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A Continental Alliance of Indigenous Midwives of the Americas is Forged

Global Pediatric Alliance (GPA) has long contemplated how powerful and important it would be to unite the efforts and voices of Indigenous midwives and birth workers from throughout the Americas.


That dream took root with an inspirational two-day meeting of midwives entitled, "A Continental Meeting of Ancestral Knowledge and Youth in Traditional Midwifery: Weaving Networks of Traditional Midwifery in the Americas," in New York City on April 14 - 15. The meeting, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and supported by the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples, came together as a joint collaboration between GPA, the Nich Ixim Midwife Movement of Chiapas, and the organizations Formación y Capacitación A.C., Camati, Kinal Antsetik, and Sakil Nichim.


Nearly 50 traditional midwives and birth workers gathered, representing Indigenous peoples in Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti and the United States. The meeting was strategically planned to coincide with the celebration of the 23rd session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNFPII), the UN's central coordinating body for matters relating to the concerns and rights of the world's Indigenous peoples.


The first day focused on the collective challenges Indigenous birth workers face in their practice and in preserving ancestral traditions. In some areas of the Americas, this difficult landscape has led to the erasure of traditional midwifery and the loss of a wealth of knowledge, while in other areas, traditions and knowledge are on the brink of extinction. The second day saw the development of strategies for the protection and preservation of traditional midwifery on an international level, including the need to grow the fledgling Continental Alliance of Indigenous Midwives of the Americas to include more birth workers from different regions and nations.


The meeting resulted in a declaration that included the demands and recommendations of this new alliance that was read on April 19 to the UNPFII General Assembly, and which we hope will be included in their final recommendations. The declaration calls for governments to recognize and respect Indigenous health systems, and ancestral knowledge and practices; to eliminate obstacles to the transmission of Indigenous knowledge to new generations; the review and modification of protocols by the World Health Organization and the UN Population Fund which endanger the survival and practice of traditional midwifery; the creation of a permanent committee on traditional midwifery, and the undertaking of a global study on the state of Indigenous midwifery, with midwives form the Continental Alliance to be included in the committee of experts.  


A virtual follow up meeting of the Continental Alliance of Midwives will take place at the end of May to begin putting the strategies designed in April into play.

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