White Ribbon Alliance begins as an informal coalition of global partners working together to mobilize grassroots efforts, generate worldwide attention, and make safe motherhood a priority for governments, donors and international organizations.
Women and newborns are disproportionately impacted in when conflict, natural disasters and other emergencies strike. White Ribbon Alliance works to ensure women and newborns receive quality care during emergencies, including in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the 2005 Katrina Hurricane, the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake, and the current COVID19 pandemic.
Through What Women Want: Demands for Quality Healthcare from Women and Girls, more than 350 partners collectively asked 1.2 million women and girls worldwide about their priorities for quality maternal and reproductive healthcare services and brought those demands to health leaders. The goal: generate political commitment, investment and accountability for what women want for their health.
Too often, women’s and girls’ voices go unheard. Powerful storytelling has been essential to our advocacy effectiveness and putting women’s health and rights on national agendas. White Ribbon Alliance has brought stories to life through quilts like in “Stories of Mother Lost”, photograph and writing exhibits like “Dreams for My Daughter”, and most recently, the Brave Voices, Bold Actions Podcast.
White Ribbon Alliance National Alliances have been vital to expand the understanding of a human rights-based approach to healthcare and sparking a respectful maternity care movement. The ground-breaking Respectful Maternity Care Charter, now in its second iteration and including newborns is essential to ongoing efforts to embed respectful and dignified care at all levels of maternal health systems worldwide.
After five years of dedicated advocacy by White Ribbon Alliance Afghanistan and partners, the Government of Afghanistan establishes the Afghanistan Midwifery and Nursing Council, a professional regulatory body for midwives and nurses that will improve quality of maternal and newborn health services.
Several thousand people, including leading parliamentarians, film stars and ministers march with WRA India members to the Taj Mahal, drawing worldwide attention to the maternal health crisis in India and catalyzing action to prevent maternal deaths in India and around the world.
PPI/WRA Indonesia’s healthy life community initiative, focused on the promotion of self-care for maternal and newborn health by preventing maternal anemia and putting an end to stunting, reaches over 300,000 girls, women and families across Indonesia through collaborative efforts across various ministries.
WRA Kenya’s persistent advocacy with the WHO regional office and the Kenya Ministry of Health not only leads to Kenya joining the Quality of Care Network but also Kenya’s adoption of the Network’s eight quality-of-care standards, including a new standard on community engagement.
WRA Malawi’s ongoing advocacy to the national government results in the hiring of over 900 midwives, a more than 25% increase. Efforts include a series of citizen journalist trainings and citizen hearings that raise the profile of and working conditions faced by midwives, garnering national attention from the Minister of Health and First Lady of Malawi.
After more than a decade of dedicated advocacy and multiple changes in governments – the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Rights Act, 2018, is unanimously passed, explicitly protecting the health and rights of women, girls, adolescents and newborns. The legislation declares that all people have the right to access sexual, reproductive, and maternal health-related information, counselling and services.
WRA Nigeria secures two major, life-saving policy changes by advocating to make misoprostol available for the prevention of postpartum hemorrhage, a leading cause of maternal deaths, and to allow trained community health extension workers to provide injectable services to increase access to family planning services at the community-level.
WRA Pakistan launches the Maternal Anemia Signified in Sindh (MASS) campaign, which mobilizes 100,000 signed petitions that call for and result in anemia curricula for health providers, nutrition messages in high schools and a $62 million, government-sponsored comprehensive nutrition project.
Building on the success of the “Be Accountable so that Mothers Can Survive Childbirth” campaign in Rukwa, which focused on providing life-saving services to women and babies, WRA Tanzania, together with its partners and champions, launches a nationwide campaign that ultimately secures a 52.6 percent increase in the country’s maternal health budget.
WRA Uganda’s multi-year campaign, “Act Now to Save Mothers,” mobilizes citizens to demand their rights, supports them to influence the planning and budgeting process for maternal health services through petitions, and trains citizen reporters to monitor progress and budget allocations. The result: 50% of health centers equipped to offer comprehensive maternal and newborn care. A significant increase from 17%.
Since WRA UK’s inaugural appearance at Glastonbury Festival, they engage high profile champions and curate provocative exhibits, such as the Parlay Parlor, attracting thousands of visitors yearly to learn about women’s health and rights.
Ali Mohammed Mujawar, Yemen’s Prime Minister, publicly donates 2 million rials to support NSMA/WRA Yemen at an International Women's Day celebration coordinated by WRA and Yemen’s National Woman's Committee.
WRA Zimbabwe develops a self-care curriculum that is adopted by Kwekwe district health officials and integrated into the spectrum of policies that impact maternal and newborn health. The results are astounding: a 20% increase in women seeking early prenatal care and a doubling of facility-based deliveries.
Following a series of Citizens’ Hearings that allow community members to raise fears and offer solutions about their local maternal healthcare concerns, WRA Bangladesh presents community-sourced healthcare policy recommendations during a highly viewed talk show, where policymakers' commitments to addressing the issues are reinforced.
Use media champions to amplify voices
Approach in action: In 2016, WRA Malawi conducted The Summary of a Count of Bedside Midwives in Malawi, a nationwide survey that revealed a gap of more than 20,000 midwives needed to meet the WHO-recommended standard, thereby contributing to Malawi’s maternal health crisis. In response, WRA Malawi launched a multi-pronged strategy. The survey, and the challenges that surfaced as a result, were widely covered in the media, forcing decision-makers to take notice.
Evidence for Advocacy
Collect and use evidence for advocacy
Approach in action: In 2016, together with World Health Organization and International Confederation of Midwives, WRA launched the groundbreaking Midwives’ Voices, Midwives’ Realities, the largest global survey of midwifery personnel, detailing the barriers that midwives face in providing high-quality care to women and babies.
Educate and Empower
Educate and empower people about health and human rights, creating demand for services
Approach in action: In 2003, with two women dying every hour from labor and delivery complications, WRA Indonesia launched “Alert Villages” in rural areas to educate women, families and communities about the signs of pregnancy complications and how to mitigate them. Over the lifetime of the program, PPI/WRA Indonesia helped to establish 200 Alert Villages across five provinces, 10 districts and 40 villages creating a sense of shared responsibility for the health and lives of women and newborns.
Create a feedback loop to foster linkages between policymakers, organizations and people for long-term relationship building
Approach in action: In 2015, the recommendations from hundreds of Citizens’ Hearings held in the previous year were taken to the World Health Assembly where citizens, nongovernmental organizations, health ministers, government delegations and UN agencies met for the first Global Citizens’ Dialogue Global Citizens’ Dialogue on Accountability for Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.
Influence Decision Makers
Influence decision makers and support policymakers to respond
Approach in action: WRA Nigeria established a clear national standard of practice for respectful maternity care embedding it into all levels of the health system, making Nigeria the first country to officially institute it as a standard of practice.
Convene and Catalyze
Convene and catalyze action from governments, community organizations and individuals to drive change.
Approach in action: In 2019, White Ribbon Alliance launched the global What Women Want campaign, mobilizing 1.2 million responses worldwide. Advocacy strategies are now being developed based on women’s self-articulated needs.
White Ribbon Alliance is a grassroots movement working to advance women’s and girls’ reproductive and maternal health and rights. Born from a group of “founding mothers” who were appalled by the unacceptably high numbers of women dying during pregnancy and childbirth, mostly from preventable causes. They quickly learned that everybody has a part to play.
Get inspired by White Ribbon Alliance Changemakers! (More Changemakers featured every week)
— Theresa Shaver, Changemaker