Editorial: Global Alliance of Midwives
by Jan Tritten
© 1999 Midwifery Today, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
[Editor's note: This editorial first appeared in Midwifery Today Issue 51, Autumn 1999.]
Without a doubt, the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM)
is a fine organization. It has successfully brought midwives together
from all around the globe. It has accomplished a lot to make motherhood
safe worldwide and I'm certain that it will continue to affect the world
in a positive way on behalf of mothers and babies. It represents the Western
model well, having grown out of the British tradition of midwifery.
The needs of midwives globally are too great and too varied, however,
to be represented by just one organization. Midwives need to regularly
share their insights, inspiration and work. The encouragement we receive
from each other is germane to spreading the midwifery model. As well,
ICM's requirement that only organizations can become members does not
acknowledge and support individual midwives. Many countries cannot belong
because their midwifery does not fit the restrictive ICM Western definition
of a midwife. Alternative organizations in some countries serve to strengthen
midwifery by meeting the needs of both midwives and mothers; for example,
Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA)
in the United States, Association of Radical Midwives (ARM)
in the United Kingdom, and Germany's independent midwives association
all help move natural birth forward. These organizations serve many practitioners
well, to be sure, but their scope is not global.
Because the Western model isn't the only or necessarily the best representation
of midwifery, I propose the formation of an alternative organization,
something like the Global Alliance of Midwives or the Global Coalition of
Midwives. A larger circle needs to be drawn that includes everyone. The
new organization's mission statement would be based on embracing diversity—differences
need to be celebrated, not condemned. Dispatching the troops from all
corners of the globe will move goodbirth forward. What a difference we
can make when we all do everything we can from our sphere of influence,
loved and encouraged by each other.
and Authoritative Knowledge, edited by Robbie-Davis Floyd, is an excellent
book on open and closed systems of thought related to birth and is a must
read for all midwives, educators, physicians and others trying to understand
their own cultural biases. It exposes the limitations of our own thinking
and shows how the dominant system of thought in any culture overtakes
others as the "right" way. Davis-Floyd uses the Western medical
model as a good example. Bridget Jordan pioneered these ideas in her book,
in Four Cultures. In the Introduction it is said of Jordan, "She
analyzed each culture's birth ways as a system that made internal sense
and could be compared with all other systems-a holistic conceptualization
that enabled her to avoid reifying any one system, including American
biomedicine. Jordan made it clear that the wholesale exportation of the
American system of birth to the Third World was having extremely detrimental
effects on indigenous systems, reminding us that these systemic effects
were also individual and personal, felt by women in their bodies."
Our definition of a midwife must include the traditional midwives who
are so insensitively and derogatorily called TBAs. We must honor and learn
from all our colleagues. Think how fertile an organization could be if
it is inclusive. Our information exchanges could only get richer as we
present good midwifery research side by side with the thousand-year-old
traditions many of the world's midwives still use. The American organization
Coalition for Improvement in Maternity Services (CIMS) has been successful
by inviting whoever wants to come and work to do so. Perhaps those interested
in forming a new international organization of midwives could follow CIMS's
lead by getting together often and as individually honored midwives. Plans
could be brainstormed and carried out by anyone interested. All those
with a midwife heart would be invited.
Midwifery Today is in a good position to help launch this idea. We have been working
in a grass roots, all inclusive way to encourage international exchange and sharing
of information for over fourteen years. We are working to establish country contacts
in as many countries as possible. We have hosted several yearly international conferences.
We have an international magazine within the pages of Midwifery
Today. We also have had a strong World Wide Web presence since 1994. We have
included international meetings in almost all our many conferences to date.
We hope to see you at one of our conferences soon. Everyone
Nothing short of a strong global movement will change birth. What we need is you,
your suggestions and input. Let's ponder how best to foster these needed changes
Please join us! Send your ideas to me at email@example.com
Let us know if you are interested in getting information about the International
Alliance of Midwives (IAM), which we have decided will be an online community.
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