Spotlight: White Ribbon Alliance Fosters a Growing Community of Practice to Advance Respectful Maternity Care

Jan 31, 2018

White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) is a HEARD Partner with the mission of activating a people-led movement for reproductive, maternal and newborn health rights. In 2011, WRA and the Health Policy Project released a charter on the Universal Rights of Childbearing Women to address issues of disrespect and abuse among women seeking maternity care, and the organization has fostered a community of practice which has worked to advance its core tenants. The Charter, based on the principle that respectful maternity care is every woman’s right, was developed by a community of concern representing a broad group of research, clinical, human rights, and advocacy stakeholders. It has been translated into eight languages and is being advanced globally through WRA’s fourteen fully affiliated National Alliances. These Alliances have brought together individuals, local and international organizations, professional associations, government entities, youth and other community members, academic and health training institutions and donors in efforts to advance respectful maternity care (RMC) advocacy, research and practice.

In addition to its own efforts, WRA as part of the Health Policy Plus project has been home to a growing community of practice known as the Global RMC Advisory Council for nearly a decade. The Global RMC Advisory Council convenes each quarter and consists of a multi-sectoral group of more than 100 organizations, representing over 340 members from around the world including researchers, clinicians, advocates, professional associations, UN agencies and donors. The group has leveraged this diverse representation of organizations in service of its efforts to identify, implement, and advocate for strategies to promote RMC. To that end, the Global RMC Advisory Council has administered a survey entitled “A World of Connections: RMC Survey” in its efforts to create a publicly accessible database through which one can identify organizations that have intersecting goals, facilitate innovative connections, and inspire the implementation of creative strategies that ensure RMC. Results from that survey are depicted in a continuously updated World of Connections Map, which now highlights RMC work spanning six continents and over sixty-five countries

Over the past three years, the growing Global RMC Advisory Council community has demanded more space for dialogue and collaboration, which has led to the formation for two subcommittees, one on Evidence-Informed Approaches and the other on Advocacy. Among its achievements, the Evidence-Informed Approaches Committee has developed an RMC Resources Wiki Page that serves as a repository on evidence relevant to promoting RMC and addressing disrespect and abuse of childbearing women during facility births. The Wiki functions as a consolidated space for researchers and programmers to share formal research evidence, as well as programmatic and implementation experience. This committee has also hosted a series of speakers and discussions on research and practice. The Advocacy Committee, on the other hand, has developed briefs on a variety of topics to orient readers to RMC in the context of global maternal, child, and newborn health. Two recent examples include Disrespect and Abuse in Childbirth and Respectful Maternity Care and RMC and Social Accountability.

As both WRA and the Global RMC Advisory Council have facilitated progress in RMC, the proliferation of RMC research and media publications has grown steadily, and this growth has been documented by the Averting Maternal Death and Disability (AMDD) Program at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. AMDD began compiling and disseminating a monthly RMC literature and media scan summary starting in February 2017. Since then, 156 peer-reviewed articles and 136 reputable news media reports have been identified in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

It is the hope of both WRA and the Global RMC Advisory Council that the continued engagement of relevant stakeholders invested in advancing RMC efforts will ultimately eliminate disrespect and abuse from the experiences of childbearing mothers. To learn more about getting involved, contact