Exposure to infection during labor and delivery contributes to the approximately 830 women who die each day from preventable causes during pregnancy or childbirth. Close to 99 percent of the 287,000 women who die in childbirth each year live in developing countries where maternal and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world.
Most midwives know what needs to be done to improve their working environment and provide the best standard of care for women during pregnancy and delivery. However, in many developing nations, midwives are rarely heard or given leadership roles. Experts associated with the field say that to improve maternal death rates on the global level, midwives everywhere need to be empowered to find their voices and push for change on the institutional and national level.
Now, in a move to make this happen, the UN Population Fund has teamed up with private firms to launch an online midwifery training and networking platform to connect more than 700 midwives from 30 countries worldwide. Intended to be a mentoring destination, the site is a place where young up-and-coming midwives get exposure to leaders who share information on the latest healthcare solutions and prepare them to play a greater role in policy dialogues and advocate on behalf of midwives and the women and children they serve within their countries.
Government health agencies in the developing world are being implored to take a similar approach by inviting midwives to have a seat at the table, listen to what they have to say, and appoint them to leadership positions. If they are given a seat at the table to discuss such topics as policy-making and revenue allocation, they could allocate revenue appropriately and make decisions focused on women.
Staggering gaps in female global healthcare leadership positions extend well beyond midwifery. Although women make up 75 percent of the global healthcare workforce, women only hold 38 percent of the top jobs in global health. It is only when more women across all sectors of healthcare are given opportunities that real change can occur.