RCM Wales celebrates Black History and Culture Month

By Julie Richards, RCM Wales Director and Jayne Bekoe RCM Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion on 31 October 2023 RCM UK Research Safety Women Equality and Diversity

As Black History and Culture Month comes to an end, RCM Director for Wales, Julie Richards and RCM Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Jayne Bekoe reflect on the events and collaborative working that contribute to the RCM’s strategy and direction to call for better equality, diversity and inclusion in the NHS.

On 2 October the RCM Wales team attended the Diverse Cymru Certificate of Cultural Competence celebration dinner and awards. This was an evening to celebrate breaking down barriers and improving opportunities for many Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in the workforce. The RCM Wales team is currently working through the scheme for cultural competency, which is built on honest, open and sustainable relationships and encourages workplaces to go beyond just ticking the boxes. 

The next day, we joined the TUC Wales at the Senedd, which was attended by the Minister of Social Justice, Jane Hutt, and Minister for Economy, Vaughan Gethin. The event focused on sharing experiences that Black people have had with the younger generation and how to support the younger generation when it comes to expressing themselves.

At the Senedd, Jamie Morris, Welsh Government Equality Diversity and Inclusion Manager, shared her maternity experience and career journey into midwifery. Jamie shared how the birth of her son sparked the idea 17 years ago and how she made the decision because of her experiences in labour.

During labour, Jamie her pain was minimized by staff and when she explained to the midwife that she didn’t like the feeling entonox gave her, she was told she had to have it for the artificial rupture of membranes. Jamie was not a midwife at this point, so she listened and trusted what they told her. When she told the midwife she was going to be sick, she was told not to be so stupid. This is just one of many negative experiences Jamie had, but this made her want to become a midwife.

She never wanted another woman to be treated the way she was treated or spoken to and dismissed the way she was. Jamie felt she could do a better job herself and even if she just improved one woman’s experience, she would have made a difference.

Jamie reflected that her experience of the NHS as a midwife has overall been positive. However, when you look specifically at midwifery, diversity within the team is lacking. More needs to be done to ensure the midwifery workforce is representative. With little diversity along with systemic racism and microaggressions in the workplace you have limited support.

This has led Jamie to work with RCM Wales to set up a national voices network for midwives, students and MSWs from the global majority. Together we want staff to have a safe space to discuss any problems and issues they have with colleagues that looked like them and find solutions to improve the working environment for themselves and other members of staff. The network meets virtually on a quarterly basis, with the October session welcoming Diverse Cymru as the guest speaker. The next network meeting is 4 January 2024 with the theme and guest speakers to be announced soon. The discussions are anonymously fed back into RCM Wales and contribute to its direction and strategy to influence positive change within health boards.

The month’s activity ended with an inspirational and informative conference at Swansea City Stadium sponsored by the Frank Majoko Education fund. The keynote speaker, Professor Uzo Iwobi, spoke on how we can build an anti-racist Wales and shared the lessons to be learnt for global majority staff members working in the NHS during the pandemic. The conference highlighted the need to work together for allyship to tackle discrimination. The day included lots of practice-related sessions, including Dr Stella Seppings sharing the findings from the NHS Race and Health Observatory findings and the importance for language and resources.  

The commitment from the Welsh Government with the Anti-racist Wales Action Plan and the work RCM Wales and the wider RCM are undertaking to tackle racism and health inequalities demonstrates that we are further on the path to equity and the collective commitment will help collaborations, like working with Jamie, to achieve what she wanted to 17 years ago, to make a difference to women’s experiences and it can start with one.