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Finland Is The Best Place To Be A Mother, India Ranks 137: This Is How Things Can Be Improved

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By Save The Children:

Maternal deaths and child mortality can be dramatically cut when efforts are made to improve services for mothers and children during humanitarian crises, Save the Children revealed in new research published today. According to the State of the World’s Mothers (SOWM) report, investing in girls and women will help ensure mothers have the vital support they need to care for their children following any calamity.

Infographic_revisedThis year’s SOWM report focuses on mothers in humanitarian crises — in order to better understand and respond to their needs. Conflict-ridden Afghanistan and Ethiopia have reduced maternal deaths by almost two thirds since 2000, according to the international NGO’s SOWM Index. Afghanistan has grappled with armed conflict for decades. Just three years ago, it ranked at the bottom of the annual Index, but by training midwives, improving immunisation coverage and raising girls’ education levels, it has markedly improved women’s and children’s health. Ethiopia leads the way in mainland Africa. Since 2000, it has reduced maternal deaths more than any other country on the continent.

The Mothers Index scores countries on mothers’ and children’s health, educational, economic and political status. Of the 178 countries surveyed this year, Finland continues to be the best place to be a mother while Somalia is at the bottom. India’s ranking, this year, is at 137. Last year, India ranked 142 out of 176 countries.

“In India, and across the densely populated South Asia region, we can save mothers’ and children’s lives despite the effects of a humanitarian crisis,” avers Chief Executive of Save the Children, Thomas Chandy. He cited that, during 2013, Save the Children was among the first NGOs to provide relief in flood-hit Uttarakhand and cyclone/flood-devastated Odisha and maintains that it would “also be among the last to leave.” One of the stand-out features of its relief work has been the introduction of Child-Friendly Spaces, where children from affected communities can continue learning and access recreational facilities too. Its health services have been focussed on the most marginalized women and children.

More than half of all maternal and child deaths occur in fragile states or countries affected by conflict like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or Afghanistan. The vast majority of mothers’ and children’s deaths occur because of crumbling infrastructure, lack of access to essential equipment or because of the lack of a skilled health workers during childbirth.

“Worldwide, women and children are often much more likely than men to die in a disaster, whether man-made or natural,” says Chandy. “And each year, thousands more mothers and children die in conflict-settings than fighters do in battle. We urgently need to increase access to healthcare in places where state capacity is weak and conflict and insecurity is widespread. All children have the right to survive, no matter where they are born. Many of these deaths are avoidable, and we can help to prevent them with the right plans and investments before, during, and after a crisis has hit or fighting has intensified.”

mothers and children

Countries with fragile institutions and conflict, often combined with natural disasters, are those where mothers fare the worst. Seven different countries, including the DRC, Niger, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau —all still in the bottom ten — have placed last on the index since it was launched in 2000. Six of these have a history of conflict and all, except Guinea-Bissau, suffered recurring natural disasters over the same period.

Save the Children is calling upon States, donors and civil society to:
– Build stronger institutions and promote early action, social protection, disaster risk reduction and strong health systems that provide universal health coverage and provide for the most vulnerable;

– Ensure access and the right to quality healthcare;

– Invest much more in women and girls and ensure their protection;

– Design emergency interventions with a longer-term view and the specific needs of mothers and newborns in mind;

– Ensure adequate financing, coordination, and research to guarantee the above can be accomplished.

Save the Children works with the government and other NGOs to ensure that relief reaches those who need it the most, at the earliest and that support for recovery is provided to and with support of the communities that have been affected.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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