ICM has been facilitating leadership development for young midwives for over a decade through the Young Midwifery Leaders (YML) programme. Through this programme, ICM has sought to strengthen the profession for the future, by bringing together midwives under 35 years old from low- and middle-income countries facing high maternal and infant mortality. A thread running through all the cohorts has been the energy and commitment shown by all participants, a testimony to their passion, courage and determination.
Over the years, the programme has aimed to enhance the ability of emerging leaders to gain skills and competencies that would eventually benefit their profession, their professional associations, their countries and ultimately to improve the care of women and newborns.
The YML program has embraced feedback and change, moving to online learning, with a greater focus on mentoring and the development of strong midwifery communities of practice. The program has helped give YMLs the skills to step up and speak for midwives in any forum, supporting them to develop skills in public speaking, digital and spoken storytelling, SMART advocacy, negotiation and conflict resolution, project management the role and function of.
The program has also provided opportunities for YMLs to demonstrate their leadership at the global level and harnessed the goodwill of some of our most influential midwife leaders and women’s health advocates to lend time, support and inspiration to the programme participants.
The most recent cohort (2021-23) also included Executive Midwifery Leaders (EMLs) from five YML countries to work alongside their YML and to experience the benefits of supporting a new generation of early career midwife leaders first hand.
At their recent graduation, the YMLs showcased individual projects they had implemented in their countries, each designed to improve the care of mothers and newborns and to enhance the midwifery profession.
Not stymied by hierarchy or confined to governance structures and ageist dogma, each YML found the freedom to think laterally and creatively. These projects demonstrated the innovations young people can and should champion, and reminded us that it is important to believe that anything is possible.
ICM recommends midwives’ associations include YMLs in their executive teams, to enhance and widen their own horizons for the future of midwifery and to embrace the skills and leadership competencies of their YML. We are currently developing a wider leadership strategy which will encompass midwives of all ages and settings and will revisit the YML strategy in 2024.
As lead facilitator of the past two programmes, my admiration for these remarkable young people has flourished and they have taught me much about respect, trust, confidence, integrity and more. The future is bright for midwives if we remove barriers and open our hearts and minds to young midwives in leadership.
Lead Facilitator, YML programme