Voices from the Ground
Women users' analysis of maternal health policy
Project location: Uttar Pradesh, India
Level of implementation: National, sub-national and local level
This project aims to address problems of poor quality services for maternal health in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, India. Uttar Pradesh is a region in India with extremely high poverty rates, with almost a third of its population living below the national poverty line. In addition, 79.2% of UP’s population lives in rural areas with poor access to healthcare and medical facilities. The general inaccessibly to healthcare is perpetuated by the lack of availability of skilled service providers and lack of accountability of the health system.
Public health spending per capita is among the lowest in the world in India. Since the vast majority of healthcare spending in India is conducted through private payment, the financial burden often pushes families into debt.
This problem with public health care in UP becomes noticeably apparent in the context of maternal health. UP has higher than average maternal mortality rates, due to a wide spectrum of causes. The Indian government attempted to make childbirth safer by encouraging institutional childbirths through financial incentives. This proved ineffective, however, because it overburdened medical facilities before quality improvements were in place. Moreover, it has not led to improved accountability from providers, policy makers or government officials.
SAHAYOG ’s project “Voices from the Ground” will employ a human rights perspective with the goal of creating “rights-consciousness” amongst rights holders, who in this case are rural low-income women from several districts in UP. Thousands of women from these districts have been mobilized and organized to form a local community organization called the Mahila Swasthya Adhikar Manch (MSAM or Women’s Health Rights Forum). This forum will allow affected women to directly communicate with policy makers about problems with maternal mortality and about their unprotected human rights as a more general problem. At a deeper level, the project also attempts to address the exclusion of women’s experiences and perspectives from policy making and program design for maternal mortality prevention, and hopes to restore voices and agency to marginal and deprived populations of women.
In July 2009, SAHAYOG and other organizations published a welcome kit for new parliamentarians elected in India's recent general elections. The kit includes a Briefing Sheet and a Booklet on maternal death and disability in India.
Check out the documentary video produced after this project's completion.