Maternal rights for refugee
& migrant women
Midwives & midwifery
Respectful maternity care
History & Mission
In the United Kingdom, government policies are not being realized for all women – thus women’s rights are being systematically violated, putting refugee and migrant mothers and their newborns at risk. Midwives and other health workers are in effect being asked to act as border guards by asking for identification and means of payment from women who come to them for maternity care. The voices of women must be heard, so that decision makers have the evidence they need to change damaging policies, so that there is equity and dignity in maternity care, and so that we can hold our governments to account for their promises.
As the refugee crisis continues, barriers are deterring pregnant migrant women from seeking health care. Additionally, when asylum is refused, pregnant women and new mothers are being made immediately destitute and anecdotal evidence points to neglect and rights abuses of migrant pregnant women and new mothers who are seeking refuge in many different countries.
There is an urgent need to hold governments to account for their commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals and human rights conventions by convening and connecting the different groups working with migrant and refugee women across Europe for targeted advocacy. Evidence is also critical as undocumented people are not part of national statistics, leading to a vicious circle of denial and exclusion where policy makers and media say they can’t proceed without facts.
White Ribbon Alliance United Kingdom (WRA UK) is working with migrant women to document evidence and make sure hidden voices are heard at key events, debates and conference, holding the UK government to account for international commitments they have already made – as in the global Charter for Respectful Maternity Care. Our campaign includes a touring exhibition, ‘Spaces of Sanctuary’, with accompanying postcards for supporters to act and demand change.
WRA UK is creating a dossier of first hand evidence from women in the form of testimonies, personal stories, films and photographs. We are sharing this with many partners and bringing a global rights perspective to what is usually seen as a health issue. We have also initiated or created media coverage in a wide range of national media outlets.
Call to Action
All women – whoever they are, wherever they come from – have the right to safe, respectful and dignified care in pregnancy and birth. European governments have promised this on the world stage while neglecting these rights at home. Join us in holding them to account.
MUM’S CAFÉ: WRA UK put White Ribbon Alliance on the map with a series of high-profile awareness raising events, like 2010’s Mum’s Café, which brought the global reality of maternal mortality to the minds of celebrities like broadcaster Jeremy Paxman.
GLOBAL MATERNAL HEALTH: Politician David Miliband learns about the crisis of preventable maternal mortality at WRA’s 2012 Mum’s Café on International Women’s Day.
RAISING AWARENESS: Since 2007, White Ribbon Alliance has been building support and visibility at Glastonbury Festival in the UK – the world’s biggest open-air music festival, with 200,000 visitors and 2,000 journalists from 70 countries.
BUILDING A MOVEMENT: In 2017, WRA UK used their prominent platform at Glastonbury Festival to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights through a massive concert featuring refugee singers and a local choir. Copyright Perry Curties.
SAFE MOTHERHOOD FOR ALL: Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis sings “How Great Thou Art” with maternal health advocate and refugee Emily Wood onstage at Glastonbury Festival to support the rights of all mothers. Photo Credit: Perry Curties.
WOMEN’S HEALTH AND RIGHTS: By drawing attention to WRA’s global role in promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights, WRA UK built upon the growing momentum of the women’s rights marches around the world through the 2017 #RESIST rally at Glastonbury. Copyright Perry Curties.
Thank you to our partners
Maternity Stream of City of Sanctuary
MSD for Mothers
York Theatre Royal
Creative Director, WRA UK
Brigid McConville is a prize- winning writer who first met the White Ribbon Alliance while making a film, 'My Sister, My Self', in India in 2004. She was working as a journalist, covering stories about the rights of women and girls. Inspired by the passion and achievements of WRA members, she found ways to make their voices heard through the media, connecting them with influential and creative supporters.
McConville was elected to the Global Board of Directors in 2006. She subsequently joined the staff as director of the new UK office in 2008. She is now creative director of the European Network and continues to write books and make films.
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