WASHINGTON, D. C. — Throughout the Women Deliver conference, and the Symposium on Strengthening Midwifery that preceded it, the critical importance of midwives to meeting the safe motherhood challenge was emphasized. Here, midwives and advocates from eight countries talk about their work, the challenges they face and what they need in order to save more women’s lives.
Ms. Fredrica Enyowam Hanson, Midwife and Maternal Health Advisor, UNFPA Ghana
“I want all midwives to understand how great they are, and what an impact they have on the health of mothers and babies. When midwives understand this, they can do even more. I came to this Symposium to be part of the empowerment I’m seeking and to learn more tools from others who have been able to influence their governments to push the midwifery agenda forward."
Ms. Mallavarapu Prakasamma, Director, Academy for Nursing Studies, India, also representing the Alliance of Midwifery Associations of South Asia
“I hope the participants from around the world felt the strength we represent, and used this opportunity to build alliances. In South Asia regional collaboration and associations have become crucial for success. We face many similar problems and can help each other find solutions through South-South cooperation, with support from UNFPA, ICM [the International Confederation of Midwives] and others. I hope they will focus even more on South Asia, lend us moral and educational support in our work to strengthen midwifery. Finally I hope the Symposium leads to more action, now that we have agreed on what to do.”
Ms. Agnes Jacobs, Midwife and Maternal Health Advisor, UNFPA Haiti
“The positive message I want to share from Haiti is that it is possible to cut maternal mortality rates by using more, well-educated midwives. We have a pilot project going in a commune that has now reached zero maternal mortality. The key was to respond to the needs of the women, to educate many more midwives and work together with partners and the government. The challenge ahead is to scale up in other communes as well.”
Ramziah Ahmad, President, Malaysian Nurses’ (and Midwives’) Association
“I came to learn from others and share our progress. I want to use examples of others to benchmark Malaysia–understand what we do well and what could be done better–in our talks with Ministers and other stakeholders. In general, I believe that midwives need more role models, mentors, leadership skills, and closer teamwork in our fight for quality education, etc. The Symposium was also a fabulous global networking opportunity. I hope this is only the first in a series of global meetings to strengthen midwifery.”
Mr. Drissa Ouedraogo, Midwife, Burkina Faso
“This Symposium helped us establish a new vision for midwifery: To identify common challenges, and how to overcome them to strengthen midwifery. I work at a district referral hospital but I do a lot of community outreach. We need to make sure women seek care. Although maternal health is not entirely free in my country, women only have to pay 20 per cent of the cost. I also want to encourage more men to become midwives. I’m proud of my job.”
Ms. Gunilla Essner, Initiator of the Global Midwifery Program, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
“It seems like the world is slowly realizing that women’s lives are worth more. For the past 15 years, I’ve been working to strengthen midwifery. Now we are beginning to see the results as more midwives dare to speak up about their needs and demand quality education and training so they can provide quality care and save more lives. The Symposium showed the establishment process in the making, and worked as a communication channel for midwives.”
— Reported by Asa Hildestrand, photographs by Moises Saman