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Global village

27 May, 2016

Global village


Joy visiting a rural clinic in Nepal

The RCM has been helping build and sustain midwifery overseas for some years. Joy Kemp gives an update on what’s happening and how UK midwives can help.

Every year, around 289,000 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth and more than 2.6 million babies are stillborn (WHO, 2015). Most of these deaths occur in developing countries and are preventable (WHO, 2015).

Every year on 5 May, it is IDM. The day is an opportunity to remind the world that every woman should have access to a midwife, to celebrate the achievements of midwives, and highlight progress made in improving maternal and newborn care and midwifery services. Midwives have a key role to play as the global community strives to achieve the sustainable development goals of reducing maternal and newborn mortality and ensuring universal access to healthcare services (ICM, 2014a).

It is also an opportunity to help raise money for midwifery projects at home and overseas. Midwives are invited to hold events – the ICM produces downloadable resources each year and these feature on the RCM website. Midwives also have the option to participate in the annual Virtual IDM – a free 24-hour online conference celebrating midwifery and birth-related matters.

The RCM has a long history of international work and, since 2012, it has been increasingly active through its twinning projects and global partnerships. The ICM suggests strong midwifery associations are essential for a strong midwifery profession and it promotes twinning as a way of strengthening member associations (ICM, 2014b).

Since last year, and the successful completion of the Global Midwifery Twinning Project in Cambodia, Nepal and Uganda, we’ve been developing new projects, sustaining our twinning relationships and exploring new ones. 


Together with our partner, the Uganda Private Midwives Association, we identified mentorship for student midwives as a focus – after all, mentors are gatekeepers for entry to the profession (NHS Education for Scotland, 2013). The MOMENTUM project was set up and began in September 2015. It was funded by UK-Aid through the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET), which is a specialist global health organisation that educates, trains and supports health workers through partnerships.

MOMENTUM aims to support the Ugandan Nurses and Midwives Council in three ways. It is helping to develop national standards for mentorship and design a module to train midwives as mentors. It is also helping to improve these standards in four clinical
pilot sites.

It is a twinning project, which means that seven individual UK midwives are twinned with Ugandan counterparts for the duration of the initiative. These midwives – all RCM members – undertook their first trip to Uganda for four weeks in January this year and will return again in early 2017. In between, they continue to twin with their counterparts by virtual means. This is helped by working with Manchester University, who have developed a programme called Change Exchange. This enhances the training aspects of MOMENTUM by using theories, interventions and measures of behaviour change from the discipline of health behaviour psychology.


Nepal’s geography and lack of infrastructure poses barriers to the provision of healthcare services. Additionally, women in Nepal face discrimination and marginalisation. At present, midwifery is not an independent profession in the country (Midwifery Society of Nepal (MIDSON), 2016).

MIDSON was founded in 2010 with a mandate to strengthen midwifery services and to provide a voice for the profession. Since twinning with the RCM in 2012, MIDSON has developed its capacity for advocacy, resulting in the first three-year bachelor of midwifery programme starting this year. It has also helped to establish a midwife-led birthing centre in Kathmandu and hosted two national midwifery scientific conferences, as well as establishing a young midwives group and developing a five-year strategic plan.

In April 2015, Nepal suffered a devastating earthquake, followed by more than 100 aftershocks, resulting in 9000 deaths. Humanitarian crises always hurt women and girls the most (UNFPA, 2016), but MIDSON’s increased capacity meant that it was able to mount an impressive response, quickly reaching out to affected areas, while supporting struggling services in Kathmandu.

The RCM’s appeal to members raised nearly £25,000, enabling us to develop a programme to increase our help. This new project with MIDSON is called SUSTAIN and the partnership is currently implementing it, while continuing to support the development of midwifery in Nepal as the country recovers.


The RCM is also helping in Bangladesh by working with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), which is involved with the Bangladesh government and development partners to fight poverty. The RCM helps DFID by providing midwifery consultants to aid in establishing a new midwifery education programme at BRAC University in Bangladesh.

Future possibilities

The next steps include the possibility of increasing involvement in Malawi. Building on the RCM’s informal links over several years, we were also recently funded to undertake a formal scoping visit to explore possibilities for midwifery partnership projects. Later in the year, the RCM will revisit Cambodia to explore how to build on the success of our previous project.

Resources for members

The RCM has been developing a portfolio of resources to help members get involved in global work. In addition, there is a new i-learn module to help student midwives prepare for electives, and two more modules for midwife members due to be launched later this year. 

More information

For the RCM’s portfolio of resources for members involved in global work, visit rcm.org.uk/global

For more information about the Virtual IDM, visit vidofmid.wordpress.com

Joy Kemp, RCM global professional advisor

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ICM. (2014a) Twinning programmes. See: http://www.internationalmidwives.org/projects-programmes/former-projects/icm-interventions/more-twinning-programmes.html (accessed 17 may 2016).

ICM. (2014b) Education, regulation and association. See: http://internationalmidwives.org/what-we-do/education-regulation-association/ (accessed 17 May 2016).

MIDSON. (2016) Midwifery in Nepal. See: http://www.midson.org/Midwifery_in_Nepal.html (accessed 17 May 2016).

NHS Education for Scotland. (2013) National approach to mentor preparation for nurses and midwives: Core curriculum framework (second edition). See: http://www.nes.scot.nhs.uk/media/2071831/national-approach-to-mentor-preparation-2nd-edition.pdf (accessed 17 May 2016).

UNFPA. (2016) Protecting women in emergency situations. See: http://www.unfpa.org/resources/protecting-women-emergency-situations (accessed 17 May 2016).

WHO. (2015) Maternal mortality. See: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs348/en/ (accessed 17 May 2016).