The statistics for maternal deaths and mishaps in Kenya are not very encouraging, despite efforts by Government, organizations and individuals over the years. Women and newborns are still getting maimed or losing their lives daily from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. A woman dying while bringing forth life is not just a statistic, but also an indictment on healthcare systems that have failed to prioritize the safety and well being of mothers. It is our duty to raise our voices to ensure that no more women die in the shadows of indifference and neglect that are unfortunately still a common scenario in our labour wards.
Other than loss of lives, there are also so many other problems plaguing women and girls in pregnancy and birth. Infrastructure gaps for instance are making pregnant women have to walk for Kilometers on end to access healthcare facilities, then go queue for hours on end at the facility before embarking on another long journey home.
Lack of adequate equipment, supplies and staffing shortages have seen some women give birth on the floors of hospitals amid harsh treatment from caregivers. These heartbreaking scenarios should not exist at all. Every woman’s journey to motherhood should be handled with respectful care, dignity, compassion, and adequate healthcare. These requirements are enshrined in the human rights universal charter, plus adequate healthcare is already a constitutional right in our country. We are calling on County and National Governments to do right by women and take up their voices for actualization.
But as we speak of proper maternal healthcare for our women and girls, have all the problems been defined? By whom? It is unfortunate that matters pertaining to the people at the center of reproductive health are often discussed in boardrooms and passed as policies without the involvement of the very people who they affect most – women and girls.
It is with this in mind that the White Ribbon Alliance hit the ground running in Kisumu, Narok, Kakamega and Vihiga counties with an aim to capture the real lived experiences of women and girls, and thereafter build a sustainable advocacy driven by the users of care to demand for respectable maternity care in all levels of care. This was done in partnership with USAID Momentum, an organization that works to accelerate reduction in maternal, newborn and child mortality and morbidity in high burden USAID partner countries.
The Respectable Maternity Care project spoke to 3,212 respondents and had one question for them: “What does respect mean to you when accessing maternal health services during pregnancy, during delivery and after childbirth?”
Here are a few responses that paint the picture.
“Respect to me means my privacy and dignity is upheld, my nakedness should not be open to everyone.” 25yrs, Kisumu County.
“Respect to me means that if I request to be examined by a female doctor, they should grant my request.” 28yrs, Vihiga County.
“Respect means; when I am being talked to in an open and straight forward way and practice the use of appropriate words while counseling or talking.” 28yrs, Vihiga County.
These are just a few examples but already it is clear that the options that women are asking for are not usually availed to them when they get to hospital. Get the full picture from the RMC report here.
We must take care of our birthing women and getting them to articulate their needs is a great place to start.