White Ribbon Alliance

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Mistreatment has a solution

July 23, 2015
By Lilia Carasciuc, Communication and Outreach Manager, White Ribbon Alliance Global Secretariat

In response to the New York Times article published on June 30th on widespread mistreatment by health workers during childbirth

At White Ribbon Alliance, where we have focused on citizen empowerment and citizen advocacy to demand the right to safe childbirth for more than 15 years, we have used our campaign experience to outline a five-step plan to address mistreatment by health workers during childbirth.

The first step is to promote the right to respectful maternity 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.

Second, mobilize communities to demand respectful maternity care. For example, in Western Nigeria, we 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 allowed women to report on the quality of care that they received.

The third step is to integrate the RMC Charter into training and standards for healthcare providers. In Nigeria, we worked with Ministries of Health to include respectful maternity care in the training curriculum for healthcare providers. And in the United Kingdom, a number of hospitals have already integrated the charter into their training.

The fourth step is to support healthcare providers to deliver respectful maternity care. Often health workers in these environments are under-resourced and over-stressed. In Kenya, the Population Council has conducted counseling sessions with healthcare providers to better cope in such circumstances.

Finally, language on respectful maternity care has to be incorporated in national legislation and healthcare policy, like in Nepal’s Safe Motherhood Bill. We’ve made good progress, but we still have a lot of work to do.