Still they persist

By Gill Walton on 08 March 2024

RCM Chief Executive, Gill Walton, celebrates the women supporting women, despite the barriers and the challenges, around the world in her blog for International Women’s Day.

As I write this, I can’t help but think about all the brilliant women I’ve met through my career. Midwives, MSWs, obstetricians, radiographers, anaesthetists – and of course the many, many women I’ve supported through pregnancy, labour and birth. Each and every one of them has shown strength and courage, and I’m incredibly proud to have been alongside them.

Because women are strong and courageous. And nowhere is that strength and courage more evident than in the footage that plays out on the news every day, whether from Gaza, Ukraine, Israel, Yemen, Iran or Myanmar. Sadly, the list of places where women are struggling through war and oppression feels endless. Yet still they persist.

All too often, women are seen as a soft target. In conflict, sexual violence is commonplace, and women, particularly pregnant women, are especially vulnerable in warzones. Seeing the conditions in which women are giving birth in Gaza is heartbreaking. And seeing the midwives who continue to support them, despite the risks to themselves, is awe-inspiring. Yet those women persist.

In Ukraine, women are supporting women, showing extraordinary resilience after two years of a war that seems no closer to an end. Despite shattered infrastructure, midwives and other healthcare professionals continue to deliver what care they can, their own act of resistance against the invasion.

Because, while women may well be seen as a soft target, this is far from the reality. Women are strong. We are resilient. We see challenges and we find solutions. We persist, sometimes in the face of inconceivable odds.

Today, wars, including civil wars, rage on almost every continent. Some of those conflicts have the eyes of the world on them, others seem to pass without comment. All of them have a huge human cost, and will continue to do so years, even generations, after they end. Yet in each of these warzones, there are pockets of compassion, of care, and of humanity. And that is where you will find the women, the strong, courageous women, supporting each other, in spite of what is whirling around them.

As midwives, we know what it’s like to support a woman through labour and birth, how it sometimes feels almost like the two of you become one in bringing a baby, safely and healthily, into the world. How sometimes the rest of the world falls away as you work together in this most natural moment. Imagine how that must feel in a warzone, when you’re concerned not only for the life of the woman and child before you, but your own too. And yet, those women, those midwives persist.

This International Women’s Day, I’m going to be thinking not only of the brilliant women that I’ve worked alongside, and continue to work alongside, but also of the incredible women across the world, delivering care despite the risks to themselves. Their persistence is an example to us all.

Related links

DEC Ukraine appeal

Médecins sans Frontières

International Rescue Committee

Medical Aid for Palestinians