Women’s rights are human rights!

Women’s rights are human rights, yet too many women and girls are still denied their fundamental rights. Pregnant women pay with their bodies and their very lives. This is evidenced by the physical damage women experience, with one third of Australian women defining their birth as traumatic, some experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, leading to longer term chronic illness for mothers and babies, with suicide being one of the leading causes of maternal death in Australia.

This preventable, yet the persistent injustice represents a failure to redress the underlying structural drivers.  These include: socio-economic and gender inequalities; discrimination and exclusion; power imbalances in society and maternity care; lack of access to appropriate maternity care and a lack of social protection systems including education; and unfulfilled human rights.

There are so many systems in place that are meant to protect women seeking maternity care. But too often they don’t.

As a community group working to end disrespect in pregnancy, childbirth and transitioning to parenting, let’s enable women and girls to reclaim their hope and power to transform their futures. We call upon the community to invest, intensify efforts and insist on respectful maternity care for all women, because women deserve better. No woman deserves to endure the needless suffering that results from less than optimal maternity care – the cascade of inappropriate interventions, pelvic floor damage, traumatic birth experience, postnatal depression, life time chronic illness and secondary infertility.

To end disrespectful care, it is critical that bold new strategies and robust evidence are readily available to and utilised by brave policymakers, health service managers, health care providers and community development practitioners.

Our Maternal Health Tool Kit serves as a useful resource on the path to achieving health, gender equality, social justice and human rights and to achieving the ambitious goal – and moral imperative – of all women receiving respectful maternity care.