Reducing Maternal Mortality
By Diepiriye S Kuku
Problem: Maternal Mortality
Solution: Empowering women to exercise their right to choose
Diepiriye. S. Kuku-Siemons
A recent UNFPA study on global population trends (State of World Population, 2005) stated that 25% of the world's maternal deaths take place in India. How can we reduce this shocking phenomenon? What are the practices that we can adopt to empower women to take charge of their own reproductive health?
UNFPA representative Hendrik van del Pol suggested a possible solution to reducing maternal mortality. He says, "Women in India should have children later than they do, fewer children, with more space between children." Achieving such goals means empowering women to make informed choices and thereby enabling them to actively reduce reproductive health related problems.
Many factors affect the Reproductive Health problems facing Indian women. Lack of awareness and information with regard to reproductive health practices are among the foremost issues. Literacy levels and inability to access necessary information greatly restrict ways of educating many of the most at risk women about reproductive health. The empowerment women as household decision-makers is a key factor underlying any form of health and well-being. Women's empowerment in India is undermined by women's inability to choose when they will get married, when they wish to start a family and what sort of gap they would like to maintain between their children.
A group of organizations working in the field of reproductive health came together in August, 2005 to form a coalition -- Advocating Reproductive Choices (ARC), in order to tackle the unmet need for safe and effective contraceptive services and to promote healthy reproductive choices. The mission is "to create an enabling environment for making available options of a range of effective and safe methods of contraception to men and women, and to foster informed reproductive choices within a right-based framework."
ARC is a collective effort of like-minded organizations and NGOs experienced in tackling issues in all areas of health and communications. Included in the coalition are: All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Family Planning Association of India, The Federation of Obstetric & Gynaecological Societies of India, Janani, Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust, Parivar Seva Sanstha, Population Services International- India, PSP- One India. UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) and WHO (World Health Organization) have agreed to provide additional technical support to ARC.
A majority of Indian women do not exercise any control over their reproduction throughout their reproductive years. Many of whom are uncomfortable with their own bodies. Empowering women with correct information and useful resources increases choices and strengthens the availability and accessibility of contraception in the country on a safe and sustained basis.
About the Author
Diepiriye S. Kuku-Siemons, MPH (Tulane) is a researcher/writer/consultant based in New Delhi, pursuing a PhD in Sociology focusing on urban sexuality and globalization. His primary areas of interest are Reproductive Health Justice and Public Health Communications.
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