(New York) - A video about the life and death of an Indian mother won a Webby People's Voice Award, Human Rights Watch said today. The story of Kiran Yadav, a 25-year-old who bled to death while delivering her third child, was produced by Human Rights Watch with the renowned Magnum photojournalist Susan Meiselas.
"We're delighted to have won a Webby and we're dedicating the award to Kiran Yadav and to expectant mothers around the world who face needless, sometimes fatal, risks in pregnancy and childbirth," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Mother's Day is coming up in the US so it's a good time for the Obama administration to step up the financial and technical aid that can cut maternal death rates."
Around 700,000 votes were cast in the Webby People's Voice Awards, and it is a tremendous honor to be recognized by the online community and the supporters who got out the vote for the video, "In Silence." It won for Documentary: Individual Episode.
More than 340,000 women and girls around the world are estimated to have died in 2008 from pregnancy and childbirth, according to a study recently released by the medical journal The Lancet. Other estimates put the death rate higher. Governments have pledged to cut those numbers, but many have yet to take simple steps, such as tracking the numbers and causes of maternal deaths, that would solve some fatal healthcare problems.
Human Rights Watch is urging donor countries, like the United States, and international agencies to provide technical and financial assistance to help governments investigate maternal deaths and combat maternal mortality while also promoting women's human rights.
A Human Rights Watch investigation into maternal deaths in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where Yadav died, showed that implementing basic human rights is crucial to combating maternal deaths. Despite government efforts to improve the health system, Human Rights Watch found a series of failings that exposed the government's lack of action on women's basic human rights to life, health, and non-discrimination. For instance, officials do not properly record the numbers of women who die because of pregnancy or childbirth. Nor do they respond as they should to families with grievances about the system.
The authorities are taking steps to improve access to maternal health care, but many problems remain that cannot be attributed to a lack of resources. The Uttar Pradesh government fails to spend millions of healthcare dollars each year. Human Rights Watch has urged the government to use its resources to investigate the causes of maternal deaths, track all pregnancy outcomes, and monitor access to emergency obstetric care. Human Rights Watch also recommended the creation of a system for women and their families to register complaints and receive justice, and the development of early response systems, including telephone hotlines for health emergencies.
"We hope the Webby award will encourage people to watch the video and then help us to spread the message that we can prevent so many women from dying in childbirth," Roth said.
Human Rights Watch and Meiselas will be honored at the Webby Awards Gala in New York on June 14, 2010. Hailed as the "Internet's highest honor" by the New York Times, The Webby Awards are the leading international award honoring excellence on the internet, including websites, interactive advertising, online film and video, and mobile websites. The Webby Awards are presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a 650-person judging academy whose members include Martha Stewart, R/GA's chief, Bob Greenberg, David Bowie, Arianna Huffington, and Twitter's Biz Stone.