Bangladesh here I come

By Nafiza Anwar on 22 May 2019 Global midwifery

After finding out that the RCM were involved with a Twinning project in Bangladesh it really ignited my desire to be able to support and give something back to my ethnic origins. After expressing my interest to the RCM I was recruited as a volunteer to support the Bangladesh Midwifery Society and the project in Bangladesh.  My trip for four weeks was scheduled from the 22nd April 2019.

The Twinning project concept was an approach developed by the ICM with the view to strengthen midwifery associations and enable midwives to contribute to reducing maternal and neonatal mortality in their countries of origin. In Bangladesh the Twinning project is part of a larger programme “Strengthening the National Midwifery Programme ‘ the aim being to support the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to produce competent midwives.

The aim of my trip was to help Bangladesh Midwifery Society (BMS) co-ordinate the celebration of IDM on the 5th May, support BMS in preparation for review of their constitution, and supporting them to make the necessary preparations for their AGM scheduled in June 2019. Finally, to make a trip to one of the local divisional branches to engage with the divisional committees to plan future activities and enhance further progress.

My first meeting with BMS was at their headquarters located in Dhaka Medical College, this was constructed in 1904, it was handed over to the University of Dhaka in 1921, which was founded that year.

The Project Manager, Sharmin Shobnum Joya a delightful individual met me at the office, I was later joined by Ms Momtaz Begum, President and Ms  BMS Rehena Khanom , Treasurer BMS.  The BMS team were so warm and welcoming it felt as though I had known them for years. We had a very good meeting and discussed the historical background of BMS and the changes that had occurred since the association with the RCM.

One of the points that was highlighted in our discussion was the question that is asked repeatedly is ‘What is a midwife’. Midwifery in Bangladesh is a relatively new concept and since the pledge to develop this new profession it appears that the wider public as well as the medical profession are actually unaware of the role of the midwife. There has been a swift development in the role but there is no definitive description as to the midwife actually does or can do. We agreed that there needs to be more marketing or awareness amongst the general public and also the need to educate the medical and Nursing professions so that they don’t feel threatened by the role. It was mentioned that there seems to be a little antagonism developing between nurses and the new midwives. As with any change acceptance takes time and this seems to be the case in Bangladesh. Its vital that the role of the midwife is properly highlighted into society providing clear evidence as to how important the midwife is for all aspects of women’s health and hence helping develop a health nation. It was very refreshing to note that the team were very passionate about taking midwifery forward and making women’s experience of childbirth a positive one. They are working extremely hard to try to achieve this and understand that this is an immensely huge task.

One of my objectives was to visit a divisional branch and so I went off to Khulna, which was a 30-minute plane ride. I met up with Pinky Dutta a committee member of BMS. She greeted me with a bunch of flowers, which was such a sweet gesture. Pinky I later observed is an extremely passionate midwife and so committed to the profession. It made me feel so proud to see such determination and vigour. We visited the Health clinic where a team of midwives worked alongside the obstetrician to provide midwifery care to women in the area. I was taken around the centre and visited the maternity areas and witnessed the circumstances that the midwives work in. I will think twice about complaining about things at work, these midwives are working with minimal resources and yet they are adapting and giving the best care that they can provide given the circumstances.

The temperature during my visit was reaching the 40’s and there was no aircon in the clinic and yet the midwives I saw were working with smiles on their faces and just carrying on with their work. I was able to observe some midwifery consultations in the outpatients and was impressed by the way the women were being treated, there was a feeling of confidence amongst the young team and the women I observed appeared to be comfortable and satisfied by the care they received. These girls are truly inspiring and I can see that they will lead the profession forward.

I also had the pleasure of visiting the Nursing and Midwifery College; again this was a very positive experience. I was immensely impressed by the whole set up there appeared to be a very structured approach to the training programme and the Principal whom I met and had time to discuss her institute and the midwifery programme, was a very focussed and very engaged in the whole concept of midwifery. I later learned that the Khulna school of Nursing and Midwifery had been awarded the centre of excellence award and had recently been visited by numerous international agencies and stakeholders as a result of the reward.

Farida Begum, Project manager for UNFPA also met me during my visit.  I was again very impressed by her team and the hard work that they are doing in making the project a success. We discussed that development and progress of the project and where there were shortfalls and problems. We discussed possible solutions and ideas to be considered in the future. It was very apparent that the Midwifery project has progressed very quickly and that the Government of Bangladesh are providing every possible support to the project.

Further meetings with BMS were held and we discussed the pending Constitutional review and upcoming AGM. It appears that BMS are on track with the organisation of this.

The trip was an eye opener for me and emphasised how important it is for women to have a midwife in their lives and how it is the midwives who will make a difference to the health of the nation. Bangladesh has definitely taken this fact on board and are trying hard to get the midwives recognised as a profession, however it is in my eyes a huge task and will need as much support as they can get from organisations like the RCM. The team in London lead by Joy are an amazing team and I would like to thank them for permitting me for being a part of this wonderful project.


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