Empowering midwives through knowledge
The President of the Society of Midwives of South Africa (SOMSA), Busisiwe Kunene welcomed the over 300 delegates with strong words, demanding that midwives start to empower themselves. She explained that to empower the profession of midwifery, a strategy is needed because a strategy is: "to think about winning". She called on the midwives in the room to see past the many obstacles they are facing, be it lack of resources, lack of equipment, lack of manning and focus on winning because: "in every problem lies a solution". She instilled her trust in the delegates and said that she saw in each and everyone a commander, a commander that was willing and able to strategize.
The remarks of the president were followed by a keynote address by ICM's Technical Midwife Advisor Rachael Lockey titled: "Family Planning as the key to reducing maternal and neonatal mortality". Rachael presented the International Definition of a Midwife to the audience and based on this definition showed how family planning is an essential competency of a midwife. Competencies define what a midwife is expected to know and what a midwife does. To illustrate these theoretical definitions of midwives and family planning, Rachael presented three different perspectives from Australia, Tanzania and Sweden.
The highlight of the morning session was the Welcome Address by the National Health Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi. He emphasized the importance of the mother for a whole family and told a story about a family that had lost the mother in childbirth. Dr Motsoaledi said: "Midwives, the future of this country lies in your hands". He explained that the success of a country is not depending on its wealth, but rather on the health of the mothers and reminded the audience about the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). South Africa has committed to the MDGs but will not achieve them. However, the battle against maternal, newborn and child mortality will continue beyond 2015 and South Africa is launching the biggest family planning campaign in it's history as there is a very high unmet need for family planning. Last year 89'000 abortions were conducted legally and many more illegally as especially adolescents do not use the legal services provided. From the 1 million pregnancies in South Africa, 8% are girls under the age of 18 and 36% of them do not survive birth. Family planning is essential and the new campaign will not only focus on education, visibility through posters etc. but will also unveil a new family planning method.
In the afternoon the Executive Committee of SOMSA presented a memorandum to the delegates and the Chairperson of the Health Portfolio Committee at the National Assembly Dr Bevin Goqwana. Dr Goqwana commented on a few statements from the delegates and reminded the assembled midwives that it is not he, who brings the change, but the midwives themselves. Or, as decades ago the Indian independence leader Mahatma Ghandi had said: "Be the change you wish to see".
On the second day of the annual conference ICM hosted a "Helping Mothers Survive Bleeding After Birth" workshop. Thirty SOMSA delegates from all regions of South Africa attended the workshop to learn how to use the innovative birth simulator called MammaNatalie developed by Laerdal Global Health in collaboration with Jhpiego, ICM, UNFPA and FIGO. The simulator allows a very interactive learning experience and thus addresses different levels of learning. The training has been designed to reinforce existing training in basic emergency obstetric and newborn care to help learners acquire the competencies required to effectively prevent deaths from postpartum haemorrhage (PPH). All participants who had passed the training were given a MammaNatalie during the Gala Dinner to take back to their facilities to train their peers and other advocacy activities. You can see the photos here. ICM has conducted HMS BAB workshops in Malaysia, Kenya and Uganda.
On the third day of the conference ICM's Communication Manager hosted a media workshop to enhance the media skills of midwives and improve understanding of the media in order to increase chances for coverage. Media competency is often not highly developed in the skill set of midwives. However, midwives need the ability to effectively communicate and put across information convincingly, so that the public is properly informed and can include the perspective of midwives when forming its opinion. In addition, effective communication will support raising the awareness for the life-saving work midwives do and encourage positive media reporting which in turn will lead to increased respect and appreciation of midwives and their work and thus raise the profile of the profession. The participants were provided with a Media Handbook at the end of the workshop as a reference document.