It is a little known fact that Mumtaz Mahal, Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan’s favorite queen died due to complications related to repeated childbirth. The Taj Mahal for all its beauty is a grim reminder of the fact that even today there are thousands of women in the country who continue to die during childbirth.
Every minute one woman somewhere in the world dies due to pregnancy related causes. In India every seven minutes a maternal death occurs leading to more than 77,000 women dying each year in India alone.
The tragedy is that a majority of these deaths can be prevented. It is a question of not just a Right to Health but is also a Human Rights issue. It is every woman’s right to live and survive pregnancy and childbirth.
These were some of the issues and concerns expressed during the celebrations of the National Safe Motherhood Day organized by White Ribbon Alliance India on 11th April 2008 in New Delhi.
With ‘Know Your Entitlements’ as the theme for the campaign this year, the focus was on the need to empower women, make them aware of their entitlements and equip them to demand services and their basic human rights.
The issue has caught the attention of the President of India Pratibha Devisingh Patil and the Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss as both sent supportive statements on the issue.
Aradhna Johri, Jt Secretary RCH II highlighted the government’s commitment by citing examples of all the schemes started in different parts of the country to address maternal and newborn continuum of care. However to get the best out of these she stressed the importance of an aggressive, active community that would demand services from the government.
The noted actor, Shabana Azmi, agreed to become the Ambassador for Safe Motherhood. Her short but passionate speech was an indication of her commitment to the cause. Kathak Maestro, Shovana Narayan as champion for Safe Motherhood connected the meaning of motherhood from cultures across the world. Musician Subir Malik as the youth icon for Safe Motherhood promised to use whatever opportunities were available to him to talk about Safe Motherhood.
The event also launched "Deliver Now for Women & Children Campaign" - a major new advocacy initiative to eliminate maternal and child deaths and improve the health of women and children around the world. It is coordinated by The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, a global alliance of more than 170 partners. Deliver Now is a key part of the new "Global Campaign for the Health Millennium Development Goals” that is being spearheaded by Norway, Great Britain and Canada.The celebrations aimed to create a buzz around Safe Motherhood Day, to reiterate the issue and keep it in the forefront of government consciousness.
While the day was a success, it was clear that there is a long way to go before all women and communities start demanding their rights and getting them too. But the effort carries on….