What Women Want

What Women Want: Demands for Quality Healthcare from Women and Girls was more than a survey, it is a revolution to shift the balance of power and redefine expectations for reproductive and maternal health. How do we shift expectations so that we are more responsive to women’s needs, during the COVID19 pandemic and beyond? 1.2 million women told us exactly what is needed to improve reproductive and maternal healthcare. This toolkit is their blueprint for actionable change.

Through What Women Want: Demands for Quality Healthcare from Women and Girls, more than 350 partners collectively asked over one million women and girls in 114 countries about their top priority for quality maternal and reproductive healthcare services. The open-ended question let women and girls set the agenda, as opposed to beginning with a premise of what is important or asking them to decide among a set of options. The answers were often unexpected, challenging assumptions and shining new light on the realities of their daily lives. Their top demands: respectful and dignified care; water, sanitation, and hygiene; medicines and supplies, such as blood; more and better supported midwives; and health facilities within reach.




Through What Women Want: Demands for Quality Healthcare from Women and Girls, more than 350 partners collectively asked over one million women and girls in 114 countries about their top priority for quality maternal and reproductive healthcare services. Their top demands: respectful and dignified care; water, sanitation, and hygiene; medicines and supplies, such as blood; more and better supported midwives; and health facilities within reach.

These are not luxuries. Women and girls want – and are demanding – basic infrastructure, basic decency and in the wake of the global COVID19 pandemic, this need is even more urgent. The COVID-19 pandemic is having an outsized impact on women and adolescent girls, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities. Too often, women’s and girls’ needs are relegated to the bottom of the list of priorities, and their voices go unheard, whether during an emergency or not. No longer.

There is no greater evidence than women and girls speaking directly about their needs, in their own words. As countries grapple with how best to address mortality and morbidity due to the virus, women and girls have offered a clear path forward. Addressing any one of their demands will help mitigate the current crisis and leave us better prepared for future health emergencies. Indeed, having met these very same demands earlier could have lessened the current crisis.

By listening to women and letting their self-articulated needs lead the way, we will make investments that ensure health systems are responsive now and into the future. Moreover, we will challenge the power structures that routinely undervalue the voices and lives of women and girls and help foster a more gender equitable world.


What Women Want campaigners in India, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Uganda have shaped women’s and girls’ demands into a unifying blueprint for action that can be contextualized for individual country needs and partner capacities.

Realizing What Women Want requires a concerted effort among policymakers, service providers, development agencies, donors, journalists, advocates, community organizers, women, girls and their families and neighbors. If we want better health outcomes, women’s and girls’ agenda needs to become everyone’s agenda. Whatever your role in women’s and girls’ health, act now to:

  • Routinely capture and use women’s and girls’ self-articulated needs to set and monitor policy and program priorities during COVID and beyond
  • Adopt respectful and dignified care standards and accountability mechanisms
  • Invest in respectful and dignified care and rights education for both health workers and communities
  • Ensure clean, functional toilet and handwashing facilities, and potable drinking water in healthcare centers
  • Invest in menstruation education, products, and waste management systems within schools and health centers
  • Invest in blood donation campaigns, blood banks and screening
  • Invest in public education campaigns on entitlements and service guarantees for vulnerable women and girls
  • Recruit, retain and invest in midwives
  • Expand surgical and operational theaters
  • Make essential package of reproductive and maternal health services available at the community level


Also launching June 24, White Ribbon Alliance's Brave Voices, Bold Actions podcast will take a close look, episode by episode, at the top request from What Women Want: respectful, dignified care. Talking with human rights experts, advocates and women and adolescent girls, we explore the ten basic universal human rights that all women and newborns are due in pregnancy and childbirth as delineated in the Respectful Maternity Care Charter: Universal Rights of Women and Newborns. This podcast will provide greater insight on how to successfully advocate for respectful and dignified care, wherever you are. Launching on June 24th! Listen in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and more.

  • The #BraveVoicesPodcast is diving deep into just what #RespectfulCare looks like. Learn about women’s health, rights and how YOU can be part of the #WhatWomenWant movement. Ready to answer the call? Tune in at www.whiteribbonalliance.org/bravevoicespodcast
  • #RespectfulCare was the #1 request from1.2 million women around the world. How can you take action? One idea - Invest in #RespectfulCare training for health workers. To learn more about #RespectfulCare and more ideas of what else you can do, listen to the #BraveVoicesPodcast, that explores the 10 basic universal rights of women and newborns in childbirth. Launching June 24th! Listen to the trailer here: www.whiteribbonalliance.org/bravevoicespodcast


  • Have you heard? #WhatWomenWant demands now have a detailed agenda for systematic change. Are you ready to answer women’s and girls’ call? Tell us what steps you’re taking to deliver on women’s needs! www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen
  • #WhatWomenWant is challenging narratives so that the power of 1.2 million women’s voices becomes the driving force behind sustained local, national and global change. Are you ready to be a part of the revolution? Take up the #WhatWomenWant agenda! www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen
  • Women’s healthcare wasn’t working before #COVID19, and it won’t work still unless we take action. Act on #WhatWomenWant for maternal & reproductive health. Join us! Download the agenda and let us know what steps you’re taking! www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen
  • 1.2 million women demanded [fill in 1 of top 5 demands] in the #WhatWomenWant campaign. I’m answering the call. Are you? Download the #WWWAgenda & get to work!
  • ❓Asking "what do women want?" took perseverance 💪Answering it took courage and honesty 👊 Delivering on it takes meaningful commitment How are you answering women’s and girl’s call? 📲 Tag us in your response! www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen

Respectful care is a right, but it is also vitally important to improving health outcomes. When women receive respectful dignified care throughout their pregnancy and childbirth, they seek recommended services and promote the same among their communities. Conversely, when they experience disrespect and abuse, they forgo care and alert others to negative experiences. This need is only heightened during emergencies when respectful care may be considered a luxury. It is not.

  • #WhatWomenWant most is respectful, dignified care, and to be listened to. 1.2 million women wrote the agenda for respectful care. Are you ready to answer their call? Fill out the #WhatWomenWant Advocacy Agenda and tell us how you’re taking action! www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen
  • #RespectfulCare is a #humanright – demanded by 1.2 million women in #WhatWomenWant. I’m listening to women and committing to [Insert how you’ll advance respectful, dignified care] for women. www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen
  • 3 ways you can deliver respectful, dignified care 1. Adopt respectful & dignified care standards and means for feedback 2. Invest in respectful & dignified care training for health workers 3. Invest in communities to know & understand their right to respectful care. Take up the #WhatWomenWant agenda for respectful care: www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen
  • Some women giving birth during #COVID19 have experienced coerced c-sections, denied a birth companion and more. #RespectfulCare was the #1 ask in #WhatWomenWant. Listen to #WhatWomenWant & let us know how you’re taking action to ensure respectful care! www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen

Soap and clean water are vital tools in preventing disease and maintaining health. In low- and middle-income countries, one in four health facilities lack basic water services, putting patients and health providers at risk. During normal times, handwashing is key to preventing neonatal deaths and maintaining a dignified healthcare experience, during a pandemic like COVID19, it is a lifeline for midwives, healthworkers, women and newborns.

  • Join [me or organization name] in my/our commitment to ensure clean, safe toilets and health centers. By investing in #WASH, we can provide dignified birth experiences, and prevent healthcare-acquired infections for ALL patients. www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen
  • When girls lack safe access to clean water and proper sanitation, they often have to miss or drop out of school. Investing in proper menstrual waste management in schools is key to keeping girls in school, and it’s #WhatWomenWant. Take up the agenda: www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen
  • Imagine giving birth in a health center with no water - This is the reality in ¼ of health facilities in low- and middle-income countries. #WASH was the #2 response in #WhatWomenWant. How are you stepping up to deliver #WASH? www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen
  • Access to #WASH is more than a #humanright – it’s a lifeline. With #WASHinHCF, both patients and providers have tools to protect themselves against diseases and outbreaks like #COVID19. Download the #WhatWomenWant agenda and take action for #WASH today! www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen

Women asked for crucial supplies ranging from blood to gloves to unexpired drugs, and so much more—to be available when and wherever they seek care. If a hospital or clinic is not equipped with the most basic supplies, it cannot deliver the most basic care. This is exacerbated when facilities are pushed beyond their limits due to a crisis.

  • Some hospitals don’t have adequate supplies to provide basic care, leaving women to purchase their own supplies. 1.2 million women & girls demanded for medicines and supplies to be available when & where they seek care in #WhatWomenWant. Are you ready to answer their call? Join us and download the #WhatWomenWant Agenda today! www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen
  • When pregnant women come to a health facility to deliver, an adequate blood supply is essential if dire conditions arise. How are you making sure women have access to blood? 1 idea - Invest in operational blood banks. Tell us how you’re taking action! www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen
  • Basic supplies like gloves are critical in normal times, and even more crucial when emergencies like #COVID19 arise. Medicines & supplies were the #3 request in #WhatWomenWant. Take up the #WhatWomenWant agenda & let us know how you’re taking action for #WhatWomenWant! www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen

Women make up 70% of the health and social workforce globally, with the majority serving as nurses and midwives – traditionally lower paid, lower status positions – so it’s not surprising that supported nurses and midwives came in as the fourth highest demand. Meeting the needs of nurses and midwives is vital to quality maternal and reproductive health and in the global response to COVID-19, yet gender norms often contribute to deprioritizing and undervaluing these essential health workers.

  • #WhatWomenWant is more #midwives. Recruiting & retaining more midwives in underserved areas means more care options for women AND improved health outcomes. How are you taking action? www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen
  • Midwives needs are women’s needs! #WhatWomenWant is supported midwives. What does support look like? Improved working conditions, training and leadership opportunities, appropriate salaries, housing and security to name a few. How are you supporting midwives? Download the #WhatWomenWant agenda and join the conversation! www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen
  • Midwives are among the least prioritized for #PPE but are the first line of care for many women & girls during #COVID19 and beyond. #Midwives are 🔑 to quality care – and need to be protected now and always. #WhatWomenWant is supported midwives. Answer the call & take action for #WhatWomenWant! www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen

At least half of the world’s population cannot obtain essential health services, owing, in part to long distances and inadequate infrastructure. Investment in a strong primary healthcare system that delivers quality maternal and reproductive health services, close to wear women live, can transform communities. Paired with a robust referral system and functional operating and surgical theaters for higher-level care it can transform nations.

  • #WhatWomenWant are health facilities equipped to handle basic reproductive & maternal health needs. I’m listening to women and committing to [Insert how you’ll improve facilities] for women. www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen
  • Did you know: ½ of the world’s population can’t access essential health services? Underequipped and resourced facilities have rendered some vital, life-saving services unavailable to women. Investing in primary health facilities where women live is critical to ensuring women have access to care whenever and wherever they need it. An investment in facilities is an investment in women. Are you ready to take action for women? Download the #WhatWomenWant agenda and tell us how you’re taking action! www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen
  • With #COVID19 curfews & transit restrictions, some women are stopped by police while trying to seek healthcare. What can you do? Ensure essential reproductive & maternal health services are available, closest to where women and girls live. Take action at: www.whiteribbonalliance.org/join1millionwomen