Recognising midwifery and celebrating its contribution to the world

By RCM Quality and Standards Advisor Lia Brigante on 14 November 2023 RCM UK Research Safety Women Staffing Levels

Midwifery has been nominated for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. RCM’s Quality and Standards Advisor Lia Brigante shares what this great accomplishment will do for the midwifery and maternity profile in her latest blog.   

As midwives we work to support and respect the human, sexual and reproductive rights of women and families, during and after birth. As one of the oldest professions in the world, midwives are intrinsic to building sustainable societies while caring for the most vulnerable – from reducing maternal mortality to achieving universal health coverage.

That is why we are thrilled to hear that midwifery has been nominated for the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, joining a long list of professions and vocations that have been awarded this highly commended recognition.

UNESCO established its list with the aim of ensuring better protection of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide and raising the awareness of their significance. The members are the members of which are elected by State Parties meeting in a General Assembly.

Through a compendium of the different oral and intangible treasures of humankind worldwide, the programme aims to draw attention to the importance of safeguarding intangible heritage, which UNESCO has identified as an essential component and as a repository of cultural diversity.

The joint application by Colombia, Cyprus, Germany, Kyrgyz Republic, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Slovenia, and Togo demonstrates the diverse yet universal nature of midwifery.

In England, in more recent years it has felt like midwifery and maternity services are not getting the recognition they deserve. We have seen a staffing crisis amid a cost-of-living crisis, where members have been asked to go above and beyond to keep services afloat. Becoming a part of this protected list will help with our calls to safeguard and ringfence services: to protect midwives and what it is to be a midwife.

The nomination is not just an accolade; it would validate the profession's historical and contemporary importance, promoting its preservation and continuation of practice. A vote will take place from the 4 to 9 December 2023 where UNESCO will convene to consider the application. 

The RCM is committed to supporting the application and has written to the UK Secretary of State for Culture, Sport and Media to ask the UK Government to vote in support of the application. This will also give us the reassurance that the Government can also apply that recognition to midwifery services too.

If you wish to support the application share videos and photos about midwifery on your social media channels using the wording below: Vote #YEStoMidwifery being added to the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 

You can find one example, prepared as part of the #UNESCO application by  

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