It is widely known that improved access to skilled health professionals and health technologies dramatically improves the chances that mothers and newborns will survive an obstetric emergency. Skilled care utilization is a key indicator for Millennium Development Goal 5.
However, fewer are aware of the disrespect and abuse that women worldwide frequently face when they choose to seek maternity care in hospitals and clinics. Disrespectful and abusive maternity care includes verbal and physical abuse; discrimination; non-consented care; abandonment; detention for inability to provide payment; and lack of confidentiality. We have heard story after story of a woman actually making it to a health center and then being subjected to verbal insults and slaps, an incredible affront to the idea of a dignified birth.
In addition to the direct physical and emotional effects of this ill treatment, the way a woman is treated by health professionals significantly influences whether she will seek out facility-based care again in the future. When women come to associate health facilities with indignities and abuse, maternal and newborn health outcomes suffer as a consequence.
In response to these issues, the White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) is working to build a global community of concern to promote respectful maternity care. In addition to collecting stories and articles related to respectful maternity care, WRA is creating tools allowing advocates to apply a human rights framework to the issue of maternal health.
With support from USAID’s Health Policy Project, WRA recently convened a multi-sectoral group to develop the Respectful Maternity Care Charter: The Universal Rights of Childbearing Women. According to WRA, “It is our hope that this charter, and the accompanying brochure and poster will be used to break the veil of silence around the issue of disrespectful and abusive maternity care and to empower women and communities to recognize respectful maternity care as a basic human right”.
This charter is the first of its kind, and was nominated by Women Deliver as one of the top 50 inspiring ideas and solutions that deliver for women and girls.
Click here to watch WRA’s respectful maternity care video.