As many of you know from my last editorial, a global alliance of midwives is being formed to enhance the tremendous work the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) does to network established organizations that are its approved members. Our hope is to form an all-inclusive organization that would bring together individuals and organizations of all stripes in order to strengthen woman-centered midwifery worldwide. I have spoken to many midwives around the world who express a need for an organization that works in a more grass roots manner to counter the dangerous trend toward medicalization of birth.
Fifty midwives from various countries attended a meeting sponsored jointly by Midwifery Today and the Association of Radical Midwives (ARM) during Midwifery Today’s London conference September 1999. They agreed that the formation of an international umbrella organization should be pursued. It seemed practical to use the joint strengths of individuals and organizations worldwide by bringing their experience together. For example, Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) has already instituted definitions, values, ethics, protocols, position statements, standards and practice documents. Since MANA embraces all midwives in North America, it is experienced with how to form an organization that invites and welcomes all midwives. MANA also works to bring in and acknowledge consumers. Both MANA and ARM are very strong at working with political issues. They both produce publications and both present domestic conferences. Midwifery Today is strong in publishing, international networking and producing both domestic and international conferences. The accomplishments of many such experienced groups and individuals could be enhanced, encouraged, utilized and brought together in a mutually supportive umbrella organization.
When I look around the world I see amazing strengths. I hope we can each incorporate some of the best into our own practices, systems and cultures. There are still places where midwifery is strong, and midwives from these countries have a lot to teach us. Dutch midwives, for example, are willing to teach, and we could all benefit from sharing in their knowledge. American midwives have learned to fight for survival and some countries look to them for that. They have also revived midwifery from near obliteration and redefined normal birth based on the families they have been so privileged to serve.
In the Americas, we connect spirituality with birth, which to many Europeans seems unique. The United Kingdom is way ahead on evidence-based midwifery and research, and learning this specialty from our sisters “over the pond” is empowering. New Zealand midwives taught us how a strong partnership with women could change a whole birth system. In their birthing homes, Japanese midwives have outcomes we want to emulate. Scandinavia has not yet succumbed to the medical model even though most Scandinavian births happen in the hospital.
A global alliance of midwives would promote the midwifery model worldwide, not the medical model. It would emphasize woman-centered birth with autonomous midwives who work at home, birth center or hospital. This grass roots organization would promote mutual exchange and encouragement and would define midwifery in broad-based, very inclusive terms. Traditional midwives, for example, would be looked upon as teachers and recognized for their wisdom.
Since the alliance is in its beginning stages, you have a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor with your input and participation. It will be discussed again at our upcoming conferences, and I’ll let you know what ideas emerge.
Midwifery Today conferences are exciting and thought provoking because of the many wonderful midwives who attend them. We try to make time within the conference to hear from registrants. Many of our teachers have helped thousands of babies into this world, and all have learned much from the women they have served. This dynamic combination of presenters, registrants and a strong program makes for an event full of learning, soul searching and expansion. This is an excellent environment in which to launch the Global Alliance of Midwives.
Together, I hope we will begin a long, strong working relationship “toward better birth.” See you at one of our conferences! Meanwhile subscribe to Midwifery Today to receive great birth information in your mailbox four times per year.
Please email me with your ideas for the alliance at [email protected].
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.