Indigenous midwives contribute decisively to the maternal and infant health of their communities, using the traditional knowledge transmitted by their mothers and grandmothers. They respond to the specific needs of our communities and in doing so promote the social and cultural reproduction of indigenous life.
However, in many countries of the Americas, indigenous midwifery is excluded from official health policies. The States have discouraged the practice of traditional midwifery in favor of Western medicine, with negative results in the maternal and infant health of indigenous communities.
This problem has been brought to the United Nations by the alliance formed by CHIRAPAQ, Center for Indigenous Cultures of Peru, K’inal Antzetik (Mexico), the National Council of Aboriginal Midwives, The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund and the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives of Ryerson University (Canada). These organizations are working in favor of the protection and preservation of indigenous midwifery.
Cherylee Bourgeois, indigenous midwife of the Métis Nation (Canada), addressed the plenary of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, where she made the following recommendations to national states and UN agencies:
- Recognize the harmful systemic effects of colonization and create measurable goals to identify and close gaps in reproductive health inequities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
- Support Indigenous self-determination in all aspects of reproductive health, including education, community regulation, practice, and autonomous associations of Indigenous midwives.
- Eliminate criminalization of Indigenous midwives and make the necessary legislative and regulatory amendments that legitimize Indigenous midwives, recognized by their community as health care providers and guardians of Indigenous Knowledge.
- Ensure the support and the resources of the State for the education of new traditional Indigenous midwives, by multiple routes of education including apprenticeship and oral transmission of knowledge.
You can listen to her full statement in the following video.