The sound of singing in Kampala

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So our workshop finished yesterday with the sound of singing. There is nothing quite like African voices raising the roof and the song was our GMTP anthem, developed originally for the RCM staff conference back in July.

It’s a round in three parts with words about the need for more midwives across the world (written with help from my creative husband), set to a hymn tune I first learned from American Mennonites in Cambodia!

The words to the song are:
1.    Worldwide midwives far too few, ­­ worldwide midwives far too few.
2.    Twinning, training, building capacity, changing lives
3.    Education, regulation and association.

 Follow this link to listen to a recording http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1LD-gOlrpU.

According to the State of the World’s midwifery Report (UNFPA, 2011 http://www.unfpa.org/sowmy/report/home.html) there is a global shortage of three hundred and fifty thousand skilled midwives.  Three hundred thousand women die in childbirth each year and more than thirty times that number suffer long-term damage to their health and well-being.   Women have a right to good quality, accessible maternity care.  Investing in midwives makes sense and yet the 58 countries with 91% of global maternal deaths have less than 17% of the world's midwifery workforce.  The International Confederation of Midwives states that effective midwifery regulation, good quality midwifery education and a strong professional midwifery association are the keys to a strong midwifery profession.  Our Global Midwifery Twinning Project focuses on these three areas, working alongside the midwifery associations in Cambodia, Nepal and Uganda.  Working with organisations and bureaucracy can be frustrating.  However, in our workshop we were reminded of an African Proverb:

‘If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together’.

Twinning can be frustrating, but working together – even if slow – will surely make a difference in the long term.  Florence, Head of the Midwifery Chapter of the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union, encouraged us to persevere, through the words of another African midwifery anthem:

“I will never give up until things are done.
I will never give up until God says ‘Well Done’.”
 
Mary, President of UMPA; Me; Florence, Head of Midwifery Chapter of Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union
One of the key advocacy messages highlighted at the workshop was the need for more male involvement around reproductive health in Uganda. Robina, National Coordinator for the White Ribbon Alliance in Uganda reminded us that women are dying because society has not decided that their lives are worth saving. The workshop helped UPMA to develop a clear action plan to target local community leaders, developing ‘model districts’ where men value women’s reproductive health rights and ensure that barriers preventing access to good quality services are broken down. 
 Robina, National Coordinator for the White Ribbon Alliance in Uganda

 Sarah, a midwife and politician, ended the conference with the inspiring thought that one life saved has huge impact.   Another African proverb: ‘sticks collected one by one make a bundle’.
Sarah, Midwife and Politician who officially opened and closed our conference - and participated in many of the discussions

 The challenge for UPMA, and the Global Midwifery Twinning Project, is to ensure that the energy and momentum generated by the workshop will be continued for the next 18 months and beyond.  Putting firm plans in place for this will be the focus of my remaining time in Uganda. 

I’ll finish this blog with some words from Elizabeth, a senior midwifery lecturer from Mokono University who I interviewed this morning:
Elizabeth

 ‘Surely if we follow up these messages and the activities planned the voice of midwives will be heard.  Sometimes I feel we must have faith in the little people.  I don’t despise small beginnings.  Midwives have standing and connections in their communities; investing in them has great potential for impact.  The GMTP project has made UPMA midwives visible and given them recognition.  For me personally, my interaction with the GMTP volunteers has given me more skills and knowledge and the confidence to move forward as the leader of our Masters in Midwifery programme.  GMTP has also connected me with midwives and others, allowing me to grow socially and understand the bigger picture of midwifery. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the project.’


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