EMC Strategic Partner, White Ribbon Alliance, Reveals the Global Results of its Groundbreaking “What Women Want” Campaign
In 2018, the White Ribbon Alliance set out on a mission to conduct the largest survey into women’s opinion on their sexual and reproductive health needs ever. The goal: to discover what quality healthcare means to one million women and girls around the world and create a detailed advocacy agenda to realize their demands.
Originally called Hamara Swasthya Hamari Awaaz, or “Our Health, Our Voice,” when it initially launched in India in 2016, the campaign set out to transform government guidelines into the quality services that women say they want and need. It ran from 2016 to 2017 as a largely volunteer effort where White Ribbon Alliance members were asked to add this single question to existing work. One hundred and eighty-four partners went into clinics and communities with a simple sign-up form, speaking with women in their local dialects, explaining campaign objectives and informing them about how their demands would be shared.
The campaign was innovative in that it collected women’s aspirations—what women want—rather than their complaints. It was also hugely visible. Local events were organized to present findings to political leaders. Media coverage further grabbed their attention. Letters from key influencers began to flood offices of elected officials.
Along with a handful of other key partner organizations, Every Mother Counts signed on to the Steering Committee of the global campaign in early 2018, when the decision was made to move the campaign to the worldwide stage. This collective effort would be the largest initiative of its kind, seeking to ask one million women and girls worldwide about their top priority for quality maternal and reproductive healthcare services and then bring those demands to the attention of health leaders.
On April 11, 2018, International Maternal Health and Rights Day, the “What Women Want: Demands for Quality Healthcare from Women and Girls campaign was launched,” guided by a steering committee led by the WRA Global Secretariat and WRA India, and including: Every Mother Counts, Evidence for Action/MAMA Ye, International Confederation of Midwives, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, UN Women and Women Deliver.
Across the world, thousands raised their hands to act as mobilizers, focal points, translators and volunteers in this massive collective effort to gather responses. Women took photos and videos on mobile phones and shared them via social media. Others sat together and discussed their ideas as part of formal citizen hearings.
More than a million women made their voices heard in their own unique way, with one principle applying to all: every ask mattered, every asked was counted. Women’s answers were often unexpected, challenging assumptions and shining new light on the realities of their daily lives. In Malawi, birthing women described how they were going hungry when it rained because the kitchen where their relatives cooked at the health facility had no roof. In Kenya, safety and security are a top priority of many mothers at a health facility following whispers of babies being swapped and even stolen. Many took risks to speak out, many found encouragement from the words of others, validating and articulating their own experiences, and many shared some of their most intimate experiences with marriage, pregnancy and childbirth.
In all, nearly 1.2 million demands from women across 114 countries were recorded. Here were the top five most common demands for quality reproductive and maternal healthcare from women and girls across the globe.
- Respectful and dignified care
- Water, sanitation and hygiene
- Medicines and supplies
- Increased, competent, and better supported midwives and nurses
- Increased, fully functional and closer health facilities
Women are speaking out and demanding to be heard, and policy-makers must respond. As the White Ribbon Alliance says, listening to women is a radical idea. But acting on their demands is nothing short of revolutionary.
Find out the other top 15 demands, along with the full findings of the What Women Want campaign here. Download and share the below graphics on social media.