Birth rights

True story accompanying image

Childbirth can be a dangerous prospect in much of Nepal’s remote mountainous regions. Following custom, most women give birth at home, without medical equipment or supervision. When there are complications, treatment is administered by a local birth attendant with little if any formal training. As a result, as many as six Nepalese women die giving birth every day. Many of them are teenagers.

Looking to improve the situation, the government started a new incentive programme that offers small cash allowances to women who gave birth in hospital. It’s the kind of initiative that is desperately needed, and yet in one district local officials failed to promote it among their constituents. Instead, they created lists of fake mothers, and pocketed the money themselves.

When a whistleblower rang our centre to report the situation, we helped him break the story to the media. Making national headlines, the case helped bring the plight of rural women into the public sphere. Exposed, the officials admitted their wrongdoing, and returned the money to the state coffers to be redistributed where it’s needed most – among expectant mothers. We’re keeping watch to make sure it stays that way.

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