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Lupita Nyong’o Backs Mother Health Intl. for African Relief

Lupita Nyong’o is one of Variety’s Power of Women New York honorees. For profiles on more honorees, click here.

Anyone who has seen Lupita Nyong’o on Broadway in “Eclipsed” would understand her passion for Mother Health Intl.

The organization is dedicated to providing relief to women and children in Uganda and other impoverished or war-torn regions, in large part by creating locally engaged birthing centers. Meanwhile, “Eclipsed,” written by “Walking Dead” star Danai Gurira, centers on the captive “wives” of a Liberian warlord during that nation’s second civil war. During the course of the play, a character delivers a baby.

“There are many parallels with the play I’m doing,” Nyong’o says of MHI. “What these women are going through in northern Uganda is very much what we witness happening in the story I’m telling right now in ‘Eclipsed.’ It’s a tragedy that women’s bodies are used as tools of war. When that happens, the trauma of war affects birthing. Mortality rates of children are so high and mothers die at such a high rate in these areas. It’s so important to change that.”

Nyong’o says she’d never thought much about birthing practices before her sister introduced her to MHI executive director Rachel Zaslow (who, like Nyong’o, graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass.). Calling attention to such important but overlooked issues is a mandate for her as an artist, Nyong’o says.

“As an actor, it’s a privilege to be able to shed light on issues that are relevant to the world we live in today. With ‘Eclipsed,’ hopefully what we’re doing is putting emotion behind hard facts, so that people who experience this play can then encounter an organization like Mother Health Intl. and have an emotional attachment to what it is that they’re doing. Out of that, I think, comes real, effective change.”

Watch below as Lupita Nyong’o talks about whether she’ll ever direct.

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