White Ribbon Alliance

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Why it Matters: Advocating for Midwives

August 3, 2015
By Lilia Carasciuc, Communication and Outreach Manager, White Ribbon Alliance Global Secretariat

In Western Tanzania, Elvina Makongolo is a midwife at Mtowisa Health Centre. She works around the clock to give pregnant women the care they need. She knows all too well the risks these women face in giving birth so far away from the lifesaving equipment required in emergencies.

White Ribbon Alliance is making sure the world knows how crucial midwives like Elvina Makongolo are in saving the lives of mothers and newborns. Yet all too often, midwives work in substandard conditions, for small salaries, and are trapped in a vicious circle of low public regard and poor performance. We are supporting midwives around the world to advocate for their profession, changing the public’s perception of their work and pushing for improvements in pay and working conditions so that their vital role is recognized and justly rewarded.

As a result of our campaign in Malawi, the Minister of Health committed to develop a strategy for increasing the number of professional midwives; to work with Malawi’s directorate of human resources to develop a career path for midwives; and to include in the next national budget funding for research to determine the number of midwives in the country. Following our campaign in Tanzania, Prime Minister Pinda directed all district councils to allocate an adequate budget for human resources to support comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care. Because of citizen advocacy in Uganda, the government provided an 18% salary increase for enrolled midwives and nurses, as well as a 13% salary increase for registered midwives.

In many other countries, midwives face extraordinary staffing shortages, inadequate medical supplies, and public scrutiny. To address these challenges, we are sharing our lessons learned in citizen empowerment and advocacy, hoping to help others spark change. Only then can we recruit, train, employ and retain the skilled maternal health workforce so urgently needed to prevent deaths in childbirth.

White Ribbon Alliance formed over a decade ago to give a voice to the women at risk of dying in childbirth. Our mission is to inspire and convene advocates who campaign to uphold the right of all women to be safe and healthy before, during and after childbirth. We help citizens recognize their rights and hold their governments to account for commitments made to maternal and newborn health.