The National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI) held their AGM on June 14th, 2013 - their 40th anniversary - in the Clarion Hotel (IFSC), Dublin. The diversity of members at the AGM was a stark reminder of how women from all over the country - and all over the world - have converged into this one organisation so that they have a platform from which they can stand strong together and call for changes to women's rights in Ireland. With the support of these members, AIMSI submitted a motion at the AGM that calls for changes to maternity services that will ensure women are treated with the dignity, respect and equality of health that is inherent in a woman's basic and inalienable human rights.
The motion was voted on by the NWCI members and passed, meaning that AIMSI will be given the support as well as the extensive knowledge and experience of the NWCI in seeking to improve Irish maternity services.
The day was inspiring as it gave NWCI members a chance to vote not only on the motion submitted by AIMSI, but also on other motions put forward by fellow members. The issues ranged from a call to influence and broaden the inclusion of women in school history books to combatting domestic violence against migrant women. The calls were passionate and articulate - each one presenting a worthy and just case for support and action. In the true spirit of democracy, each motion was voted on and each one passed.
Here is an excerpt from the AIMSI motion:
"Ireland has the highest birth rate in the EU yet our maternity system is primarily focused on one patriarchal model of care, in which women have limited choices and a limited voice. On an administrative level this has fostered a grave lack of accountability and transparency, and a lack of equity in access to care based on geography, ethnicity and wealth. The media rarely picks up on the extreme cases of violations to women’s autonomy and human rights in maternity services and the HSE does not investigate unless they are forced to do so. Recent years have seen maternal deaths, forced c-sections and hundreds of other cases of maternal morbidity go almost completely unnoticed. Disturbingly it would appear that these affect non Irish and disadvantaged women disproportionately. Other less extreme cases, but equally as damaging, may involve restricting or ignoring a woman’s choices in childbirth or forcing certain procedures on women in this setting without seeking informed consent/refusal. The common thread in all of these cases is that the maternity units will ultimately put the rights of the unborn child before the life and health of the mother, sometimes with fatal consequences. AIMSI believes that a woman’s human rights should not be compromised in pregnancy, labour and birth or, indeed, at any other time in her life."
So what does this mean for AIMSI?
The NWCI encourages its members to put forward motions at the AGM that are in line with the Strategic Plan of the organisation (see here). In their guidelines on motions, the NWCI states that "this will ensure that the work of the NWCI is carried out in a focused and strategic manner; resources are used efficiently; and the best interests of the affiliates are served".
When a motion is passed by the majority of members at the meeting, it informs the policy work of the NWCI and will be acted upon within the resources of the strategic work plan. Essentially, it is an opportunity for members to put their issues forward and to gain support for their work.
This means that AIMSI will have the extensive support and invaluable resources of the NWCI to progress our mandate of improving maternity services in Ireland - with a particular focus on lobbying and campaigning for clear guidelines and legislation that uphold women's rights in maternity services. AIMSI looks forward to working with the NWCI to further our work in making improvements in Irish maternity services.
For more information on the NWCI, see http://www.nwci.ie/