While progress has been made in the reduction of maternal mortality during the past several decades, and much attention has been given to skilled attendance at birth, less attention has been given to the abuse and disrespect during maternity care that has been documented and observed globally. Not only does lack of respectful maternity care (RMC) constitute a barrier to the use of skilled birth attendance or facility-based births, but it also represents disregard for basic human dignity and human rights, and is the reason behind untold suffering of women during one of the most vulnerable times in their lives. In some cases policy makers, program managers, and care providers are unaware of the disrespect and abuse that is experienced in their own settings or the settings for which they are responsible. In other cases, people entrusted with the care of women and their newborns may recognize a need for RMC, but may feel ill-equipped to address the need.
This package of materials is designed to provide the tools necessary to begin the implementation of RMC in your area of work or influence. However, RMC is not a checklist or an intervention or a dialogue that is spoken. RMC is an attitude that permeates each word, action, thought, and non-verbal communication involved in the care of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period. One could apply the standards contained herein, check off the program characteristics described, and provide brilliant answers to the case studies, yet still fail to exhibit the deep attitude that translates into RMC. However, with the implementation of this toolkit, you can help to change and cultivate appropriate attitudes in yourself, among colleagues, and other stakeholders.