What Women Want: Global Advocacy Initiative Launches to Understand and Demand Quality Healthcare for Women and Girls

Apr 11, 2018 | Global Secretariat, Press Release


April 11, 2018, Washington, D.C. – With growing consensus among global and national health leaders that quality healthcare for women and girls is vital if we are going to achieve related Sustainable Development Goals and universal health coverage, leading global health and development organizations are coming together on International Day for Maternal Health and Rights to launch the What Women Want campaign.

Building on White Ribbon Alliance India’s powerful campaign—Hamara Swasthya, Hamari Awaz (Our Health, Our Voices)— which amplified the voices of more than 150,000 women and distilled their responses into a ten-point advocacy agenda, What Women Want will bring together individuals and organizations around the world to ask this basic yet often ignored question: What is your one request for quality reproductive and maternal healthcare services? The answers heard in India were simple: My own bed. Enough supplies for mine and my baby’s medical needs. A clean facility. To be treated with respect. Simple, yet profound in that every woman should be able to expect these fundamental services, no matter her skin color, economic status or country of origin.

“We are at an incredible moment in history for women and girls, and maternal and reproductive health is a powerful indicator of how society values women,” said Betsy McCallon, CEO of White Ribbon Alliance. “By hearing directly from women and girls about their needs and amplifying their voices, What Women Want will compel political leaders to act on these demands and contribute to the global movement for women’s health and rights.”

Despite significant progress, the current state of reproductive, maternal and sexual health for women and girls is far from optimal: Approximately 300,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth every year. Millions still lack access to quality reproductive healthcare. And for girls age 15 to 19 years old, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death. Transforming this picture begins with women and girls.

“Quality means different things to different people, and often women’s and girls’ voices aren’t counted when making policies or designing programs that are meant for them,” said Christy Turlington Burns, Founder and CEO of Every Mother Counts. “What Women Want is an important advocacy initiative that we are proud to help launch and propel, particularly as we see rising maternal mortality rates in the United States and stagnation in countries where there has been notable progress.”

“When women and girls receive quality care, they tell their mothers, daughters, sisters and neighbors, driving more women to trusted health services, having an exponentially positive impact,” says Aparajita Gogoi, Co-Chair of the What Women Want steering committee and National Coordinator for WRA India.

The findings will be aggregated for a global picture of what women and girls’ want and disaggregated by country to help governments focus their human and financial resources in a way that will enhance health services, improve health outcomes and strengthen health systems.

“We made major improvements in basic coverage of maternity services during recent decades, but quality and equity have lagged behind,” says Helga Fogstad, a health economist and Executive Director of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health. “It’s expensive for countries to guarantee universal access and quality services, but it’s more expensive if we don’t invest in health or provide poor services. We miss huge opportunities to expand social and economic benefits if we don’t scale up our investments in quality care.”

A two-year campaign that will collect and analyze responses throughout 2018 and distill and disseminate findings throughout 2019, What Women Want is owned by the women and girls who respond and all the organizations who participate; it has been designed specifically as a neutrally-branded effort to bring together all those working on behalf of women’s and girls’ health and well-being under one umbrella.

Coordinated by the White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) Global Secretariat based in Washington, D.C., What Women Want is guided by a steering committee comprised of White Ribbon Alliance India, White Ribbon Alliance Global Secretariat, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), Every Mother Counts (EMC), International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), E4A-MamaYe, Center for Catalyzing Change, UN Women and Women Deliver — with many more participating partners. The steering committee is also consulting with representatives of Every Woman, Every Child (EWEC), the Network for Improving Quality of Care for Newborn, Maternal and Child Health (Quality of Care Network), and the global Quality, Equity and Dignity Advocacy Working Group (QED AWG) to align efforts and ensure the voices of women and girls are incorporated into current quality-related initiatives.

Partners are welcome throughout 2018. To join the campaign, visit www.whatwomenwant.org or email info@whatwomenwant.org

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