As we well know, saving women's lives depends on access to family planning and other reproductive health services, quality care during and immediately after pregnancy and childbirth, emergency obstetric care to deal with complications, and immediate postnatal care for mothers and newborns. But, as UNFPA notes, it's also important to have a deep understanding of the cultural influences that impact the reproductive health choices people make. For example, despite the availability of skilled birth attendants and hospital services in Narathiwat, a southern province in Thailand, about 10 per cent of women there still prefer to deliver at home with traditional birth attendants, some with tragic consequences. The need for this cultural sensitivity is the theme of UNFPA's State of World Population Report 2008.
“Numerous factors prevent people from accessing and using the services they need, even if they are available,” says Mr. G. Giridhar, the UNFPA representative in Thailand. “Barriers can include gender stereotypes and women’s reluctance to use facilities with which they feel they have no cultural connection. Culturally sensitive programming is crucial to the work of development agencies like the UNFPA, which aims to promote reproductive health and rights in the broader context of human rights.”