Strengthening Women’s Voices for Better Maternity Care

A Conversation with Jayshree Satpute, Co-Founder of Nazdeek

“Women who are directly impacted should lead this work.”

India has made revolutionary progress in reducing the country’s maternal mortality ratio, from 556 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 130 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2016. They have done so by increasing access to care, and addressing the social determinants of maternal health that can predispose women to poorer outcomes. However, low-income, Dalit, and tribal women face systemic barriers to accessing the essential services that they need most, especially during pregnancy and childbirth.

Due to their socioeconomic and societal status, these marginalized communities are not allowed to directly participate and represent themselves in decision-making. Nazdeek, our grantee partner, works to bring the most marginalized communities in Delhi and Assam closer to justice by strengthening their voices to make change through legal empowerment trainings and grassroots activism.

A young woman in labor in Assam, India. (Photo by Lynsey Addario)

Nazdeek trains activists to understand their rights based on the Indian constitution and to use practical tools to identify, document, and report human rights violations. These paralegals are able to monitor rights violations as they occur in their communities, collecting these grievances to file complaints and lawsuits to their local government.

Through their grassroots advocacy, Nazdeek’s activists have been able to make strides towards access to the full range of services necessary for a safe and healthy pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum period. And the impact is clear. Through their persistent work, Nazdeek’s paralegals have brought food and nutrition rations for pregnant and lactating women, community toilet complexes, ambulances, and medical personnel to their communities.

“These are small victories, but they are big in a sense that the sense of achievement is for the paralegals because they’re the ones who have done it,” Jayshree Satpute, Co-Founder of Nazdeek

The impact has reached even beyond fulfilling these communities’ rights to adequate housing, health, and food to which they are legally entitled. The change spurred by these legal empowerment trainings has demonstrated the strength of women’s voices and the force of women in making change in their communities.

Nazdeek is one of the few organizations who work at the community level in maternal health in India, engaging the community itself in monitoring its benefits and mobilizing if their rights are not being met. The importance of having communities directly represented at the table is “not only to know that these schemes and policies are in place for them, but also to know how they can make change and how this impacts them.”

Thank you to Jayshree for your time, your wisdom, and your work!

By Yuki Davis, Programs Associate at Every Mother Counts

Learn more about Every Mother Counts and our grantee partners, like Nazdeek, at everymothercounts.org.

Topics: Human Rights, Maternal Health, Pregnancy