Maternity community matters now more than ever

By Lydia O'Neill on 22 April 2021 Race matters

Today, 22 April, is the third annual Stephen Lawrence Day, named for the young black teenager who was murdered in a racially motivated attack in 1993. The Foundation's focus this year is on community - how community matters now more than ever in the tackle against racism and its many systemic layers. The past year has given rise to the power of community spirit and community voice, not least in the fight against a global pandemic but in building national momentum against prejudice and injustice. It has got me thinking about our maternity community, who we are, the spirit we have and the action we take.

When I think about what the RCM is, I think, we are a community made of 50,000 midwives, aspiring midwives and maternity support workers. We are a multi-cultural and multinational community, and our collective experience and knowledge is beyond measure. We are a strong and loud voice promoting the best care, with women and with each other – and to us, Race Matters.

In our community, Black and Asian maternity staff are more likely to experience bullying and be subject to undermining behaviour. They are also more likely to be disciplined at work and receive harsher outcomes. Black women are four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth, women of mixed heritage are three times more likely and Asian women two times more likely. Black and Asian women receive poorer care than their white counterparts. With our Race Matters initiative, we have pledged to improve the experience of our Black, Asian and minority ethnic members and the women and families in our care. There is more to do, and we need everyone’s involvement.

This week we rolled out our first, in a number of, Race Matters training days for all our workplace representatives. It was a safe space to start discussions and share concerns and we are very proud of those who took part and showed bravery speaking out. The discussions showed us that no matter who you are or where you live, it's everyone’s business to acknowledge and challenge prejudice wherever or whenever it shows its face. We encourage all our community activists to get involved in these training days as a part of developing the skills, confidence and competence to represent and support RCM members.

Also this week, we supported campaigners Tinuke Awe and Clo Abe from Five X More for a House of Commons debate. We joined in the call to ask MPs to act on Black maternal healthcare and mortality by signing the Five X More pledge. In the debate we heard overwhelming evidence and testimonials of treatment and disparities. Maternal death is just the tip of the iceberg – there are many numbers of severe pregnancy complications that go unrecorded.

In our maternity community we have a duty to be a part of a national conversation and show our commitment to those who are in it and those who seek us out for the excellent care we can provide. Let’s keep up the momentum of our work, our research and our Race Matters movement and create real, meaningful change.

Find out more about the Race Matters initiative here.