A Spotlight on Bangladeshi Midwives for International Women’s Day

on 08 March 2019 Global midwifery

To mark International Women’s Day, the Global Team at RCM would like to showcase some of the incredible, young women who are paving the way for midwifery in Bangladesh.

With formal midwifery only being introduced by the government in Bangladesh in the last few years, the profession itself is very new. As a result, this means that not only do midwifery students need to develop the required skillset to meet international standards, but they need to have the passion, determination and confidence to fight and advocate for midwifery in their own communities and in some cases, to high level government officials. RCM’s global team has been lucky enough to work alongside some extremely motivated and talented young midwives in Bangladesh.

Jhumu Aktar (pictured), who at 24 is a qualified midwife, the Vice President of the Bangladesh Midwifery Society and has spent several months working with Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazaar, says that she was motivated to become a midwife when she heard the Prime Minister of Bangladesh talking about how the introduction of midwifery to the country would substantially benefit the health outcomes of Bangladeshi women and babies. As this is something that Jhumu deeply cares about, she decided to apply to be part of Bangladesh’s first cohort of midwifery students.

Although Jhumu is now a fully qualified midwife, she is still confronted with significant resistance from the community when trying to provide midwifery care. Jhumu told us of one particular experience when she was at home and off duty, and her sister alerted her to a neighbour who had just given birth at home and seemed to have lost a lot of blood. Jhumu immediately jumped up, grabbed her bag with basic equipment and ran to her neighbour’s house to help. Despite the woman clearly suffering from excessive bleeding and the birth attendant crying and unable to help, the older women in the family refused to let Jhumu in as they believed she was too young and wouldn’t be able to do anything for the woman. Jhumu knew that she would have to stand up to the older women - not an easy task in the context of Bangladesh - and prove to them that she was capable of treating this woman. Eventually, after a lengthy explanation that she was trained in managing emergency care in childbirth, the women reluctantly allowed Jhumu to see to the mother.

After a quick examination, Jhumu immediately identified that the cause of excessive bleeding was as a result of a retained placenta. Jhumu knew exactly what to do. She put on her gloves and proceeded to manually remove the placenta, and then went on to massage the uterus to stop the bleeding. Eventually the bleeding stopped and the woman was stabilised. As she had lost a lot of blood and was very weak, Jhumu explained to the family that it was very important that the woman was taken to the hospital. The family listened to Jhumu’s advice and transported the woman to a nearby hospital to receive the required care. 

Jhumu says that the best part of this tory for her was when she received an invitation to the woman’s home several days later, where the woman and her family expressed their sincere gratitude for the care she had provided.

Before this story, Jhumu’s village were unaware of what the purpose of a midwife was, but as a result of Jhumu’s bold actions, news quickly spread, and Jhumu was asked to attend another birth several days later.

Jhumu’s story not only demonstrates the comprehensive skills trained midwives possess to save women (and babies) lives, but also the tenacity and passion required to practice as a midwife in a country where the profession is still virtually unheard of in some communities, and where sensitivity navigating social and cultural norms is vital.  

With thousands of new midwives deployed all over Bangladesh, Jhumu’s story of a young, skilled, passionate woman fighting for another woman’s right to safe maternal health care, is not unique. We would therefore like to use International Women’s Day to recognise the incredible work being done by these young women on a daily basis, and thank them for working so closely with the RCM Global Team on the Bangladesh Twinning Project.

Find out more about RCM's Global work.