What you need to know:
- The term 'obstetric violence,' signifying any act causing harm in the context of pregnancy, labour, and post-childbirth, was unfamiliar to me until just last week.
- This is despite having encountered the term indirectly through the stories I had heard, written, and edited during my tenure in the newsroom.
When I came across the Kalenjin saying, “When a woman is pregnant, her grave is open,” it resonated deeply because it reflects the harsh reality experienced by millions of pregnant women globally.
According to the World Health Organization, a staggering 2.8 million pregnant women and newborns lose their lives every year – that's one precious life lost every 11 seconds. What's even more disturbing is that most of these deaths are entirely preventable.
A deeper look into the causes of death reveals even more depressing facts. A Daily Nation investigation a few years back showed that medical care for new mothers and their babies is in a sorry state, with doctors, nurses, and clinical officers routinely ignoring clinical guidelines and lacking skills to treat and manage complications.
Childbirth experiences mark women differently. Having been fortunate enough to undergo a safe and violence-free childbirth experience in a reputable private hospital, courtesy of my former employer, I am acutely aware of the stark contrast faced by underprivileged women whose “graves are open.”
Their vulnerability during childbirth becomes a matter of life and death for them and their children because of obstetric violence.
The term 'obstetric violence,' signifying any act causing harm in the context of pregnancy, labour, and post-childbirth, was unfamiliar to me until just last week. This is despite having encountered the term indirectly through the stories I had heard, written, and edited during my tenure in the newsroom.
Recently, during a celebratory dinner in honour of Dr Anne Kihara, who secured the presidency of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (Figo), MP Gathoni wa Muchomba shed light on the urgency of addressing this grave issue.
She recounted a harrowing tale of a new mother driven to suicide by post-partum depression triggered by a traumatic childbirth experience where hospital staff mistreated and mishandled both her and her newborn.
The legislator had responded to an emergency call to save the woman, but it was too late. The incident left her heartbroken and led her to start a foundation to help stop violence against pregnant women in the delivery room and maternity wards. She issued a clarion call during her talk to raise our voices and dignify childbirth.
Beyond just talking, the MP is at the forefront of championing a legal framework in Kenya that recognises obstetric violence as a human rights violation. Through the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association, she has initiated a campaign to end obstetric violence.
Now more than ever, as the world engages in 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, it is imperative that we consider the gravity of obstetric violence and support the motion to eradicate this insidious threat to maternal health and wellbeing. Everybody should be restless until obstetric violence ends.
The writer comments on gender and social topics (@FaithOneya; [email protected]).