Give responsibility for Grassroots Reproductive Healthcare to Women's Groups

Ms Michelle Bachelet Executive Director UN Women Re: Reproductive Health of women at the Grassroots Dear Madam, United Nations Women should pay attention to women and child health care with the help of feminist groups. Women’s groups have a good idea about how to tackle reproductive health problems at the remote village and urban slum level. The UN Women should encourage governments to provide infrastructure and funds for implementation of reproductive health care in remote rural areas and urban slums through small women’s groups or NGOs. The government should ask for only progress and audit reports and give a sufficiently long time for impacts to be verifiable. NGOs are already working on development issues at the grassroots and have got recognition for their work. So it would be a good decentralized system for reproductive health care. There are many types of NGOs, most of them are implementing government development programmes very efficiently. Those who are capable of undertaking women’s reproductive health care should be included for monitoring and giving training to the implementers at the grassroots. Some well known NGOs like Search , Hitkarini , Sahayog, Masum, CEHAT and others have developed well tested systems for remote location health delivery in India. The Indian Government doesn’t want to encourage NGOs to do this because it wants to keep control over this work as in other development work, displaying a typical dog in the manger attitude . Women and child health care is not an important issue for the government beyond mouthing platitudes. The experience of the reproductive and child health mission shows that there isn’t any tangible improvement on the ground and money is being spent only on the administrative set up and publicity. There is a basic need to establish functional primary reproductive health care centres in all deprived areas in India but this is not being done. Recently 25 Women died during childbirth and 911 infant deaths occurred between April and December 2010 in Barwani district in Madhya Pradesh in India. This information was brought to light by the organiasation “Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan’’. This sangathan protested this and in response the government lodged criminal cases against many of the protesting women and put them in Jail. 600 children in Sanver which is one of the backward areas in Indore district of Madhya Pradesh in India were found to be suffering from various stages of malnutrition. As an ameliorative the government started to give biscuits from 1st January 2011 to the aganwadis or crèches run by the women and child health department. Health related problems are being treated through aganwadis. Interestingly there is only one worker , one weighing machine, nutritional supplementary serials for infants , one attendance register, one carpet, one chair and a table and from time to time an ANM (Auxiliary Nurse Medic) comes to the aganwadi for immunization. This is how the serious health problems of poor women and children are being dealt with all over the country. There are many more examples of women’s and infant’s deaths in India. This raises many questions regarding the government’s commitment to improving the health of women and children. The Indian government had agreed with the UN guide lines but has not followed them. Thus, it is essential that UN Women should interact directly with women’s groups and NGOs specializing in reproductive health care so as to put pressure on the Indian government to drastically change and improve the way reproductive health care is being provided in this country. I dare say that the situation is similar in all the developing countries and poor women are suffering from government neglect. So UN Women should plan and pursue a worldwide programme for involving women’s groups and capable NGOs in effective reproductive health care delivery to poor women and pressurise governments to implement this programme. regards Subhadra Khaperde Kansari Nu Vadavno (Bhil Tribal Women’s Organisation) 74, Krishnodayanagar Khandwa Naka, Indore – 452001 INDIA ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————- As the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women officially begins its work this month, World Pulse is asking women worldwide: What is YOUR vision and recommendation for UN Women? We invite you to raise your voice by writing a letter to UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet outlining your recommendation for how this new UN agency can truly affect change on the ground to promote gender equality and uphold the rights and needs of women both on a local and global scale. Learn more:

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