By Faridah Luyiga, White Ribbon Alliance, Communication Manager
White Ribbon Alliance Uganda celebrates the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights by sharing their ”Act Now to Save Mother’s” campaign’s success in creating awareness about citizens’ rights and responsibilities at the grassroots level. Throughout the campaign, WRA Uganda empowered citizens to demand accountability from their leaders and to advocate with confidence. Citizens in Uganda are now working with their local and national officials to ensure lifesaving services are provided in their health centers.
Citizens signed petitions that demonstrated their awareness of the status of Basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (BEmONC) and Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC) services and articulation of gaps, leading to improvement in the level of services provided. This successful grassroots organizing for maternal health and rights was praised by the Lira and Kabale District Women Members of Parliament.
Hon. Atim Joy Ongom, Woman Member of Parliament, Lira District, said “I’m grateful the community already knows what is needed. Previously, they were dying innocently. They didn’t know government had got to do certain things for them, but now the citizens have raised their own voices, they are saying we need this and that.”
WRA Uganda’s work proved to be a boon for Parliament – and women across Uganda - as well:
“The awareness culminated into a petition that we presented in Parliament. The speaker referred the petition to the committee of health. The committee went to Kabale to assess and see if what White Ribbon Alliance had sighted is actually the truth, which they found to be. This actually did not help Kabale alone - it helped the committee to plan for the whole country with just the research from Kabale and other two districts where White Ribbon Alliance is. This research has helped us in the budget process to see how we can plan for facilities country-wide because when we presented petitions on the floor with the woman MP for Lira, other Members of Parliament said that the situation is the same in their areas and asked Parliament not to limit it to only Kabale, so it helped us focus on the entire country planning to see how these gaps could be filled. There is a big difference between the time we had not yet engaged White Ribbon Alliance and presently." - Hon. Ninsiima Rhona Ritah, Woman MP, Kabale District (Former MP)
And, although WRA Uganda’s campaign has ended, their effective use of citizen-led advocacy continues to have ripple effects throughout the country, as more and more citizens feel encouraged to engage their Members of Parliament directly to advocate for the right to safe motherhood.