This special day for midwives worldwide has existed for 28 years. In Benin, it has been celebrated for 25 years and events take place to mark the day in a different town each year. This year, International Day of the Midwife was celebrated in Bohicon, a town of approximately 150 000 located 125 km northwest of the country’s capital, Cotonou.
May 5th events attract midwives from across the country, each clothed in a dress made from the same fabric, which is chosen for the occasion months in advance. The fabric is delivered far and wide to the midwives in Benin and they each make themselves an elegant dress. As I had the opportunity to participate, my dress was waiting for me on my arrival.
The morning began with an official mass for the midwives in one of the Catholic churches in the town and continued with an official ceremony. To celebrate properly, various officials were invited to sit with the president of the midwifery association. The federal Ministry of Health and its departmental director, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Midwives Save Lives project partners CUSO International were all in attendance. Each was invited to say something about this year’s theme Let’s lead the way with quality care. The official ceremony closed with the sharing of refreshments and a cake and was followed by a lunch.
May 5th capped four days of activities to increase public awareness about midwives and scientific education days for midwives. One event was a cervical and breast cancer screening activity organized in three maternities. On the afternoon of the third day of events, the midwives marched to increase awareness on the use of condoms and the role of midwives in reproductive and maternal health services. A large International Day of the Midwife banner was paraded around the town and hundreds of condoms were distributed to the sound of fanfare.
The scientific days included presentations on various topics such as: Indicators for maternal, neonatal and infant care; Criteria for the acceptability of modern methods of contraception; The new World Health Organization partograph; Inappropriate use of misoprostol; The role of midwives in reducing violence against women and girls; and Sex education for adolescents and youths.
On the evening of May 4th the midwives danced until late at night in celebration of their profession.
Nadine Duhil-Enns is a Canadian midwife volunteer who was in Benin to deliver an emergency skills training for midwives as part of the Midwives Save Lives (MSL) project. She had the opportunity to share in the IDM celebrations while she was there. Midwives Save Lives is funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, and is led by Cuso International in partnership with Canadian Association of Midwives and local midwifery associations in Benin, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.