The Reproductive Health Services Training and Education Program (RHSTEP)was evolved through a gradual government process for providing services to the womenfolk in their menstruation related health needs. The main objectives of foundation of RHSTEP also include addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of both women and men, girls and boys.
In 1983 MRTSP (Menstrual Regulation Training and Services Program) was formed as a special project of the Government of Bangladesh to improve skills of service providers through training; establishing service points in public hospitals for Menstrual Regulation (MR) and its complications management.
Since then, MRTSP and now RHSTEP has made a significant progress towards keeping the promise of improving Sexual & Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) situation in Bangladesh. RHSTEP has established a five prong SRHR program implementation strategy that includesa. Capacity development; b. SRHR Services; c. Demand Creation; d. Advocacy and e. Research.
Widespread geographical presence of RHSTEP ensures the timely response to people’s SRHR needs. Currently, we are available in 21 districts scattered throughout all eight divisions of the country. Our program is networked through 26 centers including 12 public medical college hospitals; 09 general and district hospitals; 01 maternity clinic in Dhaka and 04 “AlorDharaPathshala” (youth friendly and young people focused resource center) in different districts of the project area.
To ensure quality sexual and reproductive health (SRH) service provision, RHSTEP has trained near about 26,000 health service providers on different sexual and reproductive health concerns including Doctors, Paramedics, Nurses, Midwives, FWVs, SACMOs mainlyfromdifferent directorates of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of Government of Bangladesh alongside a good number of trainees from NGO and private spheres.
Every year around 600,000 people are reached through RHSTEP’s SRHR services and information sharing initiatives in the project area. To promote better service seeking behavior and psychological readiness, trained counselors of RHSTEP provided counseling service to nearly 1.7 million clients. Our highly skilled and experienced service providing teams performed more than 1.5 million menstrual regulation (MR) services and 1,05,000 post abortion care (PAC) services at countrywide service delivery points to minimize the burden and complications of unsafe abortion of women in need. To uphold the vision of planned population and development, approximately 02 million family planning methods and counseling support was provided to women and men at reproductive age. Around 2,50,000 mothers have chosen RHSTEP for their antenatal, delivery and postnatal care services.Almost 2,00,000 women received obstetric and gynecological care from our clinics. RHSTEP is also promoting secondary prevention of reproductive organ cancer screening by providing cervical and breast cancer screening services. Over 1,30,000 women were screened for cervical cancer through pap smear test and 2,60,000 women received manual breast screening support. Apart from SRH services, near about 02 million diagnostics and 3, 35,000 general health care support was rendered in the catchment areas. Our service provision is not solely clinic oriented, it ranges in school, community and garments factories as well, where approximately 11,17,000 people were served with different health services.
RHSTEP’s demand creation activities reached almost 09 million people of the project area with different SRHR information, education and awareness building materials, Interpersonal and mass communication methods.
RHSTEP is advocating for SRHR since its inception. Through RHSTEP and its network partners’ advocacy the gestation period for MR services increased up to 12 weeks from 10 weeks. On the other hand, a national guideline was also developed in this regard by the Ministry of Health and family welfare. RHSTEP was closely associated in clinical trial of MR medicines and introduction of MRM kit in Bangladesh. Government also included Nurses for MR training as new cadre of MR Service providers.
RHSTEP is contributing in the realm of SRHR knowledge through conducting related research.The research of RHSTEP is focused on understanding the country situation and improving its programming. Recently, RHSTEP conducted a research titled “Cervical Cancer Prevention Practice among Slum Women in Dhaka city” to understand cervical cancer preventive knowledge, attitude and practices among women living in lower resource settings.
Finally, we are grateful for the enormous support of the Government of Bangladesh throughout our journey. We are especially thankful to Royal Swedish Embassy for supporting us for more than three decades.Wehave also received fund from Royal Netherlands Embassy and supported by differentorganizations across the globe to our causes. Our heartiest gratitude to all of them too.We hope our development partners shall remain with us to continue our activism for ending violence against women and empowering womenfor their body rights that we have started since 1983.
Research Officer, RHSTEP