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  • Writer's pictureKay Sandberg

Violations of Liberty for Mothers--Listen to Our Podcast!

Global Maternity Care Charter for Human Rights

It's a privilege to share Episode 7 of the White Ribbon Alliance podcast, "Brave Voices, Bold Actions", in which Global Force for Healing was featured. The podcast shines a light on violations of liberty, autonomy, self-determination and freedom from arbitrary detention, per Article 7 of the White Ribbon Alliance Global Maternity Care Charter. These violations occur in all eleven countries where our partners live and work.

Episode 7 begins with "Marie" (name changed to protect her identity), a young Haitian woman’s story of forced detention and other human rights abuses after losing her first baby in childbirth. Compassionate acts by Network partner, MamaBaby Haiti included paying Marie's bill to release her from the hospital and nursing her back to health. Often the staff in hospitals where women’s rights are not respected themselves are not treated with respect, are underpaid, overworked, and lack training in respectful care. In these situations they tend to pass this lack of respect and abuse on to patients.

Funding for quality care is another critical component, as our joint publication, “Funding Equity” illustrates. We have commissioned a study on funding trends in maternal and newborn to be published by year-end.

Here are two preliminary trends, thanks to research partner Global Health Visions:

1. The current U.S. administration has significantly reduced maternal health (MH) funding. In fiscal year 2020, it was the lowest it has been in ten years;

2. Of roughly $15.9 billion spent on reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health (RMNCH) in 2017, maternal and newborn health only received $3.1 billion or 19% of total aid, by far the lowest amount.


What are liberty and autonomy and self-determination in the birthplace? Here are some examples and remarkable results from grassroots communities, despite chronic underfunding:

*The birthing parent chooses her position in labor, who accompanies her, where she gives birth, and use of pain medication vs. alternative ways of coping with the pain and discomfort of childbirth, to name a few

*Self-determination means “voice and choice” (or “brave voices, bold actions”) over all birth-related decisions the person’s physiology allows, after being informed of choices, then ensuring they are respected and confidential. This is person-centered, compassionate care as modeled by our Compassionate Birth Network partners in 11 countries who operate birth/midwifery centers and sexual & reproductive health-focused programs. In our experience, human rights of mamas and babies are respected most often under the midwifery model of care, where personal relationships are formed from the first prenatal visit through six weeks postpartum or longer, by birth-workers from the same community and often, cultural traditions—or health care professionals who deeply respect those traditions

*Birth outcomes of all Compassionate Birth Network partners are far better than the norm in their countries, in terms of the numbers of mothers and babies who survive childbirth and other key indicators. Most of these grassroots community-based programs have never lost a mother, even after thousands of births! Newborn deaths are typically dramatically lower than the statistical norm for their country.

Respectful Care in Uganda (Grace Family Clinic)

It’s my passionate hope you are inspired to learn and advocate with us, and to support what is already working at the grassroots level, for the wellbeing of our communities and the world we all call home.

To read our full blog, "Funding Equity: Learning from the Global Grassroots to Save Mothers & Newborns" published by White Ribbon Alliance, and to learn more about Marie's story or access other resources related to this critical issue:



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