In September, ICM Young Midwife Leaders (YMLs) and Executive Midwife Leaders (EMLs) traveled from their respective home countries to Aarhus, Denmark to attend the International Normal Labour and Birth Research Conference (NLNB22). For many of the young midwives, it was the first time they had traveled so far from home, and some completed journeys over 30 hours long in order to attend the global event.
The YMLs’ and EMLs’ attendance at NLNB22 brought a diverse range of topics and perspectives to each session and inspired great personal and team development. Attendance at global midwifery conferences is an important aspect of learning for YMLs and EMLs; Meeting in-person and having the opportunity to speak about their work in public forums cements the team dynamic and forms strong bonds within their community of practice.
#NLNB22: Challenging Discussions in Normal Labour and Birth
The International NLNB22 Conference in Aarhus, Denmark hosted participants from 39 different countries and concentrated on the theme, ‘Challenging Discussions in Normal Labour and Birth.’
The theme of physiological labour and birth was explored through informative, passionate keynote and concurrent sessions, focusing on topics such as respectful and inclusive care, rising cesarian section rates, the policy and narratives surrounding home birth, and how to create positive birth experiences and outcomes. Outside of the formal sessions, YMLs and EMLs had the opportunity to network with professionals from the world of midwifery and maternal, new-born and child health and beyond, as the conference hosted guests from various medical disciplines.
On the final day of the conference, YML Ashu Martha of Cameroon was invited to sit on a closing session panel alongside Conference Chairperson Rikke Damkjær Maimburg, and speakers Kamilla Gerhard Nielson, Hannah Dahlen and Indie Kaur.
“I just wanted to say thank you on behalf of the Young Midwife Leaders,” said Ashu Martha while on the panel. “It’s my first time being in such a diverse crowd of midwifery experts from across the world, and it’s really a pleasure. The experience we have had here, we are promising to spread it across everywhere we go.”
Building a Community of Practice
While at the conference, ICM YMLs and EMLs took their first face-to-face meeting as an opportunity to work together to develop their own Community of Practice in a workshop led by YML alumni and mentors Nayiga Harriet & Bartholomew Kamlewe.
The session helped YMLs and EMLs identify their respective leadership qualities and develop team systems to work together and bring out the best in one another. Through the development of the community of practice, the group came up with team roles and responsibilities, potential in-country activities, and leadership principles to abide by. Leadership qualities and principles that emerged through discussion included courage, empathy, humility, determination, and intention.
“The Community of Practice workshop was a great opportunity for us to meet each other and ICM staff in-person and build strong, professional bonds,” said ICM YML from Burundi, Augustin Harushimana. “We were able to discuss our respective challenges in midwifery in our countries, and that gave us strength to continue.”
A workshop on in-country advocacy with Geeta Lal of UNFPA
Geeta Lal, Midwifery Programme Advisor with UNFPA, took time from her own attendance at NLNB22 to lead an exclusive session with YMLs and EMLs on in-country advocacy.
Geeta gave YMLs tips on how to connect with UNFPA representatives in their own countries and gave careful consideration to each question regarding partnership and advocacy. She explored how to collect and leverage data for advocacy, various case studies in midwifery advocacy strategy, and how midwives’ associations should use documentation of their own activities and progress in their advocacy. She also provided advice on youth leadership, particularly around engaging with older colleagues and executives.
“You must show humility and respect in order to earn respect as a leader,” she said.
YML Hanifatur Rosyidah from Indonesia said she learned a great deal about advocacy from the workshop. “There are two important things that should be prioritised as a leader in midwifery:” she said, recounting her takeaways from the session. “A strategic approach and ensured sustainability.”
Hanifatur said was so inspired by the session that she immediately made plans to document the need for more supported midwives in Indonesia in a blog post.
Thank you to Geeta Lal and ICM partner UNFPA for imparting such critical knowledge and experience to the young midwives of the YML Programme.
Co-innovation Midwifery Education Workshop with Laerdal Global Health
While at NLNB22, ICM YMLs and EMLs participated in a Co-innovation Midwifery Education Workshop led by Laerdal Global Health, during which they tested and gave feedback on MamaBirthie, Laerdal’s training model for birth assistants.
The best part? Three lucky YML/EMLs were able to take MamaBirthies home to their midwives’ associations. EML Agnes Mwafulirwa of Zambia was one of these lucky recipients.
“The MamaBirthie model is very important model to have because it can be used to demonstrate all procedures in all almost all the stages of labour.” said Agnes. “When l found out that I had won this model I was so overjoyed, because I did not expect it, but I really wanted this model for our association back in Zambia.”
The model will allow midwives to practice maneuvers and skills such as vaginal or abdominal examination, normal deliveries, vacuum extraction deliveries, shoulder dystocia and breech presentation, and train students to recognize potential complications, respond appropriately, and ensure safe patient care.
Thank you to Anna af Ugglas and Laerdal Global Health for sharing this invaluable tutorial with our YMLs in Aarhus and for providing them with the opportunity to share it with their own associations back home.
A long-awaited celebration of resilience and unity
Since the beginning of the 2021-23 programme, ICM’s YMLs and EMLs have been working together remotely—from Indonesia all the way to Zambia—and have done an extraordinary job of building connection and community from a distance. At NLNB22, these efforts at relationship-building culminated in an enthusiastic demonstration of solidarity and friendship through dance.
The Jerusalema dance proved to unite the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, the up-tempo gospel track providing “a moment’s relief across borders and language barriers,” and inspiring a viral dance challenge online. ICM’s YMLs brought this energetic choreography to NLNB22, sharing their dance skills and joie de vivre with NLNB22 attendees at the conference’s dinner reception. The young leaders’ dance inspired and moved conference participants with an overall message of hope, resilience and unity for the global community of midwives.
Many thanks to Rikke Damkjær Maimburg, the International Normal Labour and Birth Research Conference steering committee, the event organizers, Johnson and Johnson, and our dear partners for providing such a fruitful, memorable experience to ICM’s Young Midwife Leaders.
ICM remains committed to ensuring that YMLs have opportunities to observe midwifery leadership, debates, and discussions on a global stage and meet key funders and partners involved in sexual maternal newborn adolescent reproductive health.
Watch the video recap of the YMLs trip to NLNB22