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Empowering Midwives in Rwanda

pandora group shot 2nd from right front row resized

UAB School of Nursing graduate, Pandora Hardtman, pictured above (second from the right on the front row) with nurse midwives of the Rwanda Midwifery Association, is working to improve the education and power of nurse midwives in Rwanda.  Also pictured in the photo is the Rwandan Minister of Health Dr. Anita Asiimwe (fourth from the right on the front row), the Chief Nursing Officer for Rwanda Mary Murebwayire (third from the right on the front row), and three UNFPA Rwanda representatives (who were donors). 

Since graduating with her Doctorate in Nursing Practice in 2012, Dr. Hardtman has been working on a Human Resources for Health Project to Strengthen Midwifery Education in Rwanda.  In her role there, she has worked closely with the Rwandan Ministry of Health and the Rwandan Midwifery Association, and other partners on a variety of initiatives, including the first ever celebration of the International Day of the Midwife which was a huge success.  Please enjoy further reading by reading Dr. Hardtman's blog post about this important event below.

May 5 2013 marks the first year since its inception in July 2011 that the Rwandan Association of Midwives celebrated the International Day of the Midwife. The celebration of IDM with over 150 in attendance was filled with song, traditional dance and information followed by luncheon and the fellowship of midwives, student midwives and midwifery supporters from all over the country at the Hilltop Hotel.  The IDM program launched the RAM's endorsement of the Respectful Maternity Care (RMC) campaign of the White Ribbon Alliance.  Rwandan midwives showed their bravery and commitment to improvements in care by providing supportive  anecdotal and observed statements for each of the six categories of disrespect and abuse in maternity care highlighted by the RMC campaign.  The stories told by a midwife in the local kinyarwanda language made it impossible for the listeners to ignore the gravity of the problem and committed all within hearing to positive action.  The keynote speech of  Minister of  State Health Dr. Anita Asiimwe reiterated the need for more midwives to continue to provide high quality services and to provide respectful, dignified, accountable care. 

The founding members of the RAM were SisterMary Murebwayire, Ministry of Health Chief Nursing Officer and Asteria Karasira.  Sister Mary's decades of work aimed at reconstructing Nursing and Midwifery services in the post- genocide Rwanda were honored by her selection as the recipient of the first annual Rwandan Midwife of the Year award. The event garnered the attention of the local print and television media who turned out in force to record the landmark midwifery event.

The history of Midwifery in Rwanda illustrates the transition from Traditional Birth Attendants to a system of fully trained professional midwives. In 1949, Kabgayi Catholic mission started to train a few assistant midwives.  As birth moved into facilities , the midwifery demand increased.  In 1997, the Government of Rwanda approved studies at Kigali Health Institute for midwifery coursework which continue to this day.  In 2007, five additional schools of nursing and midwifery were opened at Kagbayi, Kibungo, Byumba, Rawmagana and Nyagatare.  The National Council for Nurses and Midwives reports over 250 Midwives successfully completing licensing examination and becoming eligible to enter the National Registry  of Nurses and Midwives this year to close the midwifery workforce gap.  Final year midwifery students from these Schools of Nursing and Midwifery  proudly joined in IDM festivities marking the future leadership potential and promise of the profession of Midwifery in Rwanda.  The memorable day ended with the sounds of the ICTC song 'I love being a Midwife' as taught by the Human Resources for Health Rwanda Midwifery Team. 

The event was supported with funding from the UNFPA as they continue to 'Invest in Midwives'.

The Rwanda Association of Midwives remains in its infancy and hopes to become a full member of the ICM in the near future. For more information or to support its efforts contact rwandamidwivesassociation@gmail.com