White Ribbon Alliance’s 2018 Year in Review

Jan 17, 2019 | Bangladesh, Blog, Global Secretariat, GS, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal, News, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe

By Betsy McCallon, White Ribbon Alliance CEO

With the festive season behind us, it’s all too easy to move on to the coming year’s priorities. Before we do, I think it’s important to appreciate our collective wins from 2018, which started and ended strong.

We began the year with our new five-year strategic plan firmly in place and are already seeing its power and potential to strengthen our impact for girls and women. Whether it was one National Alliance on its own, several working together, or the Global Alliance harnessing its collective power, our work increased financial and human resources for reproductive, maternal and newborn health; we contributed to improved maternal and newborn health policies and practice; our efforts brought greater accountability of governments to people, and; together, we helped realize greater quality, equity and dignity for women’s and newborn’s health.

Here are just a few examples of how this came to life in 2018:

Our work increased financial and human resources for reproductive, maternal and newborn health:

  • WRA Malawi spurred the recruitment of 800 midwives – an impressive 25% increase – across the country, to address a leading cause of maternal and newborn mortality: a lack of trained midwives.
  • WRA Nigeria helped secure the hiring of 100 midwives in Niger State.
  • WRA Tanzania influenced the allocation of US$40 million in Global Financing Facility/World Bank funding to upgrade health facilities across the country so they could provide comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care.
A Respectful Maternity Care-trained midwife helps a new mother breastfeed her newborn at a maternity clinic in Malawi. Photo courtesy White Ribbon Alliance Malawi.

Malawi has hired 800 more midwives – thanks to the hard work of White Ribbon Alliance Malawi’s volunteers and partners.


We contributed to improved policies and practices for reproductive, maternal and newborn health:

  • WRA Nepal saw the culmination of 10-years’ work with the passage of landmark legislation defining health as a fundamental human right. The bill included the right to receive paid maternity leave, access to family planning, respectful maternity care and more.
  • WRA Pakistan worked with the government to integrate information about maternal nutrition into education curricula, an effort that will help generations avoid complications from maternal anemia.
  • WRA Uganda led the way in the adoption of and budget allocations for a national strategy to end child marriage and teen pregnancy, a leading cause of maternal mortality there.
Four protest signs against a red background with writing in Nepali and English stating "Say No to Obstetric Violence" as part of an advocacy campaign by White Ribbon Alliance Nepal to ensure passage of Nepal's Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Rights Act

White Ribbon Alliance Nepal’s hard work contributed to the passing of the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Rights Act, 2018, officially enshrining respectful maternity care in national legislature.


Our efforts brought greater accountability from governments to people:

  • WRA Nigeria incorporated citizen-led accountability into at least five policies and plans in Niger State, resulting in the procurement of essential medical equipment and supplies benefiting a population of nearly 500,000.
  • While WRA Yemen continues to face challenges during the protracted conflict and its devastating human consequences, they were encouraged by the response from the country’s Minister of Health, who, during the PMNCH Forum, expressed great interest in collaborating for women’s and girls’ health.
  • WRA Global Secretariat contributed to civil society engagement strategy for the Global Financing Facility and strengthened civil-society participation in numerous multi-lateral platforms.
A large group of Nigerian women hold signs reading "I support accountability for better health" at a health facility in Niger State as part of a citizen-led accountability project led by White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria.

White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria’s citizen-led accountability efforts have resulted in the procurement of essential medical equipment in Niger State.


We contributed to greater quality, equity and dignity in reproductive, maternal and newborn health:

  • WRA India took the results of their What Women Want campaign to the government and worked with them to ensure that all pregnant women who receive care in the country’s public facilities get respectful maternity care, impacting millions of women and newborns.
  • WRA Kenya worked to make sure that the country, through its Ministry of Health, was part of the Quality of Care Network and secured the approval of quality of care standards.
  • WRA Zimbabwe solidified their leadership around respectful maternity care, helping to integrate RMC into medical education by strengthening their partnership with the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences to train fourth-year medical students and facilitate seminars in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Society of Obstetrician and Gynecologists.
  • WRA Bangladesh established a new partnership with the Bangladesh Midwifery Society to emphasize the need for respectful maternity care. Together, they launched the What Women Campaign, engaging other health leaders and influential media outlets.
  • WRA Indonesia secured the President’s endorsement of the What Women Want campaign, clearly demonstrating the need to link the power of realizing women’s and girls’ health demands with improved health outcomes.
  • WRA Sweden and WRA UK continued to raise awareness of the unequal and abhorrent treatment of migrant and other women who are systematically discriminated against, especially while seeking maternity care services, throughout Europe.
  • WRA Global Secretariat helped to embed quality, equity and dignity in health services as one of six priority pillars of the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health.

And, together, we followed the lead of WRA India and launched the multi-country What Women Want campaign, engaging 356 partners and expanding our reach to reinforce the need to put women’s and girls’ voices at the forefront of their work to help create global and national health agendas based on priorities set by women and girls themselves. Thus far, we have collected close to 500,000 surveys with more pouring in every day.

Photo is of a group of young Ugandan women holding #WhatWomenWant signs asking for improved quality reproductive and maternal healthcare - including a young girl holding her baby and a sign that says that girls should stay in school and avoid pregnancy

Women and girls in Uganda are sharing their demands for quality reproductive and maternal healthcare through the global What Women Want campaign.


An advocate’s work is hard and sometimes it can feel thankless. But as we look back at these and other important wins from 2018, I hope that you, like me, are reminded that together, we can do so much more. With your support, White Ribbon Alliance is poised to bring about even more progress for women and girls in 2019.