Baltimore, MD—Thirty-three young midwives from around the world have been chosen to participate in an inaugural leadership symposium to strengthen their collective voice in global health decision-making and take up the mantle of developing a strong midwifery workforce worldwide.
The midwives—from innovative classroom instructors in Ethiopia and Indonesia to an enterprising entrepreneur in Pakistan and a tireless community advocate in Burkina Faso—will meet in Copenhagen on May 14 for the launch of the “Young Midwives in the Lead” symposium, taking place in advance of the global Women Deliver 2016 Conference.
Led by the United Nations Population Fund, in collaboration with Jhpiego, the International Confederation of Midwives, World Health Organization, Johnson & Johnson, H4+ and Amref Health Africa, the symposium is an intensive, three-day meeting. It will pair each young midwifery leader with experienced mentors and leading experts in global and maternal health. Together, several generations of midwives will explore ways to strengthen and improve reproductive, maternal and child health policy and care in their countries.
“We received hundreds of applications. These individuals wouldn’t have been selected if they weren’t already truly remarkable midwives,” said Peter Johnson, Jhpiego’s Director of Nursing and Midwifery. “This is an opportunity for established leaders to take a back seat and listen to what our future leaders have to say.”
Future leaders include Clara Methie, a young midwife from Zimbabwe, who says, “I am an instrument of positive change in my workplace and community. I will give more than I take and be a positive role model.” Her sentiments echo those of her fellow leaders, all of whom are aware of the numerous challenges women can face in accessing health services.
“Our work in the community is to fight against the barriers to access quality care,” said midwife Agueratou Ilboudo, from Burkina Faso, picking up on a common theme among her peers: impacting a country’s culture to ensure that everyone has unimpeded access to the health services they need. Ilboudo strives to “establish good relations with community groups and care providers, to build relationships with traditional birth attendants and traditional healers”—paving important inroads in her community.
Other young leaders have advocated for expanding the role of the midwife—beyond the maternity ward and classroom—into global health research and policy to ensure that high-quality, evidence-based interventions continue to improve health services.
Respectful maternity care was another area of emphasis. “I would love to see … women being treated with respect and dignity throughout their childbearing age,” said midwife Methie. As a clinical instructor in Zimbabwe’s Mpilo School of Midwifery, she’s in a strong position to help the country’s newest midwives adopt respectful and supportive ways to care for women.
Following the symposium, the young midwives will attend the Women Deliver Conference—a gathering of more than 5,000—and engage with colleagues, development advocates, experts and other leaders at this high-level forum. The midwives will continue in a structured mentorship program for the next 18 months, culminating in their attendance at the International Confederation of Midwives Triennial Congress in 2017.
At Jhpiego, we know that skilled midwives delivering high-quality care help ensure healthy families and thriving communities. Yet, globally, less than half of the world’s midwives serve in the countries that account for 92% of global maternal deaths. (The State of the World’s Midwifery 2014: A Universal Pathway. A Woman’s Right to Health). Bringing young midwifery leaders together to lead the charge in preventing the needless deaths of women and their families and building healthy communities are among the leading steps toward achieving our sustainable development goals.