THE FUTURE OF MOTHERS AND NEWBORNS IN THE BALANCE AROUND THE WORLD
June 13, 2017White Ribbon Alliance brings extraordinary African midwife advocates to global Congress in Toronto
13 JUNE 2017 | Toronto, Canada - Four thousand leading midwives from around the world meet in Toronto next week – June 18-22 – at a time when the future of global maternal and newborn health stands at a cross roads.
While new research proves that investing in midwifery is one of the most effective ways to save the lives of millions of mothers and newborns around the world, threats to sexual and reproductive health and rights, coupled with continuing stress on resources, jeopardise the unprecedented progress which has seen maternal deaths cut by half in recent years.
White Ribbon Alliance (WRA), the pioneering global advocacy network for maternal and newborn health, will be in Toronto for the International Confederation of Midwives Triennial Congress. The theme is “Midwives Making a Difference” and will gather midwifery leaders from 114 countries to speak from experience about the realities of midwifery around the world today – its challenges and triumphs.
Says Elena Ateva of White Ribbon Alliance, “Arguably the most urgent feminist cause of our time, as well a much-neglected issue of rights and social justice, the prevention of millions of deaths and injuries to girls, women and their newborns is now within our grasp. This is what motivates the extraordinary midwives who are gathering in Toronto.”
MIDWIVES NOT ONLY DELIVER BABIES; THEY ALSO DELIVER POLICY
One of the key challenges under discussion in Toronto is the invisibility of midwives – the clear majority of whom are women – in national and international corridors of power. Gender discrimination and other barriers mean that midwives are rarely at the decision-making tables where policies which impact mothers, newborns and midwives are made.
Midwives are now uniting to overcome these barriers and speak with one voice for midwifery. This year, a new Global Midwifery Advocacy group, drawn from a range of international organisations, is focussed on making midwives’ voices heard. Ten of these leading midwife advocates have spoken to WRA about their own experiences of working with governments and policy makers around the world, the successes and failures, the challenges and triumphs.
These very personal but deeply political testimonials also provide rare insight into the lives of those who have a passion for the rights of women and for reducing the world’s greatest health inequality, maternal and newborn deaths.
REMARKABLE AFRICAN MIDWIVES IN TORONTO
Imagine working for days and nights on end without a break, being solely responsible for the survival of 10, 20 or 30 birthing women and their newborns every day. And all this in a clinic without electricity, running water or essential drugs, for a wage which is not enough to feed your family.
Mtondera Eness Munthali is a White Ribbon Alliance trained citizen journalist and midwife working in the Mzuzu Health Centre in Malawi who can speak from experience about what this means. Aged 27, Mtondera is already a leading advocate who works with government leaders and communities to make sure women receive their right to a safe birth. She has already succeeded in halving the numbers of women in her District who risk birth alone at home, ensuring that at least 15 more women each month now have access to life saving care in emergencies.
Her colleague Nancy Kamwendo, a former practicing midwife and teacher of midwifery, is now National Coordinator of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood in Malawi and a leader in the fight for women’s rights to Respectful Maternity Care. Nancy recently presented Members of Parliament with the results of a survey which showed that Malawi has only 3,420 midwives, equating to one per 5,058women of reproductive age – dangerously far from the WHO recommended norm of 1 midwife per 175 women. Now WRA in Malawi is working to close that gap.
From Zimbabwe, Christina Mudokwenyu-Rawdon joins the WRA delegation. As Editor-in-Chief of the African Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, she has 35 years’ experience of supporting pregnant women and new mothers in a country suffering waves of conflict and crisis, and in 2011 was a winner of the International Confederation of Midwives Marie Gourbran Award, for demonstrating outstanding leadership potential and extraordinary commitment to childbearing women and their families.
In Toronto, Mtondera, Nancy and Christina – and more than 20 WRA members from Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe – will add their voices to those of other midwives around the world who speak from both heart and head on a range of cutting edge topics, such as:
- Why women’s rights are human rights
- How we can’t save lives without including young people
- Why accountability and citizen engagement are key to change
- How to be a midwife advocate
- Success stories of change for women
- The battle for a seat at the policy table