Crowdsourcing corruption in India′s maternal health services | Asia | DW | 23.09.2016
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Crowdsourcing corruption in India's maternal health services

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.

Indien Organisation Mera Swasthya Meri Aawa

A toll free number gives women the opportunity to call in anonymously to report cases of corruption

The Mera Swasthya Meri Aawaz (MSMA) project is the first of its kind in India to track illicit maternal fees demanded in government hospitals located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

MSMA ("My Health, My Voice") is part of SAHAYOG, a non-governmental umbrella organization that helped launch the project. MSMA uses an Ushahidi platform to map and collect data on unofficial fees that plague India' ostensibly "free" maternal health services. It is one of the many projects showcased in DW Akademie's recently launched Digital Innovation Library. SAHAYOG works closely with grassroots organizations to promote gender equality and women's health issues from a human rights perspective.

Yatirajula Kanaka Sandhya is passionate about advocating for women's rights. She is an assistant coordinator at SAHAYOG and an MSMA program manager, and has been working on the project since its inception in 2011.

Indien Organisation Mera Swasthya Meri Aawa

The maternal mortality ratio remains high in India's northern state Uttar Pradesh

"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."

Porträt von Yatirajula Kanaka Sandhya

Yatirajula Kanaka Sandhya, program manager at MSMA

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.

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  • Date 23.09.2016
  • Author Joan Okitoi-Heisig
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink https://p.dw.com/p/1IotG
  • Date 23.09.2016
  • Author Joan Okitoi-Heisig
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink https://p.dw.com/p/1IotG