Year-end messages from our Regional Board Members
Over the past year, ICM’s Board Members have regularly connected with the Midwives’ Associations they represent to determine regional priorities and discuss their triumphs and challenges within the confines of this pandemic and beyond. To close off the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, each Board Member has prepared a reflective message, capturing key moments from the region and looking ahead to the Decade of the Midwife.
- Franka Cadée
- Sandra Oyarzo Torres
- Vitor Varela
- Ann Kinnear
- Emi Nurjasmi
- Dicko Fatoumata S Maiga
- Hilma Shikwambi
- Lisa Apini-Welcland
- María Florencia Francisconi
- Pandora Hardtman
- Roa Altaweli
- Trude Thommesen
- Victoria Vivilaki
Well, we’ve made it to the end of what has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging years for our global midwife community, and for the world at large. We began 2020 eager to mark the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife — a historic year when finally, midwives would receive the attention they deserve for their pivotal role in caring for women through pregnancy and childbirth, supporting their reproductive needs, and ensuring their safety, rights and dignity. However, the celebrations had to be significantly scaled back as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing maternal and newborn health challenges into a crisis.
Despite the challenges of 2020, I feel optimistic about the year ahead. In May 2021, UNFPA, ICM, the WHO and a host of other partners will launch the next State of the World’s Midwifery (SoWMy) report – an updated evidence base and detailed analysis of the present progress and future challenges to deliver effective coverage and quality of midwives and midwifery services. This publication will empower our efforts, and those of the global midwife community, in advocating with governments to increase investments in midwife-led continuity of care. 2021 will also mark the beginning of the Decade of the Midwife and real, global action towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Together, we can and will reduce maternal and neonatal mortality and ensure respectful care for all.
I'm truly honoured to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you, our global midwife community as we do our part in spearheading efforts toward increased investments in the midwifery workforce. See you at the Virtual Triennial Congress in June!
Sandra Oyarzo Torres
Dear colleagues, midwifery students and friends At this time when we are close to the special moments of the end of the year; when year after year we remember what we have achieved, we share moments with our loved ones, and we value all the people with whom we have shared every day.
But the year 2020 brought us moments that were unimaginable because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have learned the value of people, of affection, of respect for human rights, especially in our work on maternal, newborn, sexual and reproductive health care.
The International Confederation of Midwives’ (ICM) Code of Ethics highlights the importance of professional midwives in recognising, defending and respecting the human rights of all people, especially women. Specifically, in Section 3-d, it states that "professional midwives understand the adverse consequences that violations of ethical and human rights have on the health of women and newborns and will work to eliminate them."
Professional Midwives’ Associations around the world have expressed their concerns about violations of the sexual & reproductive rights of adolescents, women and newborns. These violations are manifested - in some countries – by the absence, or lack of protocols of fertility regulation, pregnancy, birth and postpartum care as well as the use of medical or public health guidelines that are not based on scientific evidence or a human rights framework.
Along with this, Midwives’ Associations are advocating for Personal Protective Equipment for their members, adequate working environments, an end to violence against women and ensuring the work of midwives is visible on the front lines.
For all this, I would like to dedicate this message first of all to all the families of our colleagues who lost their lives in the daily practice of midwifery, — they are truly heroines who exemplify love and dedication to midwifery.
I would also like to wish all of our global midwifery family moments of peace, reflection and strength as the year ends. Please remain hopeful for the coming year when we can continue to fight to change the world so that that every place where a child is born, or there is a woman in need of care, there is a midwife, protected, supported and valued as the best-suited professional to improve the health care of all women and their families around the world.
During this pandemic, in many countries in the world obstacles occurred that affected the monitoring of women during pregnancy, labour and delivery and postpartum hospitalisation, leading to a violation by many health institutions of the legislation in place to protect maternity and paternity.
In the initial phase of the spread of the disease, restrictive measures were implemented that led to the prohibition in many health institutions of the monitoring of women by a significant person, but with the commitment of health professionals, namely midwives, health institutions were gradually creating conditions for the lifting of the restrictions imposed, again opening the possibility of safe monitoring of the pregnant and puerperal woman by a person of her choice and maintaining the safety of all stakeholders.
We, therefore, request and recommend to all midwives to: create the necessary conditions to comply with the legislation in place, as a legally established right, ensuring that women are offered the possibility of being accompanied by a significant person of their choice during the use of health services, during pregnancy, during work and childbirth (including caesarean section) and during their stay in the obstetrics service, after childbirth.
"Together, we are stronger."
Let us embrace the future with affection dedicated to all midwives in the world. Let’s turn our attention to 2021 and ensuring it is better for all and helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Representing Western Pacific Region
Greetings Midwifery colleagues of the Western Pacific. As we close 2020, The year of the midwife and the nurse, we should reflect on what has been a very different and challenging year for all of us. We have learned to live and work differently, and I suspect we will never go back to our previous ways of being. I am sad that so many midwives have lost their lives in this pandemic and my condolences go out to their families, friends and midwifery colleagues, especially at this time of year when we take time to be with each other.
I celebrate you, and your amazing work as midwives; you have been tireless and dedicated in your commitment to mothers, babies and families. For example, in Papua New Guinea, the PNG Midwifery Society and the Australian College of Midwives established a buddy leadership program. This was done with funding from Rotary International. Midwives from both countries have participated in leadership development and expanded their midwife families. I want to thank the Rotary Club of Marielter in South Australia for their wonderful support for this project.
In the Philippines, socio-civic groups have come together to recognise the valuable contribution of health workers, including midwives in their efforts and sacrifices in providing care during the pandemic and recognising those who have fallen in their line of duty. The impact and value of midwives has been strongly demonstrated, particularly in our ability to flex and respond to the pandemic. In countries like New Zealand, where there is an integrated model of continuity of midwifery care, midwives could readily modify their service so that all women were able to access midwifery or maternity care. Because women knew their midwife, they continued to see them at home, and more women confidently chose homebirth when hospitals were unable to take admissions. In Japan, online call centres were established, and the government was lobbied to increase the financial benefits to mothers and midwives adversely impacted by the pandemic.
In my first six months as your ICM board representative, I have attended monthly ICM board meetings, joined the ICM finance audit and risk committee and represented ICM at a number of virtual events, such as the annual conferences of the Philippine League of Government and Private Midwives and the Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines.
I spoke about the impact of midwives in response to COVID-19 at the Asia Pacific Action Alliance on Human Resources for Health. It was wonderful to see the secretary of the Bangladesh Midwifery Society recognised with the AAAH award. Finally, I made closing remarks at the web colloquium of Asia Pacific Midwife Leaders wonderfully hosted by the Society of Midwives in India.
And of course, we came together to commence work on our regional work plan. We will be doing more on that over the coming months. It is such a privilege to represent you on the ICM board and to have these wonderful opportunities to represent ICM across and around our region. Our region, the western Pacific, is the first region to enter 2021 and we will enter the Decade of the Midwife with hope and passion for the future.
I hope to see you at a Virtual Congress next year and hope that we can meet face-to-face as soon as travel opens. I wish you well over this festive season, and I hope you get to spend some wonderful time with your loved ones — all the very best.
Representing South-East Asia Region
Dear Colleagues, The highest appreciation for fellow midwives who have always dedicated themselves to the profession of providing midwifery services for maternal health, child health, reproductive health and family planning.
Midwives and all health providers around the world have been facing immense challenges within the COVID-19 pandemic. Midwives still do their best to support women and families and also help in delivering babies in all conditions. The Year of the Midwife has given us the strength to keep going and keep giving our best to help mothers and newborns.
COVID-19 changes all things. Many face-to-face events have been cancelled this year, one of them was the ICM Triennial Congress in Bali. It is very unfortunate that this highly anticipated event cannot be realized. But, as announced by ICM, the Triennial Congress will now take place virtually in June of 2021 in consideration for the safety of all of us.
We are required to transform according to all limitations and restrictions. Taking lessons from each situation and webinars with various topics. The distance is getting closer through virtual meetings as we shift various activities and adapt to new technologies.
We face this challenge to create innovation in order to celebrate International Day of The Midwife and The Year of the Midwife 2020. In Indonesia, we conducted a Webinar online which can be accessed by all midwives in all provinces in Indonesia. This Webinar is also on Youtube, so the midwives who couldn’t join at the time can still access the recording. Surprisingly, this Webinar was attended by more than 10,000 midwives. In every situation, we must be able to innovate, to keep up with the times and be able to adapt quickly in order to give our best.
So, I would like to say, let’s keep strong!
Dicko Fatoumata S Maiga
Representing Africa Region (Francophone) Dicko Fatoumata S Maiga
On the occasion of this end of the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, I would like to thank the International Confederation of Midwives for the actions planned and undertaken during 2020 despite the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among these actions, I would like to highlight:
- The development of the 2020-2023 strategic plan;
- The regular holding of virtual meetings of the board and the regions;
- Revision of texts relating to governance;
- The revision of norms and standards that is in progress.
I also thank the midwifery associations for the efforts made within the framework of the SoWMy survey. I encourage midwives to work for better visibility of our organisation, ICM. I ask the almighty God to help us fight against COVID-19 so we can carry out our activities.
A l’occasion de cette fin d’année je tiens à remercier la confédération internationale des sages-femmes pour les actions menées et entreprises durant l’année 2020 malgré la présence de la pandémie du COVID 19.
- Parmi ces actions je voudrai citer :
- L’élaboration du plan stratégique 2020-2023 ;
- La tenue régulière des réunions virtuelles du board et des régions ;
- La révision des textes relatifs à la gouvernance ;
La révision des normes et standards en cours . Je remercie aussi les associations de sages-femmes pour les efforts fournis dans le cadre de l’enquête SOWMI. J’encourage les sages-femmes à œuvrer pour une meilleure visibilité de notre organisation ICM .Je demande au tout puissant dieu de nous aider à lutter contre le COVID -19 pour mener à bien nos activités.
Representing Africa Region (Anglophone)
Dear fellow Midwives,
As we come to the end of 2020, I would like to thank Midwives who, despite the many challenges, stood by women and their newborns. Our region was not spared by the devastating COVID-19 global pandemic. We lost our family members, colleagues, friends, and members of our communities. In most of our health care settings, we witnessed the interruption of basic care services, mostly those provided by Midwives for women, their newborns and families. The increase in gender-based violence against women in our region is serious, calling for Midwives to advance their roles as advocates for human rights. Despite the many challenges, we remain focused, courageous, and maintain our responsibility of ensuring that women and their children receive respectful quality of care.
During this year, we engaged in capacity building workshops aimed at enabling Midwives to provide evidence-based care. I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to all those that supported Midwives during this challenging year. For the first time, we participated in the ICM council meeting, and the regional meeting virtually, which brought us together and allowed us to interact and set the regional agenda for the next Triennium.
As we look forward to the new year, I would like to call on Midwives to remain with women. Our African region is still facing the highest burden on maternal, neonatal and stillborn deaths. Midwives remain the most appropriate care provider to avert these deaths. The solution lies in the improved quality of education for Midwives to global standards, creations of enabling environment for Midwives to practice in and regulation for Midwifery practice. Our combined effort should be ensuring that Midwives in our region are practising midwifery to the full scope.
I wish you all happy holidays!
Representing Europe Region (Central Europe)
The year has been quite challenging as we are all dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Extraordinary working conditions, lack of PPE and maintaining respectful maternity care have characterised this pandemic for midwives as we continue providing care in hospitals, communities and at the advocacy level.
Despite many restrictions or lockdowns, the global work continued, and our region was able to participate at ICMs Annual Council Meeting and the European Regional Meeting. This was quite exciting as we managed to draft our working plan for the next Triennium.
I am proud to work with our strong and motivated member associations within the Central European Region and look forward to our activities in 2021. Our region decided to focus on midwife-led care and explore options to strengthen the autonomy of midwives. Additionally, we would like to get a deeper exchange and understanding of our midwifery education within the region. This is particularly interesting for us as our member associations would like to explore the options for further Master qualifications or the concept of advanced midwifery qualifications.
Working together, learning from each other and strengthening the regional midwife community will lead us through the upcoming years. We are strong and can work the pathway forward together — a path where midwife-led care is present and accessible in every maternity health care system within the region. These are exciting times, and the global community is looking forward to promoting these models, providing guidance on educational standards and advocating for more leadership opportunities for midwives in order to build toward strengthened midwifery care in the Central European Region.
So, let’s move forward together.
María Florencia Francisconi
Representing Americas Region (Latin America)
What a year! As the regional representative for Latin America, a member of the College of Midwives of the Province of Buenos Aires, I would like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU. Thank you for not giving up, even facing the most adverse situations, thank you for being such an active and committed region and, above all, thank you for enhancing our profession by providing quality care to women and newborns. I am proud of the unity that you Midwives’ Associations are achieving in the region and thanks to this, we speak with one voice for the midwife profession.
We have spent our International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife in a very particular way, crossed by the COVID-19 pandemic and full of challenges, which we have managed to face jointly and with the support of our strategic partners.
On the other hand, we continued our fight for the proper recognition of our profession, to improve educational standards and to strengthen Midwives’ Associations, obtaining many achievements of which we should be proud of as a region.
My wish for the upcoming years together is that the results of investing in midwives and midwifery are locally, regionally and globally recognised, that all women can have a midwife by their side, accompanying them during all stages of their sexual and reproductive life and, that newborns, get the warmest and most respectful welcome to the world, also from the hand of a midwife.
Representing Americas Region (North America and the Caribbean)
When I look back on 2020, it will be remembered as a year that changed everything and everyone forever.
For those of us who love sci-fi, it seemed that prior best-selling novels were coming true. Fact followed fiction as surely as a variable deceleration might follow cord compression in an altered universe complete with sweltering space suit coverings, dehydration (because masking does not lead to high fluid intake) and new vocabulary as I, like many of you, became Zoomed out!
With this ever-evolving reality, came unforeseen ethical dilemmas as midwives followed the call of their career path and passion, sometimes at great risk. I will never forget the hard choice of running for PPE or letting a rapid delivery in triage hit the floor, then the onslaught of emotion from the joy of the birth, mixed with guilt at exposing my family to the virus.
As we move into the unknown of 2021, we shall continue to take inspiration from the words of a king no longer with us who transitioned like so many icons this year. His charge does not only apply to Wakanda, but to us in our journey as midwives in these changing times.
“We can no longer watch from the shadows. We cannot. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”
We are a connected tribe of midwives, with women then, now, and for all times.
Representing Eastern Mediterranean Region
Midwives play an essential role in ensuring that women have a safe and positive experience during their pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period. I am really proud of the midwives in the Eastern Mediterranean Region for their hard work during COVID-19 crisis to support women and their newborns through childbirth. Midwives save lives. They help women to have a positive experience, even during pandemic situations.
Representing Europe Region (Northern Europe)
In the Northern European Region, the Year of the Midwife 2020 has unfortunately not been promoted as many of us planned and expected. The intention and plans were there, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these plans were cancelled.
However, midwives in the region have — as always — supported women during pregnancy and childbirth, and this year I would say more than ever. During this particularly difficult time, the focus for midwives in the region has been to do their best and to continue providing services in a safe and responsible way.
Many women, their partners and families have been anxious and afraid: Will I get sick? What consequences will this mean for my baby? Will the baby be infected?
Women have needed — and got, more and extensive information, support and follow-up during pregnancy and childbirth.
Too many women have gone through a difficult time; with additional concern for themselves and their baby, as well as for the care, and follow-up expected. They have been worried about going into childbirth, about being infected by Covid-19, about being alone, about entering the health care system — many also without any partner or relative present. I am proud of the midwives in my region who have continued to give women the best midwifery care, some with fewer resources in already difficult and scarce health care settings, some with little personal protection equipment available. Midwives did what they always have done: taken good care of pregnant and birthing women and their families in the most vulnerable time in life.
I know many midwives in my region had expected a different 2020. However, when Corona hit, we stood together with women and did what a MIDWIFE should always do: be there for them. In that way, this has been the Year of the Midwife.
Thanks, good colleagues and friends!
Representing Europe Region (Southern Europe)
Midwives all over the world have quickly shifted attention from the World Health Organization’s proclamation of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife to the COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 was to celebrate the work of midwives and nurses internationally, highlighting the challenging conditions they often face, and advocating for increased investments in the midwifery and nursing workforce.
Who could have imagined the critical importance of midwives in our society would be brought into focus so clearly by the COVID-19 pandemic? Every day, the media highlights the threatening conditions midwives and other care providers are facing in their clinical practice. Moreover, midwifery staff shortages have demonstrated the healthcare system’s ability to provide homecare, virtual antenatal and postnatal sessions in this time of social distancing, and pandemic fear. However, midwives are still providing the human connection and supporting mothers and their families as they adapt to changes in society.
All areas of perinatal care are impacted, and midwives are facing enormous challenges, such as, violation of the human rights of women, neonates and midwives, with increasing cases of caesarean sections, not initiating breastfeeding and isolating mothers from their birth partners and newborns. In these challenging times, the role of the midwife is more recognised as an advocate of women’s voices and a key professional in understanding the healthcare needs of women with COVID-19. Midwives provide a theoretical evaluation of the ‘medicalised terminology’ and the underpinning philosophy.
The lessons of midwifery practice in fragile and humanitarian settings are being applied today during the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous midwifery leaders emphasise the phenomenon of midwives’ courage and dedication. We call on organisations to honour midwives during these stressful times.
The midwives deserve nothing less, now and always.