In order to bring country-wide attention to the issue of safe motherhood and the importance of citizen’s participation to achieve that, White Ribbon Alliance India (WRAI) along with Centre for Catalyzing Change, FPAI, IPPF, Plan India, Save the children, and World Vision India appealed to citizens and government to actively engage and work out an action plan to address women’s and children’s health in India at a national meeting in the capital.
Each year as many as 44,000 Indian women die needlessly during pregnancy and childbirth. Official estimates place India’s Maternal Maternity Ratio (MMR) at 167 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
2015 is a watershed year, since the Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) will replace the Millennium Development Goals. There are clear opportunities to influence mechanisms for greater citizen’s engagement in the next round of proposed goals, at the local, national and global levels.
The White Ribbon Alliance is working with partners to organize national, state and district level meetings in at least 30 countries in the first half of 2015. These consultations provide a structure for citizens and civil society to give recommendations on mechanisms for engagement and accountability, which must be addressed in the SDGs. All the recommendations from the 30 countries will culminate in a Global Citizens Hearing during the World Health Assembly, to be held in May 2015, thus ensuring more engagement from political leaders.
The national meeting in India took place today at New Delhi. Attended by more than 100 representatives from civil society, government and citizens, this meeting stressed that citizens must be empowered to demand their entitlements, and be engaged in matters that are important to their health and well being. Accountability mechanisms must be set up to enable citizens to track commitments.
“Engaging citizens is what will take us from setting goals to actually meeting them,” said Aparajita Gogoi, National Coordinator, White Ribbon Alliance India.
Setting the stage for dialogue on participatory governance, Raghav Chadha, Spokesperson, AAP, spoke the participatory budget development exercise intiated by AAP and said that the vision of the party is to “Move from a parliamentary democracy to a participatory democracy. Creating accountability structures, citizens’ engagement for policy making, the AAP government is working to include citizens through the Mohalla Sabhas and the newly developed Delhi Dialogue Council,”
Supporting this call for engaging citizens, Shri, Rakesh Kumar, Joint Secretary (RCH), Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, said “People need to be more responsive and demanding so that no mothers die in India. We need to empower citizens to demand fulfillment of entitlements and quality health services.”
For citizen engagement to truly work, mechanisms need to be created where citizen’s voice is heard and acknowledged in designing, implementing and monitoring the programs for women’s and children’s health.
India and Maternal Health: India has made significant stride in lowering the maternal mortality rates and the National Health Mission (erstwhile NRHM) has made both financial and service commitments to ensure safe birthing and better neonatal health, in sync with the UN supported Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The rate of decline of maternal deaths in India is better than the global rate of decline. With the development of the Sustainable Development Goals agenda, 2015 marks a critical opportunity to establish frameworks to accelerate action on maternal, newborn and child health. Within these frameworks, global and national accountability systems which both monitor and drive the delivery of promises on women’s and children’s health, should be put in place to support targets on maternal, newborn and child health. Such accountability mechanisms must include the direct engagement of citizens.
About the “Nothing About Us, Without Us” Campaign: White Ribbon Alliance (www.whiteribbnalliance.org) is working with World Vision International, IPPF, Save the Children and many other partners to organize national and district level Citizen’s Hearings in at least 30 countries in the first half of 2015. These hearings provide a structure for civil society to give recommendations on national mechanisms for accountability, which must be addressed in the SDGs. “Through this campaign, we want to send out the message that every woman has a right to live and survive pregnancy and childbirth, and that citizen’s engagement can go a long way to help achieve the goals,” says Dr. Aparajita Gogoi, National Coordinator, White Ribbon Alliance India.
This campaign is hoped to contribute to a clear pathway towards a robust mechanism for support to meet commitments to women’s and children’s health, with citizen engagement at its core, to be adopted in the Post 2015 framework. The SDGs must include citizens as an integral part of the implementation of these goals. Given that equity is the crux of the SDGs, general public must be involved in the process of consensus building for women and children health goals.
About Safe Motherhood Day: At the request of WRAI, an alliance of 1800 organizations, in 2003, the Government of India declared April 11th, the anniversary of Kasturba Gandhi’s birth, as National Safe Motherhood Day. India is the first country in the world to have officially declared a National Safe Motherhood Day. Every year WRAI members select a nationwide advocacy theme for Safe Motherhood Day, and WRAI members carry out activities and full-scale campaigns throughout the country. The goal of these annual campaigns, launched on National Safe Motherhood Day, is to increase awareness that every woman has a right to live and survive pregnancy and childbirth. In addition to campaigning together, NGOs, members, and state chapters come together on National Safe Motherhood Day to share technical expertise and resources.
About White Ribbon Alliance India (WRAI):The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, India (WRA India) was launched in the year 1999 when an NGO, CEDPA, now called Centre for Catalyzing Change, brought together a group of individuals and organizations to advocate for safe motherhood in India. The White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) is a movement for Safe Motherhood which builds alliances, strengthens capacity, influences policies, harnesses resources and inspires action to protect the lives of women and newborns around the world. WRA India is a formal National Alliance with a current membership of over 1800 organisations and many individuals. The White Ribbon Alliance represents an opportunity for new partnerships to work together to advance women’s health and women’s rights everywhere