In order to bring country-wide attention to the issue of safe motherhood and the importance of citizen’s participation to achieve that, White Ribbon Alliance India (WRAI) along with Centre for Catalyzing Change, FPAI, IPPF, Plan India, Save the children, and World Vision India appealed to citizens and government to actively engage and work out an action plan to address women’s and children’s health in India at a national meeting in the capital. Each year as many as 44,000 Indian women die needlessly during pregnancy and childbirth. Official estimates place India’s Maternal Maternity Ratio (MMR) at 167 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
2015 is a watershed year, since the Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) will replace the Millennium Development Goals. There are clear opportunities to influence mechanisms for greater citizen’s engagement in the next round of proposed goals, at the local, national and global levels.
The White Ribbon Alliance is working with partners to organize national, state and district level meetings in at least 30 countries in the first half of 2015. These consultations provide a structure for citizens and civil society to give recommendations on mechanisms for engagement and accountability, which must be addressed in the SDGs. All the recommendations from the 30 countries will culminate in a Global Citizens Hearing during the World Health Assembly, to be held in May 2015, thus ensuring more engagement from political leaders.
The national meeting in India took place the other day in New Delhi. Attended by more than 100 representatives from civil society, government and citizens, this meeting stressed that citizens must be empowered to demand their entitlements, and be engaged in matters that are important to their health and well being. Accountability mechanisms must be set up to enable citizens to track commitments.
Setting the stage for dialogue on participatory governance, Raghav Chadha, Spokesperson, AAP, spoke the participatory budget development exercise intiated by AAP and said that the vision of the party is to “Move from a parliamentary democracy to a participatory democracy. Creating accountability structures, citizens’ engagement for policy making, the AAP government is working to include citizens through the Mohalla Sabhas and the newly developed Delhi Dialogue Council,”
Supporting this call for engaging citizens, Shri, Rakesh Kumar, Joint Secretary (RCH), Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, said “People need to be more responsive and demanding so that no mothers die in India. We need to empower citizens to demand fulfillment of entitlements and quality health services.”