Bangalore Birth Network: A Bangalore based NGO Enhancing Pregnancy Experience

The Bangalore Birth Network is working to provide a better experience during your pregnancy. Their mission is to raise awareness and promote safe, respectful birth and evidence-based, mother and baby friendly care from pregnancy through postpartum for women of all socio-economic backgrounds.

“Ensuring safe and supported birth for women from all walks of life.”

This Bangalore based NGO is trying to bring a revolution in maternal healthcare segment for women. They are trying to make life easy for a pregnant woman. We got to talk to Meghana Naidu, Director of Operations. Here are the excerpts from the conversation:

Give a brief about your organization?

Bangalore Birth Network is a registered, non-profit society whose mission is to raise awareness and promote safe, respectful birth and evidence-based, mother and baby friendly care from pregnancy through postpartum for women of all socioeconomic backgrounds. We came into being in 2007 and for the last ten years we’ve played a key role in nurturing an environment where local families’ unmet need for birth support is heard and met.

We focus on

1) empowering women, families, birth professionals and health practitioners with information and support through a variety of advocacy, education, outreach and research activities,

2) raising awareness about normal physiological birth and non-evidence-based, routine procedures and their effects on maternal and newborn outcomes,

3) Promoting respectful care and women’s right to informed choice and preferences, and

4) reducing systemic discrimination and abuse of women in childbirth.

How did you start and  what problems did you face?

We started out as most groups do. We were mums and mums-to-be, professionals in the field: a midwife, a doula, a maternal health researcher, a yoga teacher /poet. We were influenced by our own birth experiences – some joyful, some painful, some yet to be realized. And we wanted more for ourselves, for the women whom we worked with, for our city, for India. We shared a hunger with women in the city for maternal health care that was more just, more humane, more focused on touch than technology. There was no master plan or blueprint.  We started with the very basic idea of passionate women and men getting together to create change. We knew firsthand birth choices were limited and mistreatment pervasive in our circle of middle and upper-middle class women. The situation was doubly bleak for women with limited resources. So we determined that if we were to improve the birth scenario in Bangalore for ourselves, we would not be satisfied until we improved it for all women regardless of class, religious background, sexual orientation, caste, etc.  And so it began.

Tell us about your founders, previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this?

The founding members of BBN come from diverse backgrounds and have more than 30 years of collective experience in safe, supported, evidence-based, mother and baby friendly care. Nora Kropp, Asha Kilaru, Paige Trabulsi and Ellen Kombiyil are some of the founders. The current team brings experiences in the for-profit world ranging from law to architecture, sales to finance.

As a core member of BBN, what keeps you awake at night?

Our one big goal is to bring about true change by changing not only the information available but also by changing the system in which women are giving birth.Changing how services are provided means changing behaviours, attitudes and practices. This amounts to changing the culture around birth. This change takes time working from different angles  -policy, advocacy, education, research. This is no small order. Additionally, we do wonder, how are we are going find sustained funding to continue the work that we’ve started?

How you manage funds?

For the longest time, we were purely voluntary. In the past few years, this has shifted. We received important seed funding from Jahnavi Nilekani which helped us a great deal in strengthening and growing the organisation. We still rely a great deal on the time and skills of volunteers, but for the first time we have a core, paid the staff that keep our initiatives moving forward.

Now we’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign, our first step towards larger fundraising effort to diversify our revenue. 40% of the funds that we raise are utilised for operations, program development and partnership building, 32% towards outreach and communications, 18% towards organisational sustainability and financial stability, and the remaining 10% for administrative, statutory and audit requirements.

Tell us how a day in your life looks like?

My day is action packed from the minute I start my work till I call it a day. Some of the key tasks we accomplish every day at BBN are

 

  • In person birth options counselling via phone calls and being the first point of contact for people who want to reach BBN for any information pregnancy to postpartum

  • Coordinating volunteer efforts, talking to volunteers, sharing success stories with them and asking for their involvement in important projects.

  • Building potential partnerships to enable our work

  • Overseeing BBN’s programs and ensuring that our programs are running effectively

 

  • Engaging with our community and talking with our 3 main audiences – birth professionals, urban families with access to the internet, and families from the lower SES.

Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?

A dynamic network is at the core of what the BBN does, and having a dedicated paid staff helps us nurture the network through intentional planning, a division of roles, and timely completion of deliverables. With staff, passionate volunteers and an active board we are building our portfolio of activities to increase our impact and be a change agent.

The Bangalore Birth Network was established by a group of volunteers – public health professionals and concerned citizens. As expectant parents searched for supportive, humane, natural birth experiences, they turned to local professionals, and the BBN was spontaneously formed.

From there, the torch was passed on in a natural way to the women who form the core working team now, who’ve claimed this space as their own, tech-savvy with social entrepreneurial spirits and social consciousness!

My search for evidence-based information regarding pregnancy and breastfeeding as a new mother led me to Bangalore Birth Network! I joined the team early in 2016. I help run the day to day activities in my role as the Director of Operations. Atheetha started out as a passionate volunteer and soon became a part of the core team, taking care of projects and outreach activities. Suma is a competent professional who was looking to get back to work and BBN gave her the right platform to join back the work-force and provide her with the perfect work-life balance. Nivetha, our grants manager, with a former career in the private sector, had been associated with various facebook support groups and BBN was a natural extension of her. Asha and Nora, our co-founders and co-directors of BBN are deeply passionate about respectful obstetric care with strong public health backgrounds. Asha is a public health researcher and Nora is a Certified Professional  Midwife.

What are your upcoming plans? where do you see your work in next 5 years?

In the next five years I hope we see leagues of doulas, an entire profession of independent midwives managing low-medium risk births, more in-home support for mothers and newborns, more India-specific research on emerging clinical questions and urgent service implementation issues, an end to the human resources shortage in the public sector, birth support networks in every city, true informed consent and accountability, access to quality care for all, and above all else, evidence-based and respectful care. The list goes on.

BBN has ten years experience in working in this field and we are sure that we can gift this to the city!

Tell us any experience when you really felt proud?

Every day is peppered with positive highlights and you know you are doing good work when you end the day with a smile on your face. There have been numerous occasions when all of us at BBN have really felt proud – the success of nurses training conducted during the World Breastfeeding Week, the launch of the Lactation Pilot Program at government hospitals, the multitude of thanks that we receive from the parents who we help, the list just goes on. All of these, time and again, prove that the steps BBN is taking are in the right direction.

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