Message on International Women's Day 2017
On 8 March, International Women’s Day, The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) calls attention to the preventable deaths of more than 287,000 women who die while giving birth, those left with morbidities and 2.7 million newborns who die within the first 28 days of life and those who die because they have no mothers. Midwives play a vital role in reducing these deaths but many face significant barriers to providing this essential care. The ICM calls attention to the working lives of midwives, the majority of whom are women, who experience gender discrimination, disrespect and inequitable work conditions. The world needs more midwives who are educated and regulated to international standards, are paid fairly and equally to other health professionals and have safe and enabling working conditions within health systems that recognize midwives’ worth and enable them to practice effectively.
The 2017 theme: “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”; makes us reflect on progress made and to call for change and improvement on midwifery policies in many countries. The recent report “Midwives’ Voices, Midwives’ Realities” by ICM, WHO and WRA reveals that too often midwives’ efforts are constrained by unequal power relations within the health systems. Many midwives also face socio-cultural isolation, unsafe accommodation and low salaries. This inequity cannot continue.
ICM believes it is time to remove the barriers, provide stronger advocacy around midwives and midwifery and provide professional support including opportunities for midwifery leadership. It is time for governments to invest in midwives, recognize the value of midwives, provide stronger midwifery education and regulatory environments; and ensure better working conditions for midwives within enabling health service environments.
We echo the statement made by the UN Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka that women should raise their voices in framing solutions to overcome current barriers to women’s participation in different economic, social and political forums. This resonates with what we would like midwives to do – raise their voices on their solutions to poor wages with little or no social protection, better working conditions, and involvement in policy forums.
Midwives have a key role to play in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 3 related to Health and Well-Being and Goal 5 related to achieving gender equality and empower all women and girls.
“Just as we are all committed to the highest quality care for all women, newborns and their families, so must we be united in our fervor to ensure that the midwifery workforce is supported by quality education, regulation, and safe working conditions. Midwives must be respected, compensated and valued as equally as other professionals."
ICM Chief Executive