The current global What Women Want campaign got its roots in India, with WRA India and the Centre for Catalyzing Change.
In 2015, we started advocating for improved quality of care for maternal and newborn health. Initially, we tried to push for change by identifying key gaps in care and other systematic methods—including quality of care checklists and active dialogues with parliamentarians, service providers and media campaigns. We had some success, but with limited outcome.
In 2016, we reviewed our strategies and found three major issues: a lack of human resource budget allocation, a lack of facility utilization and poor health infrastructure. The government was also striving to minimize these gaps. That was when we realized something very important was missing: the opinion and perception of the community, the women themselves.
That’s when we initiated the 360 Campaign in West Bengal, which was later adopted by WRA India under the name Hamara Swasthya, Hamari Awaz—Our Health, Our Voices. This gave it a bigger platform with more strategic direction. We heard from nearly 150,000 women about their top priority for quality maternal and newborn care across the country and are now bringing those asks to the government directly.
One of the top asks from women was to be treated with respect at facilities, so WRA India is currently helping the government integrate respectful maternity care into all facilities through the LaQshya initiative to improve quality of care in labor rooms and maternity centers across government-run medical college hospitals, district hospitals, sub-district hospitals and other high case-load health facilities.
WRA’s Global Secretariat saw the potential of this work—and in 2017, decided to take helm of the campaign. It’s gratifying to see what started as an idea in West Bengal grow to a worldwide campaign that puts women at the center. I hope that it will change policies for women and girls so that our health facilities will give them the quality reproductive, maternal and newborn care they need and deserve.