Midwives worldwide are struggling to meet the needs of women and babies. In this article Kay King, Executive Director of the White Ribbon Alliance UK shares the outcomes of the global Midwives’ Voices, Midwives’ Demands survey and campaign, pointing to what is wanted to improve care in the UK
At the very heart of our work at White Ribbon Alliance is the approach principle ‘Nothing about us, without us’. Ensuring that women and girls are driving change at local, national and international levels is vital if we want to see lasting change that reflects the real needs of communities. The 2019 ‘What Women Want’ campaign mobilised over 1.2 million women and girls across the world to share their demands for their healthcare. What Women Want: Midwives’ Voices, Midwives’ Demands, led by White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) in collaboration with the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), is a key companion to the What Women Want (WWW) campaign. This midwives and health workers-focused subset of What Women Want surveyed 56,000 midwives about what they want and need to better serve women in their care and for themselves as midwives.
The 56,000 open-ended responses White Ribbon Alliance received have been categorised, analysed, and are now available at your fingertips through the What Women Want: Midwives’ Voices, Midwives’ Demands Interactive Dashboard, a unique tool that connects midwives’ voices with the almost infinite possibilities of digital analysis. The Dashboard offers an unprecedented level of access to midwives’ demands to allow anyone, anywhere to see exactly what midwives and other women’s health workers want when it comes to their roles, and to meaningfully respond.
As reported by Kristy Kade, (WRA Global CEO) and Angela Nguku (WRA Global Deputy CEO) the Midwives’ Voices, Midwives’ Demands campaign highlights that: ‘Midwives remain at the bottom of the pay equity ladder, even as they quite literally shoulder the costs of supporting women and families—from delivering babies to treating survivors of gender-based violence—in places where there would otherwise be no services.’
Participation of the United Kingdom in this campaign was significant. In a country benefitting from all the health advantages that the global north should offer, we have seen significant correlations between the needs of midwives in the UK and our sisters and brothers around the world. The UK aspires to be one of the safest places in the world for women to give birth, and yet, our midwifery workforce continues to face a state of critical concern, with a depleted workforce, the withdrawal of services and care options for families.
The March With Midwives grassroots movement emerged during the Midwives’’ Voices, Midwives’ Demands campaign and as revealed in the, now published global report, ‘Other countries are following suit with midwives, and their allies, advancing policy and programmatic asks informed by midwives’ demands.’
It’s not too late to add your voice. This report is neither a beginning nor an end to a campaign. It’s simply a snapshot of a moment in time and is part of something much larger: a coming revolution in health and development. A revolution that undoes longstanding dynamics between “expert” and “end-user,” and accommodates and values the voices and lived experiences of communities and delivers real change in the overall conditions of the lives of women and girls.
Moving to the advocacy in action, now that we have asked and midwives have responded, we have a set of asks here in the UK, presented below. These asks become the advocacy aims of White Ribbon Alliance UK, in conjunction with the grassroots March With Midwives movement:
Power, autonomy and improved gender norms and policies.
- The UK Government makes it possible for self employed midwives to work, thus putting 250 experienced midwives immediately back into the workforce through the creation of a legal indemnity solution by January 2023.
- The All-Party Parliamentary Groups for Maternity, Black Maternal Health and NHS workforce and health ministers concerned with maternity consult with midwives to undertake a system wide diagnosis to address the immediate crisis and set realistic targets for improvements by June 2024.
More and better supported personnel.
- The UK Government awards recruitment and retention premia to new entrants and existing staff by April 2023.
- The UK Government ensures an immediate appropriate and restorative pay rise for midwives that reflects the value society places on their vital work by December 2023.
- The UK Government provides financial support for student midwives and create posts for all new graduate midwives by January 2024.
Learn all the ins and outs of the campaign on WRA’s Midwives’ Voices website
Read the Global Report to find out what midwives want, and why this campaign matters to midwives around the world
Look through all 56,000 responses on the Interactive Dashboard to see midwives demands in their own words
Find out what advocacy in action looks like through the Midwives’ Voices Illustrative Asks
Executive Director of the White Ribbon Alliance UK – May 2022