Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) provide the majority of maternity care around the world. This is certainly true in Uganda. These are the "granny midwives," women who began learning the baby trade usually at their mother's or grandmother's knee. Without the advantages of formal education or lifesaving modern drugs, these women delivered babies on the floors of mud huts, doing the best that they could with their hearts and hands, prayers and herbs.
Now, however, the Ugandan TBAs are illegal, banned from practicing their art since 2009. The intention is good; Uganda is trying desperately to provide more trained midwives to their people, in a country where over 100 women a week die in childbirth or the immediate postpartum hours. Trained midwives are without a doubt the single most important investment a country can make in its healthcare program, and I don't say this just because I am one.
So where does this leave the TBAs? Disenfranchised by their government, many are left not only without a livelihood but cut off from their heart's work, unable to provide one on one, singular care for the women they know and love in their own communities.
Enter Shanti Uganda, a Canadian non-governmental organization that is committed to honoring the traditional birthing ways, while still providing modern, evidenced based care. They run the Shanti Uganda Birth House and Learning Centre in Kasana. Fully staffed with college educated midwives, they also employ Nagawa Florence, a TBA dedicated to her community and to Shanti. As she can no longer catch babies, we would like to give Florence the chance to become a fully trained doula, a non-medical support person whose entire role is to provide physical and emotional comfort measures to the mothers who come to deliver at Shanti. She can build on her already considerable knowledge, return to the field she loves, and bring holistic, family centered care to the people of Kasana. If we can raise this money for Florence, who knows what our next step might be. Train TBAs to be doulas all over Uganda? $1400 will pay for Florence's training, and augment her salary for a whole year. If you are a doula, had a doula at your birth, or just support compassionate maternity care, we would love to have you on our team.