Ashoka and GE Foundation Launch Innovative Partnership to Advance Solutions for Sub-Saharan Maternal and Infant Health

February 23, 2010

Arlington, VA (February 23, 2010) Ashoka, the global network of leading social entrepreneurs, announced today that it has been awarded a one-year grant by GE Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the GE Corporation, to identify and map solutions aimed at improving maternal and infant health around the world. Focusing on the sub-Saharan region of Africa, the goal is to find new pathways and mechanisms for healthcare and technologies to reach mothers and infants in need.

Due to serious gaps in Africa’s healthcare system and lack of access to proper care, a woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to a 1 in 4,000 risk outside the region. In addition, the majority of infants in the region do not live past their first birthday. To address this critical maternal and infant care challenge, Ashoka and GE Foundation will work together to focus on: interviewing global and local Ashoka Fellows addressing maternal and infant health; conducting market research; and consulting with stakeholder groups in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Our relationship with Ashoka is an important opportunity to identify innovative and impact-oriented solutions for maternal health in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Bob Corcoran, president of the GE Foundation. “By supporting Ashoka Fellows, who witness and understand the healthcare needs of these communities, the GE Foundation can enable systematic improvements for local clinics, physicians and families.”

An example of the innovative solutions Ashoka and GE Foundation will be supporting is that of Ashoka Fellow Stella Amojong Omunga. Based in Kenya, Stella is building diverse support networks for young unwed mothers, to keep them healthy, educated, and integrated within society.  Stella’s on-the-ground efforts—such as counseling the girls, training healthcare workers, supporting parents to accept their pregnant daughters, and building relationships within the school system—are aimed at changing mindsets toward unwed teen mothers and providing these girls with educational and occupational opportunities during and after pregnancy.  This example is one of numerous solutions that Ashoka and the GE Foundation believe can make a systemic impact on maternal and infant health in Africa.

“Leading social entrepreneurs are helping guide the way toward better maternal and infant health in sub-Saharan Africa and around the world,” says Bill Drayton, Founder and CEO of Ashoka. “They have the ability to think creatively to design bottoms-up solutions, offer fresh perspectives and new ideas, and accelerate widespread social change.”

About Ashoka
Founded in 1980, Ashoka is the world’s working community of more than 2,000 leading social entrepreneurs. It champions the most important new social change ideas and supports the entrepreneurs behind them by helping them get started, grow, succeed, and collaborate. As Ashoka expands its capacity to integrate and connect social and business entrepreneurs around the world, it builds an entrepreneurial infrastructure comprised of a series of global initiatives that support the fast-growing needs of the citizen sector. Ashoka’s vision is to create change today, for an Everyone A Changemaker™ society to become the reality of tomorrow. For more information, visit www.ashoka.org.

About the GE Foundation
The GE Foundation, the philanthropic organization of the General Electric Company, works to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems. In coordination with its partners, it supports U.S. and international education, developing health globally, the environment, public policy, human rights and disaster relief. In addition, the GE Foundation supports GE employee and retiree giving and involvement in GE communities around the world. In 2009, the entire GE family — including businesses, employees, retirees and GE Foundation — contributed more than an estimated $220 million to community and educational programs, including more than $100 million from GE Foundation. For more information, visit www.gefoundation.com.

For additional information on this partnership, please contact:

Ashoka
Tyler Spalding
+1.703.600.8240
tspalding@ashoka.org

GE
Meghan Pianta
+1.203.373.2438
meghan.pianta@ge.com