From the spirited Bathsheba to Mandakini Amte, from unrecognised midwives and unsung domestic labourers to fearless tribal activist Sumani Jogdi, these women deserve our admiration
Bringers of birth need recognition
By S S Jeevan
We often forget the services of silent women communities, who perform a critical role in society. Traditional midwives, called dais in rural India, have taken care of pregnant women and helped them deliver babies for centuries.
In 2008, there were 324,624 traditional midwives in India, according to a report of the United Nations Population Fund. They remain unsung, as governments have not recognised their work. The advent of modern medicine system further denigrated their status in society. Of late, some state governments have started training programmes to equip them to handle various kinds of pregnancies better.
Though providing financial incentives to pregnant women to get quality healthcare has come as a boon for poor rural women, many still don’t trust public healthcare services and continue to rely on traditional midwives. Contrary to what people believe, traditional midwives have learnt the art from the ancient science of Ayurveda. For instance, mothers who bleed profusely after childbirth are administered herbal mix of madhuka (Glycyrrhiza glabra), devadaru (Cedrus deodara) and manjishta (Rubia cordifolia). They have also evolved their medical practices and techniques derived from homespun wisdom.
Not just India, midwives have a significant presence in Africa, Europe and countries in Southeast Asia. When properly trained, midwives can deliver up to 87 per cent of deliveries in 73 countries, says a UN report. Their socio-economic condition can improve if they are formally recognised by the Indian government and are brought under the public healthcare system, along with imparting them with adequate training. Midwives give life to people in testing conditions in remote areas of rural India. More importantly, they need our appreciation and respect.
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