Back 17 June 2016

Many miles in May


May is usually a busy month in the ICM calendar. This year was no different - the International Day of the Midwife (IDM) on May 5th - the day when all midwives across the world join all the women and families that they care for to celebrate all that is good about midwifery; and the World Health Assembly are annual fixtures. A converegnce of the bi-annual WHO, Government Chief Nurses and Midwives, the 6th Triad meeting (WHO, ICN, ICM) along with the 4th Women Deliver Conference and the ICM Southern Europe Region Conference made May manic.

Abuja, Nigeria 3-7th May

For this year’s IDM, I attended the inaugural international midwifery conference in Abuja organised by our Inaugural Global Goodwill Ambassador, H.E Toyin Saraki's Wellbeing Foundation Africa and the Nigerian National Nurses and Midwives Association. The 2016 theme, "Women and New-born: The Heart of Midwifery", captured the essence of the importance of midwives and midwifery; it was perfect for highlighting the compelling evidence that midwives save lives. The conference focused on learning, including technical learning sessions; and provided an opportunity for midwives, nurses and other healthcare professionals to update their midwifery knowledge and skills; recognising the importance of key practice areas that contribute toward saving lives. The key speakers in the sessions included, Professor Jacqui Dunkley-Bent, Margaret Richardson (England), Dr. Ginger Breedlove (President ACNM), Diaspora Nigerian Midwives, Dr. Comfort Momoh and Kate Anolue with whom I had worked in London. 


International speakers standing in solidarity with Nigerian midwives and other health practitioners (photo courtesy of Wellbeing Foundation Africa)

Nigeria is known to account for 19% of the global maternal deaths. In my keynote address, I repeated the three key IDM messages:

1. Every woman should have access to a midwife

2. Midwives care for women with skill and compassion

3. The best partnership for a pregnant woman is with a qualified midwife

I also urged the government to do more to improve maternal and child health, by empowering midwives. I was delighted when H.E Dogara, representative of the First Lady Mrs. Buhari, delivered her positive message that she would "partner with midwives in Nigeria to reduce maternal and perinatal death." It was a pleasure to meet the many midwives, students and dignitaries who attended the conference. 

Stephen Sobhani Wellbieng Nigeria IDM

Photo with Stephen Sobhani (c) CEO Well-Being Foundation, key speakers, Permanent Secretary Lagos State and members of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives Association (Photo courtesy of Welbeing Foundation)

Gothenburg, Sweden 11-13th May

After a few days at home, I travelled to Gothenburg for the 20th triennial Nordic Federation of Midwives Conference, organized by the Swedish Midwives Association. I joined Ingela Wiklund, ICM Board Member and 800 midwives on the theme - Midwives4all.  It was impressive: the seamless organisation, hospitality, diverse entertainment, high calibre of presentations and audience participation signaled a strong, scientific profession able to deal with the emerging challenges.

Gothenburg 20th triennial Nordic midwives conference

Photo with Mia Ahlberg, President Swedish Midwives Association and Hildur Kristjánsdóttir, President Nordisk Jordemorforbund

Copenhagen, Denmark 13-19th May

Then it was onto Copenhagen, Denmark to participate in the 4th Women Deliver Global Conference. International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), in collaboration with other partners, organized a “Young Midwives in the Lead” pre-conference symposium; 33 amazing young midwives from around the world participated. One of the objectives was to showcase how investments in Young Midwifery Leaders (YML) can improve quality care within midwifery and to highlight the importance of investment in research, advocacy, mentorship and leadership skills of YML.

ICM is grateful to Lillian Bondo, President of the Danish Midwives Association that played a key role in the background work with UNFPA, in organising accomodation, hosting the training day, welcoming the YMLs and a wonderful evening reception. 


Group photo with Young Midwifery Leaders

My opening remarks outlined, “what we are doing here today is creating a global network of Young Midwife Leaders to serve as a forum for exchanging good practices and innovations." It is also for scalling up midwifery and in improving quality of midwifery care to enable the young midwives to have a wider impact across the entire health and social care system.

As part of the Health Systems as Employers Cluster concurrent sessions at Women Deliver, I organised along with Jim Campbell (WHO), Maxine Eber, PSI and spoke in the session titled – “Acting on the Unmet Need for Midwifery Personnel”.  Speakers included Feroza Mushtari - Afghanistan Midwives Association, Agnes Soucat - WHO Director of Health Financing and Governance, Luc De Bernis - Independent consultant, Reproductive, Maternal and New-born Health and Eva Nangalo - Midwife from Nakaseke Hospital, Uganda. High-level political advocacy with policy makers, governments and opinion leaders is needed to ensure suitable recruitment, education, regulation and retention of midwives.


The Vice President, Address Malata (l) and Chief Executive Frances Ganges (c) also attended the Women Deliver Conference.

Geneva, Switzerland 20-22 May

Third week of May saw me in Geneva at the sixth Triad Meeting, WHO ,ICN and ICM  speaking on a ‘Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals’ to Chief Government Nurses and Midwives from 60 countries. ICM was also represented by Chief Executive, Frances Ganges an Board Members, Sue Bree and Dr. Jemima Denis-Antwi.  

Tarragona, Spain 25-30 May

The end of the month took me to the ICM Southern Eurpoean Region (SER) Meeting, which comprises of the following member associations - Cyprus, Greece, Iran, Italy, Malta, Palestine, Portugal, Macedonia, Spain, Turkey, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates. Dr. Rita Borg-Xuereb, ICM Board Member, chaired the successful pre-conference meeting attended by 6 of the 13 associations; who discussed relevant issues and prepared for Council 2017. 


Group photo with SER representatives and ICM Board Member Rita Borg- Xuereb.

Later on, at 2nd ICM SER Conference, I joined midwives from around the world, at the “Listening to Women thinking as Midwives” conference organized by Federación de Asociaciones de Matronas de Espana (FAME) and the Catalan Midwives.  

In my keynote address I described the theme as profound what women want gets to the heart of communication and challenges the skills that we midwives must possess. I stressed the importance of midwifery political leadership in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Strategy for Women's, Children and Adolescent Health. 


ICM Board Member, Rita Borg- Xuereb (r) and President of FAME, Cristina Martinez listening to opening remarks. 

There were more than 1,000 participants - midwives and 280 students. Over 500 abstracts oral and posters accepted and presented, punctuated by powerful debates. 

This was a unique experience. From the colorful conference bags to the special commisioned  mural designed for the conference by ceramist Marc Alos, reflecting the sea in its different tones and shades, the collective of midwives as custodians of women's health and the fish symbolising the union, solidarity of midwives, graced the stage. Individual tiles were presented to each speaker and chair, taking a little piece of Tarragona with them. 

Aquatic mural Tarragona

Aquatic mural specially designed for the conference graced the stage

It was a busy month indeed with five countires visited and almost 10,000 air miles travelled in celebration of midwives and midwifery at the heart of women and children. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 


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International Day of the Midwife