In a unique initiative, the Womens Health Rights Advocacy Partnership(WHRAP), a South Asian forum, arranged a public hearing in the Capital last week, where these women shared their experiences before a panel of policy-makers.
Called Voices from the Ground, the platform gave these grassroots women workers an opportunity to present issues related to rural womens access to quality maternal health services.
Said Nagina from Chitrakoot: Many primary health centres (PHCs) are inaccessible to rural womenwe need additional PHCs and women doctors posted there to serve the women.
The rural women recounted the violations they had experienced at the hands of service providers and highlighted how state health services were largely denied to the poor, dalit, tribal women and those from marginal communities. They made it very clear that unless demands like supply of essential drugs, equipment, availability of doctors, trained personnel were provided, quality of health services would never improve.
Among those present were senior policy-makers, women survivors of poor maternal health care, grassroots women leaders, representatives of civil society, technical agencies, donors, officials of the ministry of health and family welfare and the Planning Commission, as well as representatives of UNFPA, WHO and UNICEF.
Reacting to the concerns of the women, Meenakshi Dutta Ghosh, senior advisor, Planning Commission, said in a media release: More concrete steps need to be taken to improve womens access to quality health care services. She recommended a two-fold remedy the service provider should ensure free health care services to marginalised women, and the community should leverage the Right to Information Act and make the system accountable.
S Jalaja, additional secretary, ministry of health and family welfare, wanted all stakeholders to evolve a unified solution to the problem of womens health. Acknowledging the fact that a large section of rural and poor women were not getting the kind of health care services they needed, she said the root of the problem lay in unchecked population growth. Our problem is that in comparison to the services and facilities that we are providing to the rural women, the population is growing at a much faster pace, she stated.
Indu Capoor, founder member, WHRAP, said: We have to ensure that the needs of marginalised women are met. The urgency of the hour calls for community based health care.