Telling the story of respectful maternity care through the Brave Voices, Bold Actions podcast

By Diana Copeland, Executive Producer and Host of Brave Voices, Bold Actions: Women’s Health, Rights & You, and Senior Communications Officer at White Ribbon Alliance

Women and girls are clear: they want respectful, dignified reproductive and maternal healthcare. It was the number one demand from the What Women Want campaign, which heard directly from 1.2 million women and girls across 114 countries. But what does respectful, dignified care really mean?

To take a closer look into women’s and girls’ self-articulated demands for their own healthcare, White Ribbon Alliance launched the Brave Voices, Bold Actions: Women’s Health, Rights & You podcast. Season one takes a deep dive into respectful maternity care through the lens of the Respectful Maternity Care Charter and, throughout its 10 episodes, features the voices of brave women, girls, health professionals and global leaders, who boldly talk about how to make change to improve sexual, reproductive and maternal health outcomes, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The well-being of a woman and of her newborn are interconnected, and both can be marginalized in the process of childbirth and the ensuing months. We know that focusing on preventing maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality is not enough – the care during this period needs to encompass basic human rights, including the rights to respect, dignity, confidentiality, information and informed consent, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, and freedom from discrimination and from all forms of ill-treatment.

Too often, treating women with respect during pregnancy and childbirth is seen as a luxury. It is not. The Brave Voices, Bold Actions podcast introduces audiences to the idea of human rights in childbirth by elevating the voices and lived experiences of women from around the world who have experienced the pain of giving birth when their human right to respectful care was denied. These stories are often very hard to hear, but they are told by brave women determined to speak out about the injustices they have suffered to make sure that the healthcare structures in place that caused their traumatic experiences are destroyed, so that no other woman or family needs to live through the same pain.

Each woman’s story represents one of the 10 Articles within the Respectful Maternity Care Charter to show how a specific human right was abused. The stories told by women like Mercyline Ongachi, from Mukuru kwa Reuben, a slum located in Embakasi South, in Nairobi, Kenya, Sabina Jankovičová, a 43-year-old art historian from Slovakia, and Monique Lacombe a former journalist from Montreal, show the universality of disrespectful care: it does not matter where a woman is from, disrespect and abuse from within a health system can happen anywhere.

The Brave Voices, Bold Actions podcast also gives listeners the chance to learn from some of the world’s greatest reproductive and maternal health and rights advocates, by including expert interview segments to dig into the reasons behind human rights abuses, with guests such as Kate Gilmore, the Former UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr. Aparajita Gogoi, White Ribbon Alliance India’s National Coordinator and the co-chair of the global What Women Want campaign, Rt Hon. Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and current Chair of the PMNCH Board. Guest interviews focus on solutions and

actions that can be taken by a listener at home, allowing them to become advocates and changemakers within their own communities, including the larger challenge of overturning the power structures and policies that harm so many women around the world.

There is no greater evidence than women and girls speaking directly about their needs, in their own words. And in these trying times, their voices are as important as ever. Women have told the world what they want, need, and deserve. It is now time to make sure the world answers.

You can find the podcast on White Ribbon Alliance’s website, and by searching “Brave Voices, Bold Actions” on all of the major podcast streaming sites.

About WRA: For more than 20 years, White Ribbon Alliance has been working toward a world where all girls and women can realize their right to quality health and well-being through our mission of activating a people-led movement for reproductive, maternal and newborn health and rights. Women and girls are at the center of all that White Ribbon Alliance does because we understand that women and girls have an innate power that begins with their knowledge and experiences; it grows when they demand their rights and define changes they want to see. We also understand that when women are healthy so are their children, families, communities and countries.

Learn more at www.whiteribbonalliance.org.

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