Advocacy, Association, Education, Leadership

Young Midwife Leaders Programme

ICM, Johnson & Johnson, New Venture Fund

The Young Midwife Leaders (YML) Programme is a part-time, two-year learning and professional development experience for 15 early-career midwives and 5 executive midwives from ICM’s member associations (MAs). The programme is designed to empower young midwives to become politically conscious and involved in strengthening the midwifery profession.

The programme aims to:

  1. nurture the next generation of midwives by building young midwives’ skills, knowledge and confidence in leadership and advocacy
  2. strengthen Midwives’ Associations globally
  3. build a global community among young midwives to foster support and learning and create opportunities for research, innovation, and advocacy
  4. position and equip Young Midwife Leaders as advocates for the midwifery profession, as well as for sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and human rights more broadly
  5. empower young midwives to address some of the biggest global health challenges of today

An added feature of the YML programme is the Executive Midwife Leaders (EML) training aimed at MA executives, and fostering inter-generational collaboration. As part of this pilot, EMLs can familiarise themselves with the YML programme by undergoing training, mentoring and other activities along with YML participants.

Our aim is to inspire young midwife leaders to become a voice for midwives, to be fearless, to find ways to be seen and heard where no one wants to listen, and to listen to women wherever they are.

— Ann Yates, YML Lead Midwife Facilitator

Through the programme, YML’s have the opportunity to learn about ICM as the global leader for the midwifery community through ICM’s online learning platform, and facilitated online discussions with ICM leaders. The acquired knowledge helps YMLs to build their capacity to advocate and communicate about the benefits of midwife-led care and the importance of ICM’s professional framework with any stakeholders, in any forum.

Throughout the programme, YMLs and EMLs have the opportunity to participate in storytelling activities including the five-day Girls Globe Digital Storytelling Programme, which has proved to be a successful forum in teaching midwives how to tell their stories in an impactful and engaging way. In addition, participants benefit from ICM’s advocacy workshops, including on SMART Advocacy.

As part of the programme, YMLs work on a solo project initiative in their own country and are provided with a small amount of seed funding to carry it out. YMLs are also encouraged to create a group project to harness the power of collective thinking and teamwork. This, in turn, allows them to demonstrate, highlight and harness their leadership skills within a group setting and learn and demonstrate collaborative communication and negotiation skills.

The group dynamic in the YML/EML Programme establishes a strong community of practice, and a safe forum for discussion and support. Many former YMLs continue to engage with ICM as YML Alumni. The alumni have offered their support for mentoring new YMLs, have engaged in the promotion of the programme and now continue to assist the new participants to develop their own community of practice, by establishing a formal purpose statement and process for communication.

YMLs at the International Normal Labour and Birth Research Conference in Denmark
YMLs at the RESPECT Workshop in Namibia

Success stories

At completion of the programme, YMLs have developed a stronger sense of their own capabilities, and many have already begun engaging in regional projects with their midwives’ associations.  ICM now employs two YML graduate midwives whose specific skills and knowledge have been an asset to ICM.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic many of the YMLs were proactively discussing the impact of the pandemic in global forums highlighting and raising the voices of midwives wherever possible. Their candid accounts of what was occurring not only during the pandemic but during humanitarian crises such as floods, war and civil unrest have been harrowing.

YML status has provided some participants with credibility and a platform to attract resources to initiate much needed in country projects.

Ashu Martha from Cameroon

received a prestigious Goalkeeper award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2023 for her advocacy to keep student midwives engaged in training in her home country of Cameroon.  

Mahfuja Jhumu from Bangladesh

has worked through layers of bureaucracy to establish a system of midwife led care to ensure women have access to essential laboratory investigations in pregnancy. 

YMLs in Nigeria and Uganda

have focused on instituting systems of training midwives on the importance of Respectful Maternity care.

A YML in Zambia

worked to engage rural communities in antenatal care so they could support women to have safe care with skilled health workers.

Silvia Hamata

from Namibia stood in a bid to become president of ICM in 2023 and missed by a very narrow margin.

YMLs in Burundi and Haiti

recognised the power of media and have established systems to engage other midwives in being able to participate in online learning or to use media to reach women in times of crisis.