December 29, 2013

Roundtable discussion on the question of CARE

A brainstorming meeting was organized on 23rd of December to share the latest efforts which the various child rights and women’s rights groups have been independently or collectively undertaking as part of their work. The meeting brought together the Alliance on ECCD, NAMHHR, SAHAYOG, CHSJ, and other women’s rights, child rights and health rights groups and campaigns .The focus of the meeting was to identify common mandates and possible advocacy agenda, particularly in the context of ‘care’.  It was decided that this group would work jointly on the issue under the umbrella of ‘women’s unpaid work’, of which care work constitutes a big chunk. A concept note will be developed on this group’s framework for understanding women’s unpaid work, including a brief review of select national laws/policies/schemes.  Another,  round table meeting will be organised tentatively on 12th of February for discussions around the concept note.

Organisational Convention of RTF Campaign: Revisiting membership and Key Campaign Priorities

The 'Organisational Convention' of the RTF Campaign was organized  on 19th and 20th of December 2013 in New Delhi. 80 participants from various states participated in the meeting.  The meeting discussed the membership structure and key campaign priorities post the passage of the National Food Security Act 2013 and the recently concluded Bali WTO Ministerial Meeting.

Dates of the Right to Food Campaign's Fifth National Convention on the Right to Food and Work was also finalized for the 1-3 March 2014 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. This Convention will aim to consolidate the membership base of the campaign and build broad alliances to ensure the centrality of the right to food, work, livelihoods and social protection as political priorities in the 2014 general elections and beyond.
Ms.Aditi Sood and Ms.Neeti Singh (HealthWatch Forum UP) attended the meeting on behalf of NAMHHR.

Functioning of the NHRC Critically Examined: Has it been effective?

    Independent People’s Tribunal on the Functioning of the National Human Rights Commission of India, 14-16th December, New Delhi

NAMHHR member, Human Rights Law Network organized an Independent Peoples’ Tribunal  jointly with All India Network of NGOs and Individuals working with National / State Human Rights Institutions on the functioning of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the occasion of the 20 years of Paris Principles [1993] and 20 years of the Protection of Human Rights Act [1993] and 20 years of the Vienna Conference [1993].

The Tribunal brought together group of 9 panelists included Justice (Retd.) Hosbet Suresh, Former Judge of the Mumbai High Court, Justice (Retd.) Surendra Bhargav, Former Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court, Justice (Retd.) W A Shishak, Former Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court, Justice (Retd.) K Sukumaran, Former judge of the Mumbai and Kerala High Court, Prof. Vimal Thorat, Social Activist, Mr. Yambem Laba Former Member of Manipur SHRC, Prof. Babu Mathew, National Law University, Prof. Kamal Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Prof. Anuradha Chenoy , Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The three day event included sessions on -NHRC’s compliance to UN standards, Police encounter, custodial torture, custodial death, Killings and torture by armed forces , Attack on human rights defenders , Communalism , Violation of Women’s Rights, Dalit issues, Tribal Rights, Environment, housing and displacement ,Health rights, Child rights and Disability.  Each session included a section in which the response of NHRC to their issue was presented to the panelists.

NAMHHR convenor, was invited to be a panelist in the session on reproductive rights violation.  She began by recounting the meeting with the UN-Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health who came to India in 2010.  Although an NRHC member attended the meeting, yet the NRHC did not take the recommendations of the UNSR seriously. Recounting the submissions made by NAMHHR to the NHRC in connection with the Barwani cases (Madhya Pradesh) and Godda cases (Jharkhand), although the NHRC filed a case, no real action resulted; this despite the regular follow done by NAMHHR. This session also saw the presentation of a testimonial by a victim of forced sterilization from Chitrakoot (Uttar Pradesh), supported in her efforts to seek justice by NAMHHR member HealthWatch Forum, UP.  The HealthWatch Forum had filed her case with NHRC on 21st of December 2012 and the NHRC in turn forwarded it to the State Human Rights Commission Uttar Pradesh, which has not taken any concrete action on it as yet.

However appreciating the initiative made by the NHRC in the Universal Periodic Review 2, the NAMHHR convenor lauded their efforts at designing  a monitoring tool to monitor the implementation of the recommendation made by member countries to the Government of India.  However she stressed that much more needs to be done by this important commission to protect the human right of the citizens of our country.

Aditi Sood, Nibedita Phukan and Leena Uppal also attended the event on behalf of NAMHHR. 

December 19, 2013

Recommendations for Odisha State Policy for Girl Child and Women Health and Well being

Thrust Area
Issues / Concerns / Barriers
Health and Well being
Maternal health and nutrition

Maternity Benefits and entitlements
·           The Public Distribution System must be made universal with protein items included
·          As per the final NFSA, it is mentioned under Chapter  II PROVISIONS FOR FOOD SECURITY, clause 4,  Subject to such schemes as may be framed by the Central Government, every pregnant woman and lactating mother shall be entitled to—

(a) meal, free of charge, during pregnancy and six months after the child birth,  through the local anganwadi, so as to meet the nutritional standards specified in Schedule II; and
(b) maternity benefit of not less than rupees six thousand, in such instalments as may be prescribed by the Central Government:
Provided that all pregnant women and lactating mothers in regular employment with the Central Government or State Governments or Public Sector Undertakings or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law for the time being in force
shall not be entitled to benefits specified in clause

·         Universal health care coverage should be provided to all women to protect them from devastating out of pocket expenses
·         Regularize Village and Health Nutrition Day (VHND) and ensure that they provide women with full ANC including per abdomen examination, checking hemoglobin, weight and blood pressure, TT injection, IFA tablets, counseling on diet, rest, birth planning & complication readiness
·      Maternity entitlements should be unconditional - the Age Eligibility and Parity Criteria should be done away with in Mamata Scheme
·       Maternity benefit should be linked to wages foregone, they should not be arbitrarily fixed, rather they should be compiled on the basis of highest minimum wages and should be periodically reviewed
·          Maternity Benefits should be provided for 9 months (beginning from the third trimester of pregnancy till six months after birth) to enable women to rest before pregnancy and promote six months of exclusive breastfeeding
Livelihood, Employment and Work
·  Absence of crèche facilities
·  Loss of wage during pregnancy months
·  Money is not disbursed in regular installments
·  Lack of availability of channels for grievance redress system
·      Free Crèche facilities be made mandatory in communities and the workplace
·       Setup easily accessible Grievance Redress  Mechanisms

December 01, 2013

NAMMHR submits Suggestions on the New Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013

MANUAL SCAVENGING PICTURE (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights (NAMHHR) is a civil society Alliance that works on strengthening rights-based approaches for preventing maternal mortality and promoting the highest quality of maternal health for the marginalized in India. The group recognizes that there is an urgent need for women's organizations, health organizations, groups working on law and human rights, and mass-based organizations to come together on this issue. The Alliance currently has members from twelve states of India, as well as expert advisors working with research, Right to Food, public health, right to medicines and budget accountability.

We are pleased that the Government has drafted the “Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013” and has invited comments on it from stakeholders. We think that this act is an important one because this inhuman practice of manual scavenging is a profanity not only on those involved in this practice but also on the country and putting an end to it is the responsibility of the country as a whole. Those who are involved in manual scavenging suffer from the inhuman pain of scavenging human faeces and also go through the unbearable pain and humiliation of discrimination, untouchability and social exclusion. A very small percentage of children of these communities are in schools not because they  'drop out' but because they are 'pushed out' from there.

However, the proposed rules drafted by Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (Government of India) in The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013”, need further strengthening to eradicate manual scavenging totally and ensure comprehensive rehabilitation of liberated scavengers

 In this view, NAMHHR strongly recommends the following suggestions to the draft rules :

1.   Chapter - 4 of the act is focusing on the rehabilitation component of liberated manual scavengers, but in the Rules they have not discussed single point of the rehabilitation. Even they have not used the word – “Rehabilitation in the draft rules (apart from in the name of the rules).    
2.   Section – 13 of the new law is providing provisions related to rehabilitation of the liberated manual scavengers, like scholarship for the children, residential plot and financial assistance for house construction or a ready–built house, training in a livelihood skill with monthly stipend, subsidy and concessional loan for taking up an alternative occupation on a sustainable basis and other legal and programmatic assistance. But the Rules do not provide any of these provisions.  
3.   Draft rule – 3 says “No person shall be engaged for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank” and same time 
rule – 4 says “Any person engaged to clean a sewer or a septic tank shall be provided by his employer the following protective gear and safety devices. Like Safety body clothing/ safety body harness/ safety belt, normal face mask, safety torch, hand gloves, safety helmet, etc. This rule is violating the provision of total eradication of manual scavenging. 
4.   Rule no. 38 of the Draft Rules says about the quantum of initial, onetime cash assistance. But they are not providing provision about the amount of the cash assistance, time period providing cash assistance, as well as the responsible authority.  
5.   Rehabilitation of the former manual scavengers who are liberated from this inhuman practice in the period before passing the law, are not covered under the rules.
6.   Not clear and concrete provisions have provided in the Draft Rules for enforcement of the law in government institutions like Indian Railways, Defense, etc.
7.   Liberated manual scavengers often face discrimination,  caste-based atrocity or violence, Non-SC scavengers (Dalit Muslim, Dalit Christian) is not protected under the SC/ST (PoA) act 1989. Unfortunately neither the, new Act and nor the Draft Rules  mention any provision of the protection for these communities.
8.    Rules are very technical and gender-blind, despite the fact, that Lakhs of Dalits and Dalit Muslims as well as very high proportion of them are women, who are forced to continue in this inhuman practice. Yet the proposed rules do not focus Caste as an important aspect of the issue.
9.    In many States, Administration and local authorities like Municipal Corporation and Gram Panchayats as well as the local Railway stations force Dalit or Safai Karmcharies to do manual scavenging. But, under the Draft Rules they are responsible for enforcement of the law, which includes grievance redress. This will lead to conflict of interest as we cannot expect them to effectively eradicate the practice.
10.  In many states like Maharashtra, Manual Scavenging in Open Toilets (not in the dry toilets) are institutionalized. The rules are not covered this form of manual scavenging.

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September 28, 2013

The 6th APPC sets Rights Anew

The 6th Asian and Pacific Population Conference (APPC) held in Bangkok in the third week of September 2013 saw the battle for inclusion of 'rights language' in the outcome document. This resulted in a polarisation among the 130 odd participants on whether rights and inclusion were important enough to be a mandate in the States' agenda. What was interesting was the face that human rights and discrimination in the 21st Century was still being fought for.

The strength of this conference was evident as all the civil society organisations unanimously sort to push forward these critical issues and advocate for a language that promotes sexual rights, sexual identity and gender orientation, elimination of discrimination based on motherhood status, limited access to important services which include safe abortion and ensuring the need to include comprehensive sexual education in school curriculums across the region.  For the civil society organisations, this was an opportunity to include human rights within the framework of the outcome document as this will be presented in the UN General Assembly special session in 2014 on the global 20 year review of the ICPD.

Many of the civil society organisations strongly felt that the ICPD POA did not explicitly recognise sexual rights, including the right to diversity of sexual expression and orientation. They felt that this was a huge gap and a loophole for the government to avoid inclusion of rights in improved quality of care, especially pertaining to reproductive health services. The week saw intense and passionate debate and negotiation from the Asia Pacific region to push forth progressive language and the need to address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and the stigma associated with woman especially with regards control over her reproduction. (

What was interesting for me was the case study presented from one lone representative from Philippines, Janette Garin (Under Secretary, Department of Health, Manila). Though Filipinos are predominantly Roman Catholic but they have been struggling to achieve the rights language through the Reproductive Health Bill since 2011. This lone representative was the strongest proponent of human rights and the need for inclusion of human rights within sexual reproductive health services. Coincidentally  the Constitution of Philippines protects the “life of the unborn”. Abortion rights are still not a fundamental right for the Filipino.

Blog post by Leena Uppal, NAMHHR member and advocacy officer Centre for Health and Social Justice 

August 16, 2013

National Consultation on Maternal Health

NAMHHR in collaboration with Commonhealth, SAMA, CEHAT, SOCHARA, SAHAJ organised a two day National Consultation on Maternal Health on 12th-13th of August in New Delhi.

On the first day, health activists and civil society organizations came together from various states including Jharkhand, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu to share experiences on various government schemes and policies as well as concerns with implementation and accountability within health systems. The following concerns came out during the discussions:

        In spite of the fact that the poorest and most vulnerable women are the most affected, the government has fallen short in addressing maternal health with a comprehensive strategy and being accountable for it. Specific issues need specific focus for example malaria prevention, sickle cell anemia screening, blood storage, hot cooked meals.
        Undignified treatment of women during childbirth from minorities particularly has been reported from various parts of the country, which makes them reluctant to use public health facilities.
        Several issues that affect maternal health - such as access to abortion services, access to choice of contraception, dignified childbirth, domestic abuse, nutrition, poverty, caste and gender – remain blind spots in policy. Thus, the solutions proposed often fail to capture or be relevant to the lived realities of women.
        Maternal death reviews, though mandated since 2010, are not being carried out in several states, especially in rural areas or in the private sector.

A set of recommendations were then developed on the cross cutting themes about some aspects of the maternal health care situation that were presented to the policy makers on the following day.

Key recommendations:
  •  Maternal health cannot be improved in isolation without looking into health systems and social determinants. 
  •  Since many women continue to deliver at home, we need to continue investing in trained dais and dai kits.
  • Verbal and physical abuse by health care providers, during labour in public health facilities must be stopped and action taken against concerned health care providers.
  •   Mechanisms to address grievances must be put in place in health systems.
  •  Maternal death reviews should be done in a women centred way with the inclusion of social and technical factors in the analysis. Greater transparency and accountability is needed in sharing the reports as well as remedial measures being instituted to ensure that other women will not die for the same reasons in that area.
 Dr. Syeda Hameed, Member Planning Commission and Shri Keshav Desiraju, Secretary MoHFW attended the event. Dr. Syeda Hameed acknowledged that civil society groups in India play a crucial role in strengthening government systems. She added, Planning Commission is considering strengthening its convening role with multiple Ministries on urgent cross-cutting issues, for example, health and nutrition (MoHFW and WCD). She suggested that the issues and recommendations be shared with the NRHM Mission Steering Group meeting that would be held soon in August.

Addressing the gathering Shri Keshav Desiraju, stated that while the Government’s policy had led to a reduction in maternal mortality, it was also true that focusing on Institutional delivery numbers alone had led to neglecting what happened to women and children after the birth.  He also acknowledged that it was important to strengthen a team in communities to support safer home births, such as ASHA, ANM, SBA and local TBAs. He promised to revive the Technical Resource Group on Maternal Health that had been set up by the MOHFW two years ago.

The event received favourable press coverage. Please click on the links to read media coverage:

August 14, 2013

Domestic Workers demand for Better working Conditions and Fair wages

More than a thousand of domestic workers from 14 states demonstrated at Jantar Mantar,   demanding a law to protect their rights and provide them social security. They demanded for better working conditions, which will include fixation of wages, child care facilities, housing, training and skill formation for the domestic help.

Organized by the National Platform for Domestic Workers (NPDW)[1] the rally held at Jantar Mantar on 31st of July demanded for the implementation of comprehensive rights and workplace benefits under the National Policy on Domestic Workers formulated by the Labour ministry.   
A petition drafted for the Petition Committee of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and signed by thousands of domestic workers across the country was handed over to the Prime Minister and the members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Ministry of Labour.

 Many eminent people attended the dharna expressing solidarity with the domestic workers including Basudev Bhatacharya – CPM member of Parliament, Ali Akbar Ansari of the Janata Dal United, Sanjay Paswan - a former minister in the NDA government, Mohini Giri - former chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Vijayalakshmi Reddy from AITUC and Annie Raja of NFIW.

Ms. Aditi Sood, on behalf of NAMHHR Secretariat  participated in the rally in solidarity to support the cause of domestic workers.
Click on the link below to read the petition.

[1] NPDW is the umbrella forum of 17 unions of domestic workers and action groups scattered across the country. It was created in 2012 to pursue a Comprehensive Legislation for Domestic Workers in India.

Revamping Jan Swasthya Abhiyan in Delhi

Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA) is a network of 22 different organizations which includes other networks, organizations working only on health issues, those working on women’s rights and issues as well as academic bodies such as the Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health (CSMCH), Jawaharlal Nehru University. 

JSA provides a platform to organizations that work on many different issues to come together on issues of health and health care. JSA has state units and each state unit has its own activities.  The National Secretariat rotates across the state units. Currently the National Secretariat is being hosted by JSA Delhi.

JSA organized a meeting on 12th of July to discuss revival strategies for JSA, Delhi and also to create a support group for the secretariat of the JSA at the National level.  NAMHHR members including Dr. Mira Shiva and YK Sandhya attended the meeting who raised the issue of maternal health and maternity benefits.