Stories of Change from the Frontlines Where Rights Are Realized or Denied

May 27, 2016 WHRAP South Asia Stories of Change

Press Release

May 28, 2016

Stories of Change from the Frontlines Where Rights Are Realized or Denied

Located in the Sheikhupura district of Pakistan is a village called Shamkey, home to about 3,000 people. Living in this village in a joint family home is Shazia Imran, 28, a mother of two. Like most women and girls in the village, Shazia’s access to basic health services was limited due to the restrictions on her mobility. Shazia, despite being educated up to the tenth standard, and married to a government employee, was not aware of the importance of birth registrations and as such did not register her children’s births. After meeting and working with the staff of Shirkat Gah and their partner Nai Umeed, Shazia now spearheads a birth registration campaign and works to make health services more accessible for her community.

This is one of nine stories of change presented in Stories of Change; Sharing Success Stories of WHRAP-South Asia. The publication by the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) and the Women’s Health and Rights Advocacy Partnership (WHRAP) – South Asia tells stories of change at all levels; individual, community, national and global.

The South Asian sub-region accounts for a substantial part of preventable maternal deaths in the world. Estimates of maternal mortality rates (MMR) in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan stand at 176, 174, 258, 178[1] respectively. With the adoption of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), states have agreed to reduce the global MMR to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by the year 2030.[2]

Achieving these targets require policies that address the root causes of MMR and the specific sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) needs of the most marginalised groups in the region. In South Asia, social determinants such as poverty, educational status, food and nutrition and water and sanitation affect health outcomes. Discrimination and inequalities based on gender, caste, class, religion, disability, age and geographical location entrenched in society and institutions adversely impact access of rights including the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

In this context, implementing the SDGs would necessarily require investment and ownership not only from the government but also from public health institutions and communities. The rhetoric of human rights can become a reality only if it is translated to local contexts with the participation from the local communities.

To this end, WHRAP–South Asia, an international partnership with a regional voice brings together women-led organisations and other civil society actors for evidence-based advocacy on SRHR. The partnership consists of five leading national women’s organisations in South Asia; Beyond Beijing Committee (BBC) in Nepal, Naripokkho in Bangladesh, Shirkat Gah in Pakistan, Centre for Health Education, Training and Nutrition Awareness (CHETNA) and SAHAYOG in India. The partnership also includes their selected community-based partners that work directly with the women on the ground and ARROW as its regional partner. The programme has been carried out in cooperation with and funded by the Danish Family Planning Association (DFPA).

Over the last 13 years, WHRAP-South Asia has facilitated and contributed to processes aimed at improving the quality of life of marginalised women in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan through empowerment, strengthening civil society engagement and public support leading to better accountability for health governance.

The stories in this publication show the discrimination and stigma overcome by women in communities in order to become advocates of change. Further, they highlight the types of accountability mechanisms that are needed to ensure effective translation of policy to practice without which no commitments or targets can make a difference in the lives of people. These stories of change confirm that if lasting change is to be made with regards to SRHR, it is imperative to continue to invest in local communities. These are the frontlines where sexual and reproductive rights are realized or denied.

The publication is available for download at

For more information and interviews, contact Pooja Badarinath at [email protected] or +603 2273 9913

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[2] Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages