Breaking the bias

By Joy Kemp, Global Professional Advisor Midwives Women Immigrant Women Wellbeing Of Women Women's Choice Women's Rights

International Women’s Day is a day of unique significance to midwives as, besides providing care to women and their families, midwives are defenders of women’s rights and are at the forefront of advocacy work and social change within the fields of gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, anti-racism and discrimination, and human rights.

This year the theme is Break the bias. We are called to imagine a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive, and to show solidarity for our sisters around the world.

This is hard to reconcile with the situation in Ukraine that is unfolding before our eyes. On television and in the newspapers we see images of women on the frontline, women who have given birth in underground railway stations, healthcare facilities being targeted with heavy shelling and large numbers of women and children on the move, seeking refuge from violence. 

The UN estimates that 80,000 women will give birth in the next three months in Ukraine, many of them without access to critical maternal health care. Humanitarian crises take a disproportionate toll on women and girls, exacerbate gender inequalities and elevate the risk of sexual violence.  Women in crisis - and in everyday life - often prioritise children, friends and neighbours over themselves.

So today – and moving forward – how can we as midwives and those who work with midwives, show solidarity for women around the world, especially women in Ukraine?

Firstly, we can do this through our membership of international organisations who strengthen our voice. The RCM has joined with trade unions worldwide in condemning the invasion of Ukraine and is working with and supporting public service unions in Ukraine whose members are on the front line, including the Health Workers’ Union of Ukraine.

As members of the International Confederation of Midwives and the European Midwives Association, when they speak - as they have been doing - we speak; for women’s sexual and reproductive rights to be upheld, for respectful maternity care whatever the situation in which women find themselves and for an end to violence, especially violence against midwives and other healthcare workers and gender-based violence.

Secondly, we can donate to organisations providing practical help and support (see the RCM website for details of how to donate to the ITUC solidarity fund, the Red Cross and the DEC appeal). Lastly, we can ensure that the care provided to migrant women in the UK is compassionate and responsive; the RCM has recently provided helpful guidance on this. Let’s join together to Break The Bias.