Can technology be used to fight for women's right to free maternal health services? Mera Swasthya Mei Aawaz is a data-driven project that gives poor women in India the chance to actively monitor and record corruption.
"Our project provides poor rural women with a technology that's easy to use and that they can access via their mobile phones," Sandhya says. "It empowers women to make complaints and report illicit demands for payments in public health facilities for services that are supposed to be free."
The maternal mortality ratio in India dropped from 560 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 190 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, however, the maternal mortality ratio remains high with 517 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Empowering the most vulnerable
SAYAHOG sees women's maternal health as a human rights issue. Key to the MSMA project is exposing government facilities that extort bribes from among the poorest and most vulnerable in society.
Sandhya and her colleagues are convinced that promoting transparency and accountability through the data collected can empower the women. If they're aware of their entitlements, she says, they can demand their rights and in the process hold leaders accountable.
"Information is power," Sandhya explains. Without this information, she says, "they aren't in a position to demand what is rightly theirs."
Health care providers hold a certain degree of power when entrusted with taking care of expectant mothers. Many give into bribes for fear of being otherwise neglected or abused.
With the MSMA project, however, poor rural women have technology that is easy to use and accessible on their mobile phones, and that empowers them to make complaints and report bribes for services that are supposed to be free.
MSMA is an innovative data-driven platform that combines a toll free number, an interactive voice response system (IVRS) and a website that contains accessible reports. In addition to enabling poor women to air their frustrations anonymously, the project aggregates actionable data which can then be used by the NGO as well as the government to work towards improving the situation for mothers in India.