Aadarsh arrived to his home here in Suva, Fiji one night after he was born. I say his home here in Suva because this a child who connects two oceans - the Pacific and Indian oceans. New technology works for his Dadimaa Krishna in Gurgaon who has set up the #GrandmasofAadarsh #whatsapp group. My role of course is to provide regular updates! And so begins a new journey of life for many of us. As a #feministnaniji I am of course first of all determined that my daughter i.e the manager of our home aka #youngfeministmother is supported and enjoys this new stage of life. With her husband Ankit I know she will provide a guiding path for her son who has entered a world where so much is different, so much has changed since 1989 and 1992 - when I joined the ranks of motherhood.
My grandson also arrived via caesaren section. I'm grateful there is a new surgical wing at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital here in Suva since 2014. I recall it was still under construction when I chose to take my late-mother to the private hospital for her mastectomy. But I digress. My daughter and her husband were also able to afford to choose the "paying ward" or the Morrison wing. Knowing my daughter a clear budget is in place for matters relating to baby. Not many women are as fortunate. As I sat outside the maternity unit for several days and as I join the line of family members at visiting hour (limited for 1 hour with priority given to father only!). They are taking food and supplies to mothers in the non-paying ward. It seems the current generation of mums get the same list of "things to bring with you" although I think there are a few extra items these days.
Mothercare not just Health care
In 1995 when I returned from the UN Fourth World Conference on Women I produced a television documentary "Mothercare" about the maternal health choices and/or options available for women. It struck me then and continues to amaze me that women’s health rights remain one of the most contentious issues in political spaces. There are two critical documents for women’s rights - The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international bill of rights for women, requires governments to end gender discrimination and affirms women’s rights to health services, including family planning and the the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. According to the Global Fund for Women Women and girls around the world, especially those living in poverty, face restricted or no access to information and services about their reproductive health and rights. Some of the barriers to sexual and reproductive health and rights include discrimination, stigma, restrictive laws and policies, and entrenched traditions. In 2020 the Feminist Alliance for Rights brought attention for the need to ensure that while countries expect a massive strain on their public health systems due to the spread of the virus, this should not result to decreased maternal health and increased infant mortality rates. There is often lack of access to healthcare services and medical supplies in rural communities as well as women with disabilities. We all know that women need health care more and access the health care system more than men - including for their reproductive and sexual health needs ultimately, collectively we must ensure our governments are providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and ensuring all women experience the right to the highest attainable standard of health.
My Recommendations: We all know that women need health care more and access the health care system more than men - including for their reproductive and sexual health needs ultimately, collectively we must ensure our governments are providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and ensuring all women experience the right to the highest attainable standard of health. But there is often lack of access to healthcare services and medical supplies in rural communities as well as women with disabilities.
My personal experience of embarking on motherhood as a much younger woman and conversations with diverse mothers since then only reaffirms pur collective demands for health systems that are accountable to us. Public health care systems must invest in clean, accessible and well stocked and equipped hospitals and health centres - this includes having well trained teams of health professionals including in communities and villages.
Equitable access to resources for women's economic security is vital for maternal health. There must be a way to identify women, including young women and women with disabilities who will require financial assistance when they register through ante natal check ups. This means also ensuring that pregnant women are actually receiving information and able to attend ante natal clinics - so subsidies for public transport etc. With economic security comes food security and affordability of sanitary pads and supplies, purchase power of napkins and other baby items. Databases are key to identifying where mums are and their sources of income especially for those who rely on rural agriculture and fishing. All working mums should have job security and maternity protection benefits including paid maternity leave and child care provisions when she does return to work - this will further reduce the burden of unpaid care work on older women. Safe community childcare services are vital. And finally (for now) Accessible information on maternal health care - via public and community radio as well as public television, pamphlets in local languages should be readily available at all health centres - information can support mothers as well as their partners/husbands prepare for the journey ahead.
The Journey Ahead
My new journey, my elevation to grandmother status now makes me personally more accountable to amplify the commitments made to women of my generation for women like my daughter and her generation- including new mothers, young mums and their babies.
We must continue to amplify not only our rights, or the rights of our daughters and sons. We must ensure that when the time comes our grandchildren will enjoy their right to equalitable development and sustainable peace that their governments have committed to - regardless of when the commitments were made.