From the Atlantic to the Pacific
July meant a two-week, 10,000-mile journey that took me from Europe to the Atlantic coast of South America, back to Europe and then to an island in the Pacific.
These were the venues for the ICM regional conferences of the Americas and Asia-Pacific.
I want to give you an update on both. ICM holds regional conferences between each Triennial Congress and it depends on Member Associations volunteering to be the hosts, working alongside the Board Members from the region with reference to ICM HQ. It is a huge responsibility, and a vast undertaking in the name of ICM.
The 5th ICM Americas Region Conference, 15-17 July in Suriname, was hosted by the Suriname Association of Midwives and I attended along with Board Members for the region Irene de la Torre and Sandra Oyarzo Torres.
As I approached the coastline of Suriname and flew into Paramaribo I was struck by the overwhelming sight of the broad expanse of forest – a lush carpet of green, magnificent rivers, a scattering of villages within this wonderfully preserved environment.
This was my first visit to Suriname, a country with a large rain forest yet a small population. A former Dutch colony, Suriname celebrates the five ethnic groups which make up its population; this was wonderfully illustrated and celebrated during the cultural night of the conference.
President Suze Holband and her team did a wonderful job of hosting the 200 midwives from 20 countries who participated. Other participants included FIGO’s Chief Executive and representatives from PAHO and UNFPA. They all seemed to enjoy the content and the entertainment – which took the form of The Redeemed Choir, as well as a male midwife with a most wonderful voice, and the talented midwives who performed at the cultural evening.
This was also an opportunity to meet with the regional associations - CRMA and FLO – and learn of their issues and the tremendous strides being made.
Paraguay was chosen as the venue for the 6th ICM Region conference in October 2018.
Yokohama, was the location of the 11th ICM Asia-Pacific Conference on 20-23 July. Kiyoko Okamoto, President of the Japanese Midwives Association; Suga Sagamoto, President of the Japanese Nurses Association; Masayo Takada, Chair of the Board, Japan Academy of Midwifery were the persons responsible for the organisation of this excellent event.
Her Imperial Highness Princess Akishino ‘Kiko’, a wonderful advocate, opened the very busy, packed conference with 3200 participants from 37 countries. Many research papers were presented, as well as several WHO panels, while Twinning was highlighted in several sessions with ICM facilitating a twinning workshop for Japanese and Mongolian midwives.
The regional meeting took a global view, looking at support for the Pacific beyond membership work and also what ICM is doing in the Pacific. They also shared initiatives e.g. the South Asia Midwives journal. The challenge of visibility of midwives and of midwifery as a distinct profession remains an issue for this region. And it was a lovely opportunity to meet former ICM Board members leaders, Junko Kundo and Sylvia Fung.
Though different, diverse regions, these share several issues and it was encouraging to see the incredible progress that being made to improve midwifery in both.
I was privileged to visit the famous Aiiku women and children’s hospital in Tokyo and two birth centres including the Yamamoto birth centre and had the opportunity meet midwives, students, women and newborn babies.