November 02, 2012

Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) Report Dissemination Event

NAMHHR organised an event to share its study on Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana(IGMSY) and launch its report- The Crisis of Maternity: a compilation of two studies on healthcare and maternity protection for women wage workers in the informal sector in India on 19th September in New Delhi. The book was launched by Dr. Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission 

The event brought together representative from the Ministry of Women and Children and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, journalists from print media and representatives from NGOs, alliances and networks.  

Speaking at the launch, Ms Jashodhara Dasgupta representing NAMHHR welcomed the government’s recent scheme to provide maternity benefits to all women, called INDIRA GANDHI MATRITVA SAHYOG YOJANA (IGMSY or Indira Gandhi Maternity Support Scheme) and hoped the studies would feed into the evaluation of the pilot phase of the IGMSY Scheme. However, she said NAMHHR was very concerned that the preconditions for obtaining the benefit, mainly that the beneficiary woman should not have more than two living children, would unfortunately exclude the 60% of women (aged 15-49) who are either Dalits, Tribals or have least education, and 63% of poor women (Lingam and Yelamanchili, 2011). 

Quoting the findings from the recent study conducted by the partners of NAMHHR: Monitoring IGMSY (pilot phase) from an Equity and Accountability Perspective, Advocate Sashi Bindhani of SODA (Odisha), shared that the study examined in detail the situation of 57 women in four blocks (45 revenue villages) in four states of India, all of whom stand excluded due to the eligibility criteria of the IGMSY scheme: almost all of whom were Dalits, Scheduled Tribes and those who lack other social security benefits. The study found that all of them had gone through three to seven pregnancies, where each episode of maternity exacerbates their vulnerability due to increased impoverishment and high expenses. With high pregnancy wastage and poor availability of health care, they are never sure whether their baby will survive, despite which the state has penalized them for having more than two living children. 

Dr. Sebanti Ghosh of ASHA (West Bengal) pointed out that despite their contribution to the economy of the country, and their productive and reproductive contributions to the community, women wage workers in the informal sector (148 million) remain deprived of full maternity benefits, forcing them to continue with physically strenuous wage work till the eighth month and shorten their post partum rest. In the absence of food security, they are compelled to compromise on their own requirements, even in pregnancy. Supplementary nutrition is crucial at this juncture; however, the Public Distribution System and Anganwadi services were reported to be irregular and inadequate. An ill equipped health system compounds the problem. Pregnancy and childbirth is seen as a period of financial crisis as it may mean increased expenses and several weeks or months away from work. 

Ms Kalyani Meena of Prerana Bharti (Jharkhand) concluded that given the abysmal conditions of women workers in the informal sector, the IGMSY scheme in its very design defeats the purpose that it sought to address by imposing preconditions of parity. She presented NAMHHR’s strong recommendation that unconditional maternity benefits, universal health coverage, and universal food security for all women, without any conditions, is a primary requirement for the improvement of maternal nutrition, reduction of maternal anaemia and prevention of maternal mortality.

Addressing the gathering during the event, Dr. Syeda Hameed stated that the study raised important issues and brought to light the fact that the 2 child exclusionary criteria of the IGMSY was an out-dated concept which needed to be removed in order to enable the most vulnerable women to benefit during the critical period of maternity.

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