Global birth inequalities need action, says Manchester professor using theatre as a tool


A University of Manchester professor and former senior United Nations official is crossing the boundaries of medicine, arts and humanitarian issues to support and inform B!RTH, an arts initiative stimulating debate around childbirth inequalities.

Addressing global inequalities is one of the University of Manchester’s five research beacons – areas where the University provides notable research excellence and Manchester solutions to global challenges.

Produced as part of Manchester’s year as European City of Science 2016, B!RTH is a series of theatrical events and debates bringing together leading voices from the world of science, art, academia, politics and charities, developed by at the Royal Exchange, the UK’s Regional Theatre of the Year in partnership with the Oglesby Charitable Trust.

Professor Mukesh Kapila CBE is a professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs at the University of Manchester and was part of the first British teams to see the Rwandan Genocide and was particularly notable for speaking out to condemn the genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur in 2004.

He has been the lead academic advisor in The Oglesby Charitable Trust and The Royal Exchange Theatre’s initiative to stage seven plays by seven leading female playwrights from across the globe.

The performances will take place in Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre from 19th - 22nd October and encompass Kenya, India, China, Syria, UK, USA and Brazil in an exploration of each country’s approach to childbirth.

This project makes us question the very foundations of our society because birth is the very start for all of us. It is a metaphor for looking at the way the world is organised and what we can do to make it a better place.
Professor Mukesh Kapila CBE

“Childbirth is not just a medical issue or a technical issue. It is really about the way men and women relate to each other. The way communities relate amongst themselves and factors such as politics, culture, social attitudes and human rights – all come into play around birth.”

Researchers estimate that at least 2 million girls per year die and between 60 million and 101 million women are missing from the world’s population because of gender discrimination. (Kristof and WuDunn, 2009)

Professor Kapila added, “This mass culling of a segment of humanity targeted just because of their gender is femicide - a form of genocide. This is so insidious and needs to be raised to the forefront. And then there are a range of other inequalities around childbirth – the mortality rates of women who give birth in poverty and the chances in life for children who are born in Calais, for example, and find themselves paperless. Imagine your chances if you are alive but do not ‘legally exist’.”

“When people see these plays, I hope that they will never again take the world for granted, stop being complacent and question the way the world is, and feel personally empowered to create the world we deserve - I think this project will then have succeeded.”

B!RTH takes place at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester from 19th - 22nd October, 2016.


Addressing global inequalities is one of The University of Manchester’s research beacons - examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet. #ResearchBeacons

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