ICM President Franka Cadée connects with Midwives' Association around the world, not only in her role with ICM but also in her employed position as the Strategy and Policy Manager with the Royal Dutch Association of Midwives (KNOV), Netherlands.
In addition to her leadership, advocacy and lobbying skills, Franka is an expert in Twinning in healthcare, with a specific interest in twinning between Midwives. Franka's PhD research into factors that influence successful Twinning will be completed in 2019. Her experience in Twinning has given her a deep understanding of the empowering strength of equity and reciprocity.
Why did you decide to become a midwife?
I was brought up and have worked in many low, middle and high income countries. My first step to study Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science was, therefore, a logical step. It was through a specialization in Medical Anthropology that I came in touch with birth and midwifery. Becoming a midwife was a life changing event for me. I totally identify myself with being a midwife, it influences every aspect of my life. Because of my understanding of the significance of midwifery for women and our societies worldwide I have become a shameless feminist.
What issues do you think impact the life of women and their newborns the most in your country?
Worldwide we have one thing in common: the way in which women are treated has a profound impact upon us as women, mothers and world citizens. Without women there is no human life, because we bear life. Women (and midwives being mainly women) and girls have the right to be treated with respect and compassion, during pregnancy, birth and of course in life in general, safety is a part of this. Mistreatment and abuse - either physically or mentally - during birth has a scarring effect not only for the women in question but it has far reaching repercussions for her as a mother, for her child and for our societies. Evidence is showing this effect more clearly now, but I think this is common sense and cannot be taken lightly. I feel passionately about this. The way we treat women at birth as well as the way society treats midwives is a direct reflection of the status of women in general in that society.
What projects currently exist in your country to support women and newborns, and do you think they are working?
In the Netherlands, there is a growing trend towards ‘centering Pregnancy' where women receive care in groups and the midwife or obstetrician has more of a coaching role. The accent of authority is explicitly moved from the care-giver to the pregnant woman. I think this is a very positive development towards real women-centered care.
What could be improved by Governments and the public to save more lives of women and newborns and support midwives in delivering high-quality, respectful maternity care?
I believe governments have the obligation to take the lead by following the evidence about optimal care during pregnancy and birth. By this, I mean anything to do with reproduction, in the widest sense of the concept to ensure healthy future generations. Governments should explicitly honor and encourage the rights of all people, so also women and girls, to decide over their own body and their own future.
What do you love most about being a midwife?
I have attended more than 1500 births, two-thirds of these births have been at home because in the Netherlands women have the right to safe home birth. Being at a birth is I think the most profound thing I have ever experienced - possibly even more than my giving birth to my own three children - because when you attend a birth you become a witness. Seeing a woman trust herself, coping with the greatness of what is happening with her. Knowing that I have the skill, intellectually and emotionally, to guide her.
A good birth does not necessarily mean a home birth, a good birth is a birth where the women decides, and where she receives the right information at the right time to make the right decisions with those she trusts for herself and her baby. This can mean that she might also have a Caesarian Section. Being a witness to this process and standing next to a woman is such a privilege and what I love about being a midwife.
What progress is happening in your country, region, community or even just in your own professional life that excites you about the future of midwifery?
Worldwide we are increasingly aware of the impact of respectful care and the human rights of women and girls. We understand the connection between care that is “too much, too soon” and “too little, too late”. To be part of the same phenomenon which is that all women have a right to the appropriate care at the appropriate time where they take the lead themselves. I see a movement toward care in the community and a move away from the Biomedical model (where the medical professional stand at the center of care) to a Psycho-social model of care (where the client stands at the center of care). I find this very encouraging.