Protecting human rights in childbirth

Registered Charity Number 1151152

Embedding human rights in maternity services: our reflection on 2022

As we come to the end of what has been a remarkable year, we would like to share with you some of our reflections and highlights of our work in influencing and embedding human rights in maternity care services.

Uncovering systemic racism in maternity care

Firstly, we want to thank all our friends, supporters and partners for your incredible support that has helped us to grow our reach and impact in so many ways.  Our major highlight has been the year-long development of our inquiry into racial injustice in maternity care (supported by Leigh Day) and the culmination of our report Systemic Racism, Not Broken Bodies in May 2022.  The significance of this work has been reflected in the high levels of engagement- over 2 billion views on social media, press, radio, and TV coverage, but most important of all, the involvement of key health service providers and stakeholders in working towards our calls to action that has continued throughout 2022.

Even these few words do not do justice to the extensive work and talent that went into making our inquiry a reality.  Our small team of part-time workers, our committed board of trustees and the expertise of our partners and expert and experts by experience panel have all played a part, for which are immensely grateful.

Waving farewell and welcoming new faces

Our team also managed some big changes in the year with our ex-CEO, Amy Gibbs leaving early in the summer having led our new strategic plan, key policy and influencing initiatives during Covid and beyond and new partnerships to support our work.  Maria Booker – one of our earliest staff members – followed in the autumn having created a strong foundation from which our reputation and influence has grown.  New team members joined, including Kathryn Matthews as our Supporter Engagement Lead, and Beth Russell and Lorraine Pryce, Advice Coordinators, to strengthen our Advice Service. We want to thank our wonderful interim CEO Tracey Fletcher, who steps down at the beginning of January, for everything she has done over this transition period for the team – we will miss you.

Holding onto human rights at the heart of maternity care

There is still much work to be done; over 1,000 women, birthing people and healthcare professionals are calling on our advice service each year to understand their rights or to ensure rights respecting maternity services are a priority in their practice.  We know there are many more who can make use of our service.  This past year we have seen the highest level of engagement in our training and downloads of our free factsheets and resources from our website. 

This has not been surprising given the challenges of the year, from the report into the East Kent Maternity services, the Ockenden Report, Covid-19 inquiry, pausing of the Midwifery Continuity of Carer model that impacts those most in need, to name a few.  We have made our voice heard, and therefore the voice of women and birthing people, in our responses to consultations, policy developments and procedures that will affect the quality of care, the right to be informed, to be central to decisions made about maternity services and in a way that respects the dignity and rights of pregnant women. 

Looking to 2023

We are excited for the new year; 2023 will be our 10th anniversary and we hope you will join our celebrations and continue to collaborate with us in centring human rights in maternity care.  We are also looking forward to welcoming our new Chief Executives Shanthi Gunesekera and Janaki Mahadevan who are joining the team from 3rd January.

Equally as important is the funding to keep our work alive; thank you to our generous partners and donors, for our friends who ran half marathons or gave what they could to our first ever Big Give campaign.  It’s not too late to help: go to ‘Get Involved‘ for details of different ways to support us as the leading charity promoting the human rights of women and birthing people in maternity care.

From all the team and trustees at Birthrights, THANK YOU, and all the best for a happy end to 2022 and a bright new 2023.

With thanks to our funders and partners including Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Thirty Percy Foundation, Joesph Rowntree Charitable Trust and Hospital Saturday Fund; Leigh Day, Irwin Mitchell and Bolt Burdon Kemp.

Birthrights is the UK charity that champions respectful maternity care by protecting human rights. We provide advice and legal information to women and birthing people, train healthcare professionals to deliver rights-respecting care and campaign to change maternity policy and systems.