In April 2018, hundreds of partners joined forces to launch What Women Want, a global campaign to hear directly from one million women and girls about their top request for quality reproductive and maternal healthcare services. Through an exclusive blog series, Ms. is sharing their demands and their stories.
The What Women Want campaign aims to amplify women’s demands for quality reproductive and maternal health care around the world. Translated into more than 14 languages, the campaign strives to hear from women from all backgrounds, cultures and locations—and has partnered with over 300 global organizations that support and empower women with HIV, women with disabilities and health professionals in over 100 countries to make that possible.
Recently, What Women Want heard from thousands of women in Kenya about their top request for quality reproductive and maternal health care. Here’s what they have to say.
According to the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health, the maternal mortality rate in Kenya remains high, at 488 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. (For reference, the maternal mortality rate in the United States is 26.4 per 100,000 live births, which is still lacking when compared to peer nations.)
We know that nearly all maternal deaths are preventable. Significant disparities in maternal mortality rates tell us that programming efforts and advocacy work must be adjusted to reach women everywhere—not just in the world’s richest countries, and not just in major cities.
Accessibility to quality health care centers is a major issue that contributes to high maternal mortality rates in Kenya. Around half of Kenyan women are delivering in health care facilities, and only 44 percent are assisted by a skilled medical professional.
Since 1990, the global maternal death rate has decreased by 44 percent, and more women than ever are using maternal healthcare services—but much of this progress was achieved in high-income areas, leaving some countries with little or no improvement. Today, 99 percent of maternal deaths take place in developing countries—with just 13 countries accounting for two-thirds of these deaths.
Within countries with high maternal mortality rates, there are significant disparities in maternal mortality and maternal healthcare utilization. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the utilization of prenatal, delivery and postnatal care varies greatly with personal characteristics such as geographic region, race, income level, employment and marital status.
Progress is being made, and we should be encouraged by the monumental decreases in maternal mortality and increased access to reproductive health care, but it isn’t enough. We need to strive for more.
We must listen to the voices of those who are too often left behind. When we can raise the voices of women in every part the world, we will be closer to a time in which every woman, everywhere, is empowered to speak out and closer to receiving quality, equitable maternal and reproductive health care.
Join the one million women mobilizing for global change by adding your voice at www.whatwomenwant.org.
This blog post is cross-posted from the Ms. Magazine blog.