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Women make up more than 70 percent of the health workforce. Despite the fact that they play a critical role in improving and saving the lives of people around the world, female health workers are often unrecognized, underpaid or unpaid. These  facts were presented by Roopa Dhatt, Executive Director of Women in Global Health, at the Women Deliver 2019 Conference at a side event co-hosted by Johnson & Johnson. She continued sharing that female health workers face further barriers with discrimination, threats and harassment in their daily lives.

“Workplace violence and sexual harassment in the health and social sector are widespread – from colleagues, patients and community members” said Roopa Dhatt. 

During the event the voices of midwives and nurses were listened to and appreciated. Girls’ Globe had the opportunity to hear more from three of the speakers about why they are proud to be midwives and what we all need to know about the midwifery profession.

Stéphanie Roche, Haiti

“What I am proud of, as much as being a female health worker and a midwife, is the service that we are offering to our society and community. We serve the lives of women of our community. What makes us proud is that we accompany women in their difficult times. We know that there is a problem of accessibility, especially in Haiti. We are proud because we are there to offer women whatever is necessary. Without midwives, the majority of our women are not really safe. The midwife is there to keep women safe and to help them. And we are proud of that.”

Ms. Roche is a Nurse Midwife and Head of the Maternity Unit at Marigot Health Center in Haiti. Female health workers like midwife Stéphanie Roche contributes to improving maternal and newborn health in Haiti – a country in with a maternal mortality
rate which is among the highest in the world.

Stéphanie Roche believes that the midwifery profession is unique. “To see a woman give life and help her do it is something extraordinary,” she said. “What I like most is having the opportunity to educate women, to talk to them, to teach them things that can lead to a change in behavior.”

Ruth Dite Mah Diassana, Mali

“As a midwife, I am proud to accompany pregnant women throughout their lives, and through delivering a baby to the world. I want the world to recognize the marvelous and powerful work of midwives.”

Ruth is a Midwife in charge of the Reproductive Health Service at night and also Manager of the Family Planning Department at Sikasso Reference Health Center in Mali. She has experience working as a midwife for Malian Ministry of Health in 2013.

“We are working with the government to give equal opportunities who are working in health to have adequate training to grow in the health workforce,” she explained. 

Ruth has been trained by the Born On Time project as trainer in Lifestyle, Infection, Nutrition, Contraception (LINC) approach on preventing preterm birth and on gender equality as well as on Kangaroo Mother Care, newborn care and sexual and reproductive health and rights. She has gone on to train midwives, obstetric nurses, matrons and community health workers.

Elizabeth Brandeis, Canada

“What makes me most proud about being a midwife is being able to support my clients in making the right choices for themselves and their bodies. Midwives are leaders in reproductive health care. They have the skills and competencies to have responsibility for the majority of births that happen in the world. Medicine could really have a lot to gain in consulting with midwives about normal births.”

Elizabeth is a midwife and senior partner at the Midwives Collective of Toronto. She is the President of the Association of Ontario Midwives. Both her clinical practice and board-level work are dedicated to addressing the needs of underserved populations and to social justice.

At the event, Elizabeth told us about how the Association of Ontario Midwives has taken the government to court as a result of the fight for equal pay. She talked about the linkages between the feminist movement and the status of midwives in Canada.“Still in Canada, the gender pay gap is 30%. For midwives the pay gap is 40% – which is even greater for indigenous midwives,“ she said. 

The event was concluded by Dr. Willibald Zeck, Head of Global Maternal, Newborn and Adolescent Health Program at UNICEF. “It is a very patriarchal system that we live in and women are very supressed! We really need to make a change, and it is great to hear what has happened from Haiti to Canada.”

It is time for real change for female health workers, including those who are midwives and nurses. It is time for female health workers to be appreciated and valued for the life-saving work that they do.


This blog post was created by Girls’ Globe powered by Johnson & Johnson. 

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