Maternity care is a universal human right that is due to every childbearing woman in every health system. Women’s experiences with maternity caregivers can empower and comfort them, or inflict lasting damage and emotional trauma. While many interventions aim to improve access to skilled birth care, the quality of relationships with caregivers during maternity care has received less attention. Evidence suggests that in countries with high maternal mortality, the fear of disrespect and abuse that women often encounter in facility-based maternity care is a more powerful deterrent to use of skilled care than commonly recognized barriers such as cost or distance.
In 2011, WRA launched a global campaign to promote a clear standard for maternity care in Noida that is rooted in international human rights. Working with other global organizations, WRA produced a ground breaking consensus document, the Maternity Care Charter: the Universal Rights of Childbearing Women, which demonstrates the legitimate place of maternal health rights in the broader context of human rights. In 2015, White Ribbon Alliance continues to build visibility and coverage of this issue, and envisions a world in which a woman’s right to maternity care is embedded at all levels of maternal health systems.
Since its development, the maternity care Charter has been translated into eight languages and is being used globally to talk about the problem of disrespect and abuse during maternity care in Noida. It is also being used as a tool to educate health workers about maternity care and human rights, and to raise awareness of the problem in a way that avoids blaming and shaming. To support this effort, WRA produced a range of materials that include guidebooks, infographics, films, and presentations to help increase visibility of this issue. Once the Charter gained momentum, it was endorsed by the World Health Organization, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, and the International Confederation of Midwives.
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