“What Women Want” in Childbirth

Nov 12, 2017 | India, News

WRA India’s groundbreaking campaign, Hamara Swasthya, Hamari Awaz (What Women Want) took to clinics, communities and everywhere in between to find out just what it is that women want when it comes to maternal health care. The results were clear: they want to be treated with dignity and respect. Now they’re working to realize that request, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s the only way to significantly improve quality of care in reproductive and maternal health care.

The women of India are asking for the bare necessities during childbirth. Will they receive them?

With more than 44,000 maternal deaths every year, India remains one of the highest risk places in the world to give birth. Almost all these deaths can be prevented.

The government has placed most of its efforts on preventing maternal deaths on policies that increase the number of deliveries that happen in facilities — a great first step that unfortunately does not go quite far enough. Because this increase in facility deliveries was not combined with an increase in the quality of care mothers receive, it is clear that the best way to continue decreasing India’s maternal mortality rate is to shift efforts to focus on women’s rights for Quality, Equity and Dignity in healthcare.

India makes up almost 15% of total maternal deaths worldwide.

Women’s experiences with maternity caregivers, and the quality of care that they receive, can empower and comfort them, or inflict lasting damage and emotional trauma. White Ribbon Alliance India (WRA India) took this to heart with their latest, groundbreaking campaign: Hamara Swasthya, Hamari Awaz, or What Women Want.

By engaging more than 143,500 women directly about their one “ask” to improve the quality of reproductive and maternal health, India’s policy makers and maternal health and rights advocates now have the data necessary to end preventable maternal deaths in their country.

“What Women Want” is to be treated with respect during the most important time in a mother’s life. Credit: WRA India.

Starting in December 2016, WRA volunteers and supporters in communities across India asked women “What would you want from a health facility for the best quality care for reproductive and maternal health services for pregnancy, childbirth and family planning?” Using the Hamara Swasthya, Hamari Awaz Card to collect, collate and categorize the most pressing issues around quality of care Indian women face during childbirth, WRA India has ascertained that addressing the following is necessary in order to make further progress for mothers and babies:

  • Access to maternal health entitlements (including supplies and services)
  • Dignity and Respectful Care
  • Availability of Health Providers
  • Clean and Hygienic Health Facilities
  • Display of Information on entitlements, schemes and services

If women aren’t receiving these basic “wants,” will they continue to seek care from facilities? Credit: WRA India.

WHAT WOMEN WANT … For Quality Reproductive and Maternal Health

The key findings from the “What Women Want” testimonies were presented under the theme of “Quality, Equity and Dignity for Improved Maternal Health” to Mr. JP Nadda, the National Minister of Health and Family Welfare, on April 10th — the eve of India’s National Safe Motherhood Day and the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights.

WRA India and the 143,500+ women surveyed asked the Honorable Minster for the following:

  • Invest in generating awareness of entitlements to ensure that all entitlements are known and accessed by women.
  • Improve time bound payments to ensure that women fully access the entitlements.
  • Strengthen monitoring mechanism to track dispersal of all entitlements.
  • Create a cadre of professional midwives and trained doctors and specialists to ensure 24×7 availability of providers.
  • Commit to Zero Tolerance for abuse, to ensure that women receive respectful care without discrimination and abuse.
  • Incorporate respectful care in Quality Assurance Guidelines and adopt the Respectful Maternity Care Charter.
  • Form Swachh Bharat Abhiyan flying squads to conduct surprise visits to check cleanliness and hygiene in toilets, wards, and labour rooms.
  • Make display of free services and supplies mandatory at facilities to ensure easy access to information.

By asking the simple yet profound question of what it is that women want for quality reproductive and maternal care, WRA India has amplified the voices of women and promoted their right to demand respectful, quality health care.

By putting women at the center of their healthcare, WRA India has found that the best possible health outcomes for Indian women come from directly involving the women themselves.

By asking the simple yet profound question of what it is that women want for quality reproductive and maternal care, WRA India has amplified the voices of women and promoted their right to demand respectful, quality health care. By engaging policy leaders at the local and national levels — including Chief Ministers and the Prime Minister — WRA India’s promotion of a citizen-led Quality of Care framework is inspiring others to engage directly with their elected officials.

And, by reinforcing the demands for improved client feedback and respectful care through citizens’ engagement in the creation and implementation of maternal health policies, schemes and programs on women’s and children’s health, WRA India’s What Women Want campaign puts citizens at the center of their healthcare, while creating a strong client feedback mechanism that will have ripple effects throughout India for years to come.

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