Exciting. Moving. Powerful.

These words are often used to describe childbirth. It can be a time of wonder and joy.

In many places, however, the experience is described differently: Humiliating. Frightening. Abusive.

Throughout the world, women are abused in subtle and overt ways during childbirth, which is also a time of intense vulnerability. The abuse – or anticipation of it — can be so extreme, in fact, that it often prevents women from seeking lifesaving care.

“Some female nurses rough you up to an extent that you can tell her to let you deliver alone. You are in pain, and all she does is give you a harsh and rude approach. That is why I don’t go to the hospital to deliver because I am not used to somebody who roughs me up,” says woman interviewed in Kenya.

While much focus has been placed on overcoming financial and geographic obstacles to connecting women with lifesaving care during childbirth, little attention has been paid to documenting and tacking significant barriers posed by disrespect and abuse of women in facilities.

A new USAID-funded report, “Exploring Evidence and Action for Respectful Care at Birth,” presents evidence of abuse of women during childbirth and documents the negative impact on women’s use of skilled care. USAID funds grants to develop and evaluate interventions addressing disrespect and abuse in childbirth, and will support future efforts to further document, confront, and tackle abuse during childbirth.

A recent report found that 34 percent fewer women die each year from complications during pregnancy and childbirth than previous international estimates suggested. Access to quality care is critical in maintaining this trend.

USAID programs support facility-based maternal health care and community mobilization approaches to ensure women’s access to appropriate care and safe delivery is not restricted.

Through the Global Health Initiative, USAID will continue to support efforts to ensure that women have access to appropriate care and safe delivery is not restricted. When women are able to access needed quality health services and protect themselves from the many health risks they face, long-term social and economic progress can be achieved.

The 16 Days Campaign to End Violence Against Women: From 25 November to 10 December, USAID will post a blog each day that aims to prove a single point: The human race cannot progress when half of the world population lives without the same rights and respect afforded to its male counterpart. If you are moved by what you read and want to share, we’ve made it easy for you. Click here to find out how.

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