The Family of Woman Film Festival, which concluded Sunday, hosted a myriad of speakers and storytellers to discuss the strides being made by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which advocates for girls’ and women’s health, rights and well-being. The film festival supports Friends of UNFPA, a registered nonprofit agency that helps to raise funds for the agency.
One of those storytellers was Bouwe-Jan Smeding, who told his story at one of the Point of View breakfasts that were held last week. Smeding spoke of his time working on the ground in Yemen, where he supported health workers providing antenatal and postnatal care.
Smeding is senior program adviser for the UNFPA humanitarian office, the arm of the United Nations aimed at reproductive health and rights for women and girls. In an interview with the Idaho Mountain Express on Feb. 26, Smeding discussed the work that the UNFPA is doing around the globe to support a four-year plan approved in September to achieve “transformative results” in three subject areas.
The three transformative results that the office has selected to work toward include ending preventable maternal deaths, ending all harmful practices against women and girls and ending the unmet need for family planning. Those three goals were selected, Smeding said, because they are more or less in line with the overarching sustainable development goals that world leaders, through the United Nations, have agreed to achieve by 2030.
Smeding said the main goal is “ensuring universal access to sexual reproductive health and rights for women and girls all around the world.”
Smeding has a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in health science. Half of his time spent in Yemen (six years total) was spent in the field supervising staff in outreach clinics. He was forced to leave in 2013 as a result of a security threat. But Smeding said the work started by UNFPA in Yemen is still going strong.
Last year, UNFPA along with 18 partners and the Yemeni government helped with 40,000 safe deliveries done in crisis areas.
“And you can say, ‘All right, 40,000 based upon all of the deliveries that take place,’ but those women in the difficult situation in which they live, and [that] they can go for a safe delivery—and they can ensure that the child that they’re going to get is healthy, that they are healthy—is so important,” Smeding said.
“So, I think the strength of UNFPA is really working with the government, even in cases where the government—like Syria, like Yemen—where there is a government but on the other hand there is no government, because there are rebels, there are parties that play a role. And still, in a difficult field, UNFPA is able to work with both sides. Because it’s not about the political process, it is really about the people that we want to reach.”
Peggy Elliott Goldwyn, founder of the film festival, said this year’s turnout was better than expected, given the winter storms that occurred last week. Goldwyn said she could not give a specific number of how much was raised for Friends of the UNFPA during this year’s film festival, but that the festival creates a budget each year that can guarantee that at least half of all proceeds at go to Friends of UNFPA.