On the National Safe Motherhood Day, a stakeholder meeting as organized to highlight the right of every woman to quality maternal health service. The White Ribbon Alliance India (WRAI) endorsed the Respectful Maternity Care (RMC) Charter, which
demonstrates the legitimate place of maternal health rights in the broader context of human rights. The charter has already been adopted in Nigeria and Nepal.
India observes National Safe Motherhood Day every year on April 11, so that citizens, communities, and other stakeholders take a pause and deliberate on the maternal health situation and look at what interventions are working and what more is needed to be done.
‘India has taken significant strides in lowering the maternal mortality rates. The rate of decline of maternal deaths in India is better than the global rate of decline.
To bring attention to safe motherhood, government officials, representatives, and civil society advocates gathered on the occasion.
The Respect for Maternity Care Charter was unveiled at the event. The Charter has 7 basic principles that state,
- Right of women to be free from abuse
- Right to consent on their treatment
- Right to privacy, right to dignity and respect
- Right to freedom from discrimination, access to healthcare
- Right to liberty
Endorsing the charter, Dr. Aparajita Gogoi, Executive Director, Centre for Catalyzing Change stated: "Respectful Maternity Care is an important issue for a country like India where 45,000 women die in pregnancy and childbirth each year, accounting for
17% of all maternal deaths worldwide. It stands for the rights for quality care and for women's autonomy, dignity, feelings, choices, and preferences that must be respected. Women's experiences with maternity caregivers can empower and comfort them, or inflict lasting damage and emotional trauma."
In countries with higher maternal mortality rate like India, 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 other barriers such as cost or distance.
The participants at the stakeholders meet discussed collaborative strategies to eliminate disrespect and abuse during maternity care. They noted that making motherhood safer requires women's human rights to be guaranteed and respected. This included the right to good quality services and information during and after pregnancy and childbirth; their right to make their own decisions about their health freely, without coercion or violence, and with full information; and the removal of barriers legal, political, and health that contribute to maternal mortality.
Representatives of large professional associations and societies --for Gynecologists, Nurses and Midwives, participated in the event. The endorsement of civil society groups and patients' rights groups will also help to build awareness on this issue.
Speaking at the stakeholder meet, internationally acclaimed artist and muralist Ms. Rouble Nagi said, "A mother loves her child most divinely, it also happens to be my favourite subject to paint and sculpt Mother and Child. If Indian women had access to better family planning and health care during their pregnancies and deliveries, a majority of the maternal deaths could be averted. We still need to educate people on safe motherhood. I am happy to be a part of this initiative by the White Ribbon Alliance, as all of us need to do our bit to ensure a safer future for our mothers."
Every woman needs and deserves respectful care and protection of their autonomy and the right to self-determination, said experts.
Special care to protect the mother-baby pair as well as marginalized or highly vulnerable women such as adolescents, ethnic minorities, and women living with physical or mental disabilities or a disease like HIV, which make them prone to discrimination or disrespect. The White Ribbon Alliance promotes Respectful Maternity Care as a universal human right that is due to every childbearing woman worldwide.
According to research, small and affordable measures can significantly reduce the health risks that women face when they become pregnant. Most maternal deaths could be prevented if women had access to appropriate healthcare during pregnancy, childbirth, and immediately afterwards.