Saturday, 14 February 2015

Namaste from Nepal

I’m writing this from 37,000 feet aboard a Turkish Airlines flight to Kathmandu via Istanbul.  It’s been such a hectic run-up to this series of international travel that I fell asleep as soon as I boarded the plane!  I feel excited to be visiting Nepal again; reconnecting with fellow midwives at the Midwifery Society of Nepal and other friends I’ve made through my role as Global Professional Advisor with the Royal College of Midwives.  However, this trip is also tinged with sadness as it will be the last time that I visit Nepal with the Global Midwifery Twinning Project, at least for the time being.  Our project finishes in 31 March 2015 and the past few weeks have passed at an exhausting pace as we strive to ensure that the project finishes well, our inputs are sustainable and we produce high quality evidence for the impact our twinning programme to ensure that we have the best chance of attracting further funding for follow-up work.

I’m so grateful to have been joined at the RCM by Eleanor Shaw, our Global Administrator, who recently completed her Masters’ Degree in African Studies at SOAS and shares my passion for global health.  We’ve been learning a lot from each other; through Eleanor I discovered the feminist library in London which was a revelation!   Since returning from my last three overseas trips in November 2014 we have been really busy.  We’ve commissioned an external evaluation of the project by Jane Salvage an experienced consultant in Global Health who has done other high quality pieces of work for the RCM.  Jane started work last Monday and we have been working hard to collate the enormous amount of data generated by our project (reports, reflections, logs and other outputs) so that Jane has access to these in one place.  In addition to assimilating all this information Jane will also be conducting interviews with our twinned partners and stakeholders, our own staff and our volunteers, helping us to understand the impact of the project and how best to move forward.  She will present her findings to the final project board meeting on 30 March. We've also commissioned a small piece of research to explore the reciprocal impact of the Global Midwifery Twinning Project in the UK. 

Between November and January we were also preparing, supporting and debriefing our last cohort of volunteers who went to Cambodia, Nepal and Uganda for 3-4 weeks just before or after Christmas.  Our final debriefing day was on 3 February and it was very exciting to hear our volunteers present about the fabulous work they have been doing, with their twins, in strengthening midwifery education, regulation and associations in all three countries.  Their outputs include the development of new curricula and assessment tools, up-skilling midwives and midwife teachers, supporting the development of centres of midwifery excellence such as the Mangala Devi Birthing Centre in Nepal, and helping the professional midwifery association with strategic planning, advocacy and sustainability. 
With the executive committee of the Midwifery Society of Nepal in November 2014

Susie McFazden, Mary Ross-Davie and Sarah Gregson, our last group of expert UK midwife volunteers in Nepal December 2014
In addition to these activities we have been developing the global section of the RCM website to provide a user-friendly platform to showcase our projects and resource members who are interested in global health.  We’re working with our education team and Dr. Gaynor Maclean (author of the great book Tiger Stripes and Tears) to develop a new e-learning resource on global midwifery so that midwives, students and others can take on-line modules via the RCM's i-learn platform to help prepare them for electives and international placements and understand the wider picture of maternal and newborn health across the world.

We’ve also been planning a one-day conference in Edinburgh on 5th May to celebrate International Day of the Midwife. and 100 years of midwifery regulation in Scotland (my Granny was a midwife in Scotland in the 1930s so especially poignant for me!) Tickets sold out overnight so we’re hoping to be able to free up some more places – watch this space!  2014 was a great year for global midwifery with the publication of the Lancet Midwifery Series of papers, the State of the World's Midwifery 2014 report and various other key documents supporting investment in midwives as the best-buy in public health.  This conference will bring together world-renowned speakers together with our own global team and volunteer midwives to highlight both the needs and opportunities for midwives in a global context. 

Lastly, we are looking for opportunities to present our work and develop further partnerships so we’ve been submitting abstracts and bids and networking widely.  Never a dull moment in the global team!  I’ll be in Nepal until 21 February then in Uganda and Cambodia in the next few weeks.  I look forward to posting some further (and probably shorter!) blogs from around the world.  Meanwhile, thanks to everyone for your support, especially my husband Stephen and daughter Hannah for looking after our dog Cracker and keeping the home fires burning.  Namaste!
Visiting a rural health centre on my last visit to Nepal in November 2014

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