Midwives have been around since the dawn of man. All those involved in the birthing process were called midwives. African midwives are no different, having been around since the dawn of man on earth. The western world however decided, in its wisdom, to change the definition of what a midwife is. They changed the name of the traditional African midwife to that of Traditional Birth Attendant; how derogatory can one get. What effectively has happened is that another country in the world has labeled the work of African midwives with the term “attendant.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has formed a definition with this name. The WHO defines a “traditional birth attendant (TBA) as a person who assists the mother at childbirth and who initially acquired her skills delivering babies by herself or by working with other birth attendants. Also TBAs are usually old and experienced women who see their assignments primarily as contributing their skill for the good of the community.” Strangely, in the United States these same traditional midwives are called “lay midwives.” This raises the question as to why African midwives are called by demeaning names. Why is the name midwife solely claimed by the western world? To my mind this mindset illustrates a lack of awareness as to what is happening in Africa and also shows that there is no awareness in the west that Africans are indeed intelligent. The western world should give Africa its due and thereby instill confidence in the African midwife.
The traditional birth attendant is a woman who does not meet the international definition of a midwife. They are nothing in the eyes of the educated world. The WHO strongly advocates for “skilled care at every birth” to reduce the high maternal deaths in thw world. The WHO defines a skilled attendant as “an accredited health professional – such as a midwife, doctor or nurse – who has been educated and trained to proficiency in the skills needed to manage normal (uncomplicated) pregnancies, childbirth and the immediate postnatal period, and in the identification, management and referral of complications in women and newborns.”
Why is there this discrimination? My grandmother was one of these so called “birth attendants,” yet, she could do anything when it came to the birthing process. This includes the delivery of a breech, twins, any complication during birth. How many skilled midwives or specialists today can do this type of complicated birth without technology? Are these skilled attendants really skilled? And where are the skilled attendants when the so-called traditional birth attendants provide the majority of primary maternity care in many developing countries.