Our Health, Our Voices: Women Want to be Heard

By Aparajita Gogoi and Kristy Kade, Co-Chairs, What Women Want global advocacy campaign

In our work and travel, we have been privileged to hear directly from women and girls around the world and all walks of life about what it is they most want for their health. Unsurprisingly, the answers vary. For some women, their most fervent wish is to give birth in a bed of their own or to have clean water to wash with. For others, it is having a wider range of contraceptive options or menstrual health products available. While the answers may vary, they all matter.

Also expected is how often the responses are the same. Women and girls no matter where they live, no matter who they are, want to be treated with dignity and have their decisions respected. They want to be able to access care when their health demands it and not have to walk down miles of road or through red tape to reach it.

But most striking, is how often we hear that their wants and needs are ignored by health programs and initiatives intended to serve them.

 Women in West Bengal, India demand quality reproductive and maternal healthcare. Photo courtesy WRA India, West Bengal.

Women in West Bengal, India demand quality reproductive and maternal healthcare. Photo courtesy WRA India, West Bengal.

That’s why we are honored to help bring together 145 organizations across 26 countries and six continents for a new campaign: What Women Want: Demands for quality healthcare for women and girls. This global initiative formally launches on April 11th — International Day of Maternal Health and Rights — and its partners are committed to hearing directly from one million women and girls about what quality healthcare means to them.

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By hearing directly from women and girls and working with them to turn their asks into global and national action agendas, women and girls are empowered and governments and health providers are better equipped to deliver for them. The What Women Want campaign is based on a similar initiative from WRA India Hamara Swasthya, Hamari Awaz (Our Health, Our Voices) that clearly demonstrates when women are meaningfully engaged about their health needs, everybody wins. Hamara Swasthya, Hamari Awaz amplified the voices of more than 150,000 women and has helped to clarify and advance important questions around quality and respectful care.

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Yes, it is an honor to have this opportunity to hear and help elevate women’s and girls’ voices, but it is also a responsibility, one that we take very seriously. As responses begin to come in, we’ll share stories and news on the What Women Want website. We’ll share their demands at global and national convenings. And we’ll continue to engage with women and girls along the way so they know the impact of their voices.

But we can’t do it alone. We are calling on all women and girls and those who care about women and girls to join a growing list of supporters committed to shaping a future where all women and girls realize their right to quality maternal and reproductive health and rights.

Thank you.