In Kenya, midwives are finally getting long overdue recognition and support—thanks to the voices of women and midwives alike. In 2022, the government launched a first-ever policy recognizing and incorporating midwifery in Kenya. Although midwives and nurses make up the vast majority of the health workforce in Kenya, government policies and investments often undervalue and undercompensate midwives – or worse, exclude them altogether.
To change this picture, advocates married the voices of women demanding more and better supported midwives with 3,500+ demands from midwives themselves about what they want most to support their work. They organized workshops and “listening exercises” to give midwives a safe space to speak out and to develop collective advocacy goals and strategies.
Several of the midwives that participated in these activities were influential members of the taskforce that developed the national policy and directly shaped its contents in accordance with women’s and midwives’ demands. Specifically, the policy calls for increased supplies and facility-level investments to enable midwives to deliver quality care, strengthened education, better renumeration, and professional development pathways for the midwifery workforce.
The power of midwives’ voices cannot be understated – just six months after the policy launched, we’re already seeing key progress toward clarifying and expanding midwives’ scope of practice. The launch of this policy serves as an important first step to lay a foundation towards a sustainable future for the midwifery profession and brings quality and safe care within the reach of more women, girls and newborns.
Advocacy training and the listening exercise gave me the confidence to speak up and demand that midwives be given their rights back. I was afraid in the past and did not know where to start or who to go to. I feel that now midwives have the power to own their problems and demand solutions from those who make decisions.—Mark Katumila, midwife champion, Kilifi County