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Midwives defend women’s rights

2 May 2019

Midwives throughout New Zealand are inviting mothers, families and colleagues to acknowledge and celebrate the far-reaching importance of their profession in women’s lives on Sunday, 5 May, International Day of the Midwife.

Midwives will be holding events around the country to mark the day. The theme this year is “midwives: defenders of women’s rights” and midwives will post messages on Facebook explaining what this means for them and the women they work with.

International Day of the Midwife is celebrated annually throughout the world to promote the vital role that midwives play in the lives of women and families everywhere.

Alison Eddy, Chief Executive of the New Zealand College of Midwives says the theme highlights the wide and often little-understood role of the midwife.

“Midwives care for women during pregnancy, labour, birth and beyond, upholding their rights to informed choices and support during this crucial time in their lives. Focusing on the rights and wellbeing of women during pregnancy, birth and early parenting supports the best possible outcome for a healthy baby too. Midwives understand how a woman’s life circumstances may be affecting her pregnancy. Sadly it is not uncommon for midwives to play a role when they suspect that a woman may be a victim of family violence or abuse.

“So midwives often have a very practical role to play in defending women’s rights but the profession has a wider role too.

“New Zealand women have a proud tradition of standing up for their rights in society and midwives have fought hard to ensure women in New Zealand have choice over how and where they give birth. Midwives have a central role in our maternity system, in providing women with midwife-led continuity of care throughout pregnancy, labour and birth.

“In many parts of the world women do not have access to even basic care during pregnancy. But even in New Zealand we cannot be complacent,” says Ms Eddy.

“Midwives have been advocating and lobbying for years for improvements in their pay and conditions and although hospital midwives recently reached a settlement with district health boards, following a series of strikes, there is still much to be done.

“We are still in negotiations with the Government over pay for self employed community-based midwives. We are also still actively working towards achieving pay equity for midwives so that their pay is on an equal footing with male-dominated workforces doing similar types of work.

“We need to recognise the rights of midwives to fair treatment in the workforce so they can continue to defend the rights of women as mothers.”

Alison Eddy succeeded Karen Guilliland as Chief Executive of the New Zealand College of Midwives earlier this year. Ms Eddy is available for interview.

International Day of the Midwives is promoted and co-ordinated by the International Confederation of Midwives which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands. The CEO of the Confederation is New Zealand midwife Sally Pairman.

The World Health Organisation, several United Nations agencies and other international bodies have identified midwives as the key to reducing maternal and newborn deaths and disabilities globally. Midwives save lives.


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