White Ribbon Alliance


5 Steps to Respectful Maternity Care

April 7, 2016
By Lilia Carasciuc, Communication and Outreach Manager, White Ribbon Alliance Global Secretariat

At White Ribbon Alliance, where we have focused on training citizens to advocate for themselves, and demand the right to safe childbirth for more than 15 years, we have used our campaign experience to outline a five-step plan to ensure that women everywhere receive respectful maternity care (RMC). In pushing for the United Nations to adopt the International Day of Maternal Health and Rights, we would like to share five steps for change:

Step 1: Promote the right to respectful care. We spearheaded the Respectful Maternity Care Charter (RMC Charter) that establishes a woman’s right to timely, high-quality, and respectful care in pregnancy, birth, and afterward. The charter is a groundbreaking consensus document, based on widely accepted human rights. It demonstrates the legitimate place of maternal health rights in the broader context of human rights.

Step 2: Mobilize communities to demand respectful maternity care. For example, in Western Nigeria, White Ribbon Alliance facilitated the launch of a new hotline that allows citizens to report disrespect and abuse at local health facilities. And in India, we developed a mobile application that allows women to report on the quality of care that they received. What could your community do?

Step 3: Integrate the Respectful Maternity Care Charter into training and standards for healthcare providers. In the United Kingdom, a number of hospitals have already integrated the charter into their training. For health workers in Nigeria, Malawi and Zimbabwe, White Ribbon Alliance created an RMC manual and training video. And in Nigeria, we worked with Ministries of Health to include respectful maternity care in the training curriculum for healthcare providers. Kwara became the first state to include the Charter within their maternal health laws, budgets and policies. Health workers in Kwara have been trained on how to deliver RMC, and are meeting with community members to discuss birthing practices and care options at health facilities.

Step 4: Support healthcare providers to deliver respectful maternity care. Healthcare providers are critical to delivering respectful care. However, provision of RMC is a behavioral change issue, and can only be addressed in tandem with other sector-wide challenges and cultural issues. Therefore, to support healthcare providers to overcome these issues and deliver RMC, WRA developed a set of training tools that specifically target health facility managers, healthcare providers, and community leaders. WRA Nigeria successfully piloted the trainings in a number of health centers across several states, and the results of these efforts are clear, as the health centers involved have already rearranged delivery beds, added separation curtains, and secured personal medical files to provide patients with privacy.

Step 5: Incorporate language on respectful maternity care in national legislation and healthcare policy. Nepal incorporated into the legislation the right to safe motherhood in three separate clauses within national law, which states: “Every woman will have the right to safe motherhood and reproductive health.” The law lists pregnancy as grounds for non-discrimination, and includes pregnant women in a list of marginalized groups who qualify for special provisions by law for protection, empowerment, and advancement.

We’ve made good progress, but we still have a lot of work to do. We need the global community to join us in amplifying these efforts. Lend your voice and call on the United Nations to recognize April 11 as the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights. And please use the comment section of this blog to share your challenges, solutions and other ideas.

RMC has grown since 2010 -- watch and share our Respectful Maternity Care playlist to see how far we’ve come!