In 2016, White Ribbon Alliance India launched Hamara Swasthya Hamari Awaaz (“Our Health, Our Voice”), the campaign that inspired the global What Women Want effort. Over a three-year period, an impressive 335,000 women shared their reproductive and maternal health requests in these campaigns. Women across different classes, castes, educations, and locations had one common demand: to be treated with respect, dignity, and non-discrimination when seeking care. The campaign revealed in stark terms the widespread nature of disrespect and abuse women face when seeking maternity care.
Women’s calls for respectful care came as the Government of India was designing a bold new program—the Labor Room and Quality Improvement Initiative (LaQshya). WRA India shared campaign findings and supported the government to integrate Respectful Maternity Care (RMC) into LaQshya guidelines. In December 2017, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare launched LaQshya, an initiative aimed at reducing maternal death, improving quality of care in labor rooms, and enhancing a positive birthing experience by ensuring RMC for all pregnant women attending public health facilities.
This policy change led to a cascade of policy, guideline, and curriculum changes to embed RMC in service delivery, including the Advanced Skills Lab Guideline, the National Midwifery Guideline, and the SUMAN scheme. Now with the rollout of LaQshya and associated guidelines, tens of thousands of health facilities are required to provide RMC in facility-based labor and post-partum care.
The change in policies and curriculum has helped shift long-entrenched barriers to women receiving quality care and dignified, respectful treatment during labor. Healthcare providers are now sensitized to the need and importance of listening to women and providing care with respect and dignity. Women are increasingly asked what they want and need, are provided key information on the care they receive, and are treated with dignity. This is Ask, Listen, Act at its best.