A lawyer and gender advocate, Ms Bernice Sam, has called on the state, traditional authorities and religious groups to help remove all barriers to safe pregnancy and childbirth.
She said discriminatory cultural practices and religious practices such as early marriage, forced marriages and stigmatisation infringed on the reproductive health rights of women.
Ms Sam made those observations when she delivered the annual Helen Kanzira Memorial Lecture (HKML) in Accra.
The lecture, under the auspices of the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria and the University of Ghana School of Law, was on the theme: ‘Protecting Women’s Reproductive Rights in Africa: A Moral or Legal Obligation.’
Ms Sam said inter-sectorial collaboration and community participation would ensure that maternal deaths caused by haemorrhage, hypertensive disorders, unsafe abortions and civil strife and wars were reduced.
‘Political will is needed to make the health and well-being of women a priority and to ensure that women, especially those in the rural areas, have access to skilled medical care during pregnancy and delivery. This can be achieved when resources are provided by the government,’ she said.
Ms Sam expressed regret that though protecting women’s rights had engaged policy makers for a while, technology had also moved on but the causes of maternal mortality remained the same, as it existed some 50 years ago.
‘To change this, it is time for a paradigm shift in the provision of health services, and a shift in the way of thinking and behaviour of society,’ she said.
Maternal deaths in Ghana reduced from 634 per 100,000 live births in 1990, to 319 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015.
The World Health Organization (WHO) figures for 2015 indicate a gradual decrease in maternal deaths globally from 532,000 in 1990 to 303,000 in 2015. But the WHO says in spite of the 43% decrease in maternal deaths, 830 women still die daily from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, and about 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for two-thirds of all maternal deaths per year globally.
The Helen Kanzira Lecture
The lecture is held annually in honour of Helen Kanzira of the pioneer class of the Master’s in Law in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa, and an alumni of both Makerere University and the University of Pretoria, who died in 2007 at the age of 39 as a result of complications from childbirth.
Written by Maxwell Ocloo. This story was sourced from the Graphic Online website.