Health Policy Project

The Health Policy Project has ended, but work continues under a new USAID five-year project, Health Policy Plus (HP+).

Respectful Maternity Care

The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood 



Respectful maternity care is a universal human right due to every childbearing woman in every health system around the world. Women’s experiences with maternity caregivers can empower and comfort, or inflict lasting damage and emotional trauma. Either way, memories of childbearing experiences stay with women throughout their lifetime. While many interventions aim to improve access to skilled birth care, less attention has been focused on the quality of relationships with caregivers during maternity care. However, evidence suggests that fear of the disrespect and abuse that women too often encounter in facility-based maternity care is a more powerful deterrent to use of skilled care in countries with a high burden of maternal mortality than commonly recognized barriers such as cost or distance.

What We Do

The Health Policy Project (HPP) is working to improve maternal health by promoting respectful maternity care for all women during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the time after birth. HPP provides leadership to facilitate joint strategy development and action among a growing multisector community that is deeply concerned about disrespect and abuse of women during maternity care. The project focuses on advocacy to set the standard for respectful maternity care, along with community mobilization and action to promote social accountability.

Leadership and Action

Drawing on the convening power of its maternal health partner, the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (WRA), HPP has formed a Leadership Action Committee on Respectful Maternity Care. This community consists of members from research, clinical, educational, human rights, and civil society advocacy perspectives from around the world to share information and harmonize efforts toward setting the global standard for respectful maternity care and working together to ensure that it is upheld.

Charter of the Universal Rights of Childbearing Women

With project partners and representatives from WRA National Alliances around the globe, HPP supported WRA in developing the “Respectful Maternity Care Charter: The Universal Rights of Childbearing Women.” The charter—a rights-based framework of entitlement for respectful maternity care—draws upon existing declarations, international treaties, national laws, and patient charters to serve as the basis for securing policy commitments and undertaking global and grassroots advocacy.

Since its release, the charter and related advocacy materials have been translated into French, Spanish, and Arabic, and distributed among WRA National Alliances and project partners to enhance the capacity of local stakeholders to promote improvements in maternal healthcare. It is also used to train nurses, midwives, and clinical staff to raise their awareness of the importance of respectful maternity care and improve the quality of service at delivery facilities. HPP also supports the development of specific advocacy strategies and activities that midwives in professional associations and clinical settings can pursue to push for changes outlined in the charter. We also support the efforts of WRA National Alliances to advocate for the integration of language from the charter into national safe motherhood bills.

Promote Community Entitlement and Social Accountability

HPP supports community mobilization activities that promote women’s entitlement to respectful maternity care in countries and communities throughout the WRA member network and its national alliances. These outreach and advocacy initiatives encourage greater accountability of maternal health service providers and health professional education systems to the women, families, and communities they serve.


News: Midwives in Rwanda Complete Respectful Maternity Care Advocacy Training
The National Council for Nurse and Midwives Rwanda, the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, and the Health Policy Project hosted an advocacy workshop for midwives on March 25-27 in Kigali, Rwanda.

News: Respectful Maternity Care Session Conducted at a Maternity Facility in Lahore, Pakistan
Faith-based organization introduces rights-based approach to maternity care staff from five maternal health facilities in Lahore, Pakistan.

Publications and Resources

A Guide for Advocating for Respectful Maternity Care
A Guide for Advocating for Respectful Maternity Care is a comprehensive resource centered on the Respectful Maternity Care charter, a groundbreaking consensus document that demonstrates the legitimate place of maternal health rights within the broader context of human rights.

Respectful Maternity Care Charter and Advocacy Materials
The Respectful Maternity Care Charter and advocacy materials build a strong positive global standard to affirm the legitimacy of maternal health rights as basic human rights issues grounded in key international declarations. The charter, poster, and brochure are available in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic.

White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood Respectful Maternity Care Overview
White Ribbon Alliance website with news, information, and resources about respectful maternity care—a  platform for sharing experiences, news, and resources on the ongoing campaign promoting respectful maternity care, for all who wish to help tackle the issue of disrespect and abuse of childbearing women during maternity care.

Blog: UK Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust Incorporates Respectful Maternity Care Charter into Mandatory Training
The maternity education team, supervisors of midwives and governance team at two UK hospitals, are using Respectful Maternity Care Charter to influence and raise awareness of the importance of treating pregnant women with dignity and respect during maternity care.

Video: “Break the Silence” – Respectful Maternity Care
This film was created to draw attention to the issue of disrespect and abuse during maternity care and to promote respectful maternity care for women worldwide.

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The Health Policy Project is a five-year cooperative agreement funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development under Agreement No. AID-OAA-A-10-00067, beginning September 30, 2010. The project's HIV-related activities are supported by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). It is implemented by Futures Group, in collaboration with Plan International USA, Avenir Health (previously Futures Institute), Partners in Population and Development, Africa Regional Office (PPD ARO), Population Reference Bureau (PRB), RTI International, and White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (WRA). The information provided on this Web site is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

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