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Supporting Midwives, Saving Mothers

Adelia Leonides is a midwife supported by PWRDF partner Kinal Antzetik. Photo: Simon Chambers

April 10, 2012

By Simon Chambers

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The mission of Kinal Antzetik, a PWRDF partner working in the Mexican states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas, is to improve the lives of Indigenous women and men in Mexico.  One of the primary ways Kinal works to achieve this goal is by supporting parteras, traditional midwives who for generations have been attending women in Indigenous communities as they safely deliver their children.  Supporting midwives and promoting health and gender awareness in Indigenous communities is part of Kinal’s strategy for helping Mexico to lower its maternal death rate from 89 per 100,000 in 1990 to 27.3 per 100,000 by 2015.

Kinal, with support from PWRDF and the National Commission for Development of Indigenous Communities in Mexico, has developed a training program for midwives and community health promoters.  The program trains midwives and others in both traditional and technical aspects of women’s health, gender issues, the importance of working with local health authorities, and more.

Adelaida Leonides was one of the 35 participants in the program.  Her daughter accompanied her to the training modules as Adelaida cannot read and needed help with writing.  Kinal has designed the training materials knowing that many midwives like Adelaida with decades of experience are illiterate.  Illustrations and symbols are prevalent in the teaching materials, and many of the activities during the training modules involve art, drama, and story-telling rather than note-taking.

Adelaida puts her training to work at the Indigenous Women’s House (CAMI) in San Luis Acatlan, Guerrero State, Mexico. CAMI serves as a delivery centre, teaching site, health clinic, and social hub for Indigenous women in the region.  It is often the destination for women to get advice and check-ups throughout pregnancy, as well as when they are due to deliver.  If the delivery is high risk, Adelaida encourages the mother to visit the local hospital, and volunteers to accompany her on the journey.

Adelaida learned to be a midwife from her mother, but has had that traditional knowledge enhanced by the training provided by Kinal.  “Now I’m very careful to wear gloves during delivery,” she said.  “The training has also helped me in teaching the community how to avoid maternal mortality.”

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