Delivering care, delivering change for women and babies: Latin American midwives build skills for country-level advocacy

Ariadna Capasso is senior technical advisor for the FCI Program of Management Sciences for Health.

We know how to prevent maternal and newborn deaths, but globally, almost 300,000 women and 3 million newborns continue to lose their lives because they lack access to high-quality obstetric services–services which midwives provide. Skilled midwives can prevent up to two-thirds of maternal and newborn deaths by ensuring a safe birth for both mother and baby and responding quickly when complications arise.

Photo by Joey O’Loughlin

Midwives not only provide essential care, they also provide a powerful voice for policies and programs that advance access to affordable and high-quality health services. They understand the health needs of women and newborns, as they work to meet those needs everyday. And they experience, firsthand, the gaps in health systems, from human resources and infrastructure to regulations that limit their practice.

Recognizing the critical role of professional midwives in safeguarding the health of women and their babies–whether through service delivery, advocacy or policymaking–the FCI Program of MSH partners with the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA/LACRO) and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM)  to strengthen midwifery in Latin America and the Caribbean. Since 2011, the FCI Program and UNFPA have worked together to promote leadership and management through the Young Midwifery Leaders program and through activities to institutionally strengthen ICM member organizations in the region.

Reviewing the evidence is critical to strengthening the midwifery profession. In 2014, UNFPA released the State of the World’s Midwifery Report, which shares findings on midwifery from 73 low- and middle-income countries and calls for improvements in the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of midwifery services. To help midwives make sense of this data for advocacy, the FCI Program has led advocacy workshops at global and regional conferences and developed a companion toolkit Making the Case for Midwifery: A Toolkit for Using Evidence from the State of the World’s Midwifery 2014 Report to Create Policy Change at the Country Level.

Next week, the FCI Program, with UNFPA and the MacArthur Foundation, will lead a workshop to build the capacity of a 25 midwives to use data from the SoWMy report to advocate for changes in policies and regulations for professional midwifery within their institutions and sectors, at the national and local level. Participants will learn how to implement and monitor advocacy strategies using the latest evidence on midwifery, and they will develop action plans for national and state-level advocacy. Following the workshop, participants will lead their own advocacy workshops at their home institutions to carry out the plans they developed at the meeting. The FCI Program will set up a mentoring network to support midwives as they implement follow-up advocacy activities in their countries. Empowered with evidence and an advocacy action plan, midwives will have the tools to launch their plans to effect positive change for maternal and newborn health in their countries and communities.

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