Midwives: The Backbone of the Community
Women helping women. Mutual help and support is available from the beginning of the life of each person in the community. Pregnant women seek advice from the midwives in everyday life situations: at the market, on the way home, in social gatherings. They feel free to talk about their fears and concerns, because they know they will meet welcoming hearts on the other side.
Initially midwives had absolutely no training. What they knew about delivering babies was learned from their grandmothers, mothers and other experienced women. With no more than good will, they helped and hoped to bring babies to this world and, at the same time, keep the mothers alive. Balbina Philipo, a midwife since 2012, points out that according to tradition, people were not allowed to have children at home. Sometimes pregnant women had to walk long distances to get help, risking their lives and the lives of their unborn babies. They needed to leave the house and go to the woods. Traditionally, going to a clinic to deliver a baby is an indication of weakness. Strong women have their babies on their own with the help of midwives.
This situation began to change in 2002, when the Tanzanian government started a program to reduce the spread of diseases. This program was the first formal training midwives received. In 2007 Karimu began working in the community and made a point of offering support to those brave midwives on a regular basis.
Each year Karimu volunteers with medical background visit Ayalagaya Ward, offering training to the midwives. The training is based on a set program developed to refresh the midwives’ knowledge on nutrition and hydration, main danger signs, checking for the baby’s health and position among several other topics. Each midwife also receives a birth kit containing soap and scrub, cord clamps, nasal aspirator, alcohol pads, gauze and underpads, sterilized scalpel, surgical gloves and emergency medication, just to name a few items.
The changes continue to present day with some villages now having access to clinics. Today, midwives encourage pregnant women to deliver their babies in such clinics focusing much more on providing advice and sharing experiences. However, their services are still required by many due to long distances and remoteness of certain households.
Certain of their crucial role in the community, these courageous and strong women do their work for free. Thanks to them, women can have safe pregnancies, and more healthy babies are brought to the world. They are proud of what they do. Their hearts fill with joy whenever they meet the children of children they have helped to deliver.