woman’s health is in direct proportion to her rights in society – a fact bourne out in the stories of the mothers we met in different parts of the country.

However, the unexpectedly disturbing experience for us was in filming the Irish part of the documentary when we met the women who call themselves survivors of symphysiotomy.  They were subjected to what a leading physician described as a “barbaric” procedure which involved severing or breaking their pelvises when they went into hospital to have their babies.  It was claimed by one leading researcher that the rationale for this procedure was to overcome the natural limit on child-bearing that the cesarean section can impose. Remarkably the cesarean section was the routine procedure for complicated or problem deliveries in the hospitals at the time but was less in keeping with Catholic Church teaching as it imposed a limit on the number of children a woman could have. Sounds incredible, but for us it is the only way one can rationalise or even try to understand why in 1944 this “barbaric” procedure was re-introduced into some leading Irish maternity hospitals.  

The Catholic Church placed a very high value on sex for procreation and the then very powerful Archbishop of Dublin Archbishop John Charles McQuaid (1940-1972) saw artificial birth control as reprehensible. Against that background it is hard not to see him welcoming something like the symphysiotomy procedure if it advanced his agenda.  However, as to whether he was aware of the extreme pain that was inflicted on women in carrying out that procedure, and the quite horrific lifetime consequences it produced for many of the mothers we met, and are recounted by them in our documentary, is unknown.  As far as we could establish the last symphysiotomy was carried out in an Irish maternity hospital in 1984.

Interestingly many Kenyan women we told about the experience of Irish mothers who were forced to have a symphysiotomy were not surprisingly quite appalled that such a cruel procedure would be imposed upon anyone, especially when the cesarean section was available as an option when problems arose. One leading gynecologist in Mombassa, co-incidentally very active in the Catholic Church said in her knowledge such procedures were very rarely carried out in Kenya, and only in serious emergency situations when access to a maternity hospital was impossible in remote rural areas.  

Given our experiences it is perhaps easy to appreciate why Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood in seeking invoke local laws, culture and religion as an excuse to deny women, especially mothers their most basic rights caused us some alarm – and that is putting it mildly. We have seen first hand how easily such considerations can cost a mother her life, or in the case of Ireland’s survivors of symphysiotomy a lifetime of pain and extreme suffering because a procedure was carried out for reasons quite divorced from their medical needs.

It is important to emphasise how easily incredible cruelty can be inflicted on women and girls when they have perceived to have no rights and little or no status.  In Ireland many of the survivors of symphysiotomy testify that they were not consulted or their permission sought before that procedure was carried out. In Kenya on the other hand some women are even been beaten and told to “shut up” when they cry out during labour in maternity hospitals.  These are only shocking examples of what we found.  But the key point is that if culture, tradition, religion or national laws do not strongly assert a woman’s right to be treated with dignity and respect, cruelty and abuse can become common place even in maternity hospitals during delivery!

Against that background we found quite moving the courage of the head of Egypt’s delegation, politician and diplomat Mervat Tallawy, who surprised and delighted the overwhelming majority of delegates and onlookers in the crowded U.N. conference room when she ignored the Brotherhood and announced that Egypt would join the consensus and agree declaration adopted by the 57th Session of CSW.

“International solidarity is needed for women’s empowerment and preventing this regressive mood, whether in the developing countries or developed, or in the Middle East in particular,” Tallawy was reported by The Washington Post as telling reporters afterwards. “It’s a global wave of conservatism, of repression against women, and this paper is a message that if we can get together, hold power together, we can be a strong wave against this conservatism…..I believe in women’s cause. I don’t take money from the government. I work voluntarily. If they want to kick me out they can. But I will not change my belief in women. Women are the slaves of this age. This is unacceptable, and particularly in our region.”

The spirit of courage and determination shown by Mervat Tallawy we also found mirrored in the work of women in Kenya and Ireland as they seek to protect and advance the rights of women and girls.  The UN CSW took a step forward in New York last week in agreeing that document but it is only through hard work and determination on the ground that real progress will be made in stopping escalating violence against women and girls.

Anne Daly & Ronan Tynan

Filmmakers – ‘Mothers Against The Odds’

To see the Trailer and the complete documentary film click here:

www.dailymotion.com/AnEsperanzaFilm

More information: www.esperanzaproductions.com

 

 

 

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International Women’s Day – Justice for the Survivors of Symphysiotomy

MATO 34 - FOUR WOMEN SEATED

Mothers wait at a maternity hospital. Image from ‘Mothers Against The Odds’ #Mato2012. Anne Daly and Ronan Tynan had their eyes opened to one of the greatest injustices ever inflicted on Irish Mothers in Ireland’s maternity hospitals while filming ‘Mothers Against The Odds’ in Kenya.

Should International Women’s Day be renamed End Violence Against Women Day? What is remarkable about the advance of women’s rights in many Western countries has been the growth in violence against women across the globe. Rape as a weapon of war seems to be increasingly evident in many armed conflicts. But that is only part of a bigger and very disturbing picture. Indeed, depending on how you define violence, the growth in the porn industry masks the growth of the vilest exploitation, including sexual slavery, prevalent even in some of the most liberal democracies. The latter maybe partly explained by our restrictive immigration laws which make it very easy for traffickers and sex slavers to deceive women and young girls in poorer countries with offers of jobs that don’t exist as they can never hope to legitimately enter these countries they see as lands of opportunity.

Against that background few countries can point the finger at others when it comes to tackling violence against women. Indeed, the prevalence of domestic violence in all cultures and across all social classes underlines just how big a challenge it is to create a world where women and girls everywhere can aspire to live in relative safety.

However, there is one area that one might imagine women would enjoy real protection and freedom from violence and that is when it comes to giving birth. I suppose that is what really shocked us when we were filming ‘Mothers Against The Odds’, just how dangerous giving birth can be when the rights of  mothers are not respected.   We went to Kenya expecting to be shocked by the challenges women face when they seek to give birth. While the picture is challenging, it is clear that the country is in a development phase and there is hope for the future because women are seeking to assert their rights.  But it is dangerous to give birth because women for the most part are second class citizen.

Women in Kenya as an experienced midwife explained to us are treated like children.  They are treated like assets to be traded because they have no voice. This underlined the well-worn truth that the quality of a woman’s health is in direct proportion to her rights in society.

However, the really shocking and disturbing experience for us was in the filming of the Irish part of the documentary when we met the women who call themselves survivors of symphysiotomy.  They were subjected to a “barbaric” procedure which involved breaking their pelvises when they went into hospital to have their babies.  It is claimed the rationale for this procedure was to overcome the natural limit on child-bearing that the cesarean section imposed.

The cesarean was the routine procedure for complicated or problem deliveries but was less in keeping with Catholic Church teaching as it seemed to impose a limit on the number of children a woman could have. Sounds incredible, but the only way one can rationalise why in 1944 this “barbaric” procedure was re-introduced into some leading Irish maternity hospitals.

The Catholic Church placed a very high value on sex for procreation and the then  very powerful Archbishop of Dublin Archbishop John Charles Mc Quaid (1940-1972) saw artificial birth control as reprehensible. Against that background it is hard not to see him welcoming something like the symphysiotomy procedure if it advanced his agenda.  However, as to whether he was aware of the extreme pain that was inflicted on women in carrying out that procedure is unknown.

On International Women’s Day we must wonder why the Irish state has still not properly addressed the demand for justice from the survivors of symphysiotomy, especially when the last of these procedures in Irish maternity hospital was only carried out in the mid-Eighties? All the more important if we are serious about wanting to address the global culture of increasing violence against women.

Anne Daly and Ronan Tynan

Producers

Mothers Against The Odds

March 8, 2013

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MOTHERS AGAINST THE ODDS

Mothers Against The Odd, a powerful and compelling documentary by award winning filmmakers Anne Daly and Ronan Tynan. Made in Kenya and Ireland it shows the kind of unimaginably cruel treatment that can be inflicted on women and girls, when they seek to give birth, if their rights are not respected. Narrated by Oscar winner Brenda Fricker, this Esperanza Productions documentary, took Tynan and Daly on what they describe as “a three year odyssey” and totally up-ended their expectations.

“When we set out to film Mothers Against the Odds in Kenya and Ireland, we expected few surprises in comparing the two countries, especially given that Kenyan mothers have a 25/1 chance of dying giving birth, while Irish mothers enjoy much better odds at 48,000/1. However, our Kenyan experience opened our eyes to the all but hidden histories of a number Irish mothers, who were forced to endure a level of cruelty, up to recent times, that was both shocking and incomprehensible – and totally at odds with our initial expectations. Our experience in Kenya brought into sharp focus that very compelling story at home, which remains a very controversial and still unresolved part of our history. Observing the treatment of many Kenyan mothers today, helped us to understand how some Irish mothers, in former decades, found themselves at the receiving end, during child birth, of treatment that in any other context, might be described as torture!”

“How could a medical procedure, symphysiotomy, which one leading Obstetrician described as from the “Dark Ages”, be performed on some Irish mothers, when they went into hospital to have their babies, without their consent, and that in so many cases literally destroyed their lives? In a so-called Western country how could an operation, which members of parliament from all parties recently compared to female genital mutilation in Africa, be performed in Irish hospitals, without these mothers even being informed?

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Mothers Against the Odds Trailer

Mothers Against The Odd, a powerful and compelling documentary by award winning filmmakers Anne Daly and Ronan Tynan, launched (Tuesday, 13 Nov., 2012) by Marian Finucane of RTE in the Lighthouse Cinema. Made in Kenya and Ireland it shows the kind of unimaginably cruel treatment that can be inflicted on women and girls, when they seek to give birth, if their rights are not respected.  Narrated by Oscar winner Brenda Fricker, this Esperanza Productions documentary, took Tynan and Daly on what they describe as “a three year odyssey” and totally up-ended their expectations.

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Mothers Against the Odds

“How could incredible cruelty be imposed on many Irish mothers in a so called ‘civilised country’? We found the answer in Kenya.”

An Esperanza Production

Narrator – Brenda Fricker
Producer/Director – Ronan Tynan & Anne Daly

When we set out to film Mothers Against the Odds in Kenya and Ireland, we expected few surprises in comparing the two countries, especially given that Kenyan mothers have a 25/1 chance of dying giving birth, while Irish mothers enjoy much better odds at 48,000/1 – making this country one of the safest places on earth to have a child. However, our Kenyan experience opened our eyes to the all but hidden histories of a number Irish mothers, who were forced to endure a level of cruelty, up to recent times, that was both shocking and incomprehensible – and totally at odds with our initial expectations. Our experience in Kenya brought into sharp focus that very compelling story at home, which remains a very controversial and still unresolved part of our history. Observing the treatment of many Kenyan mothers today, helped us to understand how some Irish mothers, in former decades, found themselves at the receiving end, during child birth, of treatment that in any other context, might be described as torture!

How could a medical procedure, symphysiotomy, which one leading Obstetrician described as from the “Dark Ages”, be performed on some Irish mothers, when they went into hospital to have their babies, without their consent, and that in so many cases literally destroyed their lives? In a so-called Western country how could an operation, which TDs from all parties, in the Dail recently, compared to female genital mutilation in Africa, be performed in Irish hospitals, without these mothers even being informed?
We found the answers to these questions in Kenya, talking to mothers who are going through different, but very similar experiences, because, as one woman put it to us: they are deemed to be on a par with children! “Women are treated the same as children, they should not speak….” Women are second class citizens in a real sense in sections of Kenyan society. They are perceived to be of value certainly, but only in the sense that they “can be traded like assets”.

In comparing the experience of Irish and Kenyan mothers admittedly we expected the Irish experience to be dramatically better, because of the access of Irish mothers to “modern” maternity care, over the last several decades. In recent years, that certainly appears to be the case, with rare exceptions, for all mothers. However, in former decades, we came across the all but hidden histories of some Irish mothers, who were treated, like many Kenyan women are today, as people who “should not speak” and simply accept what is done to them for their own good – with horrific consequences in many cases.

What was shocking about the Irish experience is that the “modern” option – the caesarean section – was available for mothers in Irish hospitals, even in former decades, and many were able to avail of that operation when things went wrong. Therefore, why were any mothers – (the actual number is unknown but growing as new cases are still coming to light) – subjected to smyphysiotomies, without their consent? A barbaric procedure which involves fracturing the pelvis, and meant in almost all cases a life time of pain and suffering, that appears all the more cruel and incomprehensible given the fact that caesarean sections, were otherwise so routine in Irish hospitals, even at the time?

Kenya today allowed us to show how easily such cruelty could be performed against vulnerable mothers, without their consent. Kenyan women must submit to the prevailing demands of traditional culture, religion and the “superior” status of their husbands. A very conservative type of society, that also prevailed in Ireland, up to recently in historical terms. Indeed, a very good indication of just how hard it has been to free all women in Ireland from medical procedures, performed for religious rather than for health reasons, is provided by the fact that the last smyphysiotomies were performed here in the early Nineties.

A sobering thought is that smyphysiotomies were never the norm in Europe for handling difficult births. Indeed, they ceased to have any place in French maternal care in the late Eighteenth Century, and were discontinued in the UK in the mid Nineteenth Century! However, a very depressing fact, is that there are efforts in Europe to encourage that practise in Africa. This documentary offers compelling evidence why such efforts should be vigorously resisted.

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