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You are in: Somerset > People > People > Engine Room supports Tanzanian midwives to bring about change

Midwives watching the film back

Midwives watching the film back

Engine Room supports Tanzanian midwives to bring about change

It has been described as the world's biggest health injustice but now Tanzanian midwives have been given the chance to raise awareness of maternal and newborn mortality thanks to Somerset film makers.

A group of film makers from Somerset have given Tanzanian midwives the opportunity to speak out about childbirth mortality.

Volunteers from the Engine Room in Bridgwater have worked with the global organisation the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and trained five midwives and one doctor how to film and edit in October 2006.

Film maker Brigid McConville said the film, Play Your Part, was about giving them the opportunity to tell their own story. "We offer support- it's their story so we're invited as guests to support them. It's part of the Engine Room's ethos of community empowerment."

Although the project is a collaboration, it is the White Ribbon Alliance film making team in Tanzania who decide what goes into the film which is constantly evolving.   

The film has had quite an impact- it's been shown on Tanzanian television, in London and New York, and the country's health minister was impressed.

Fourteen other countries where White Ribbon Alliance works, including Malawi and South Africa, have now requested a similar project in order to raise awareness and bring about change.

Sarah Brown, wife of the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, has also agreed to become the Patron of the White Ribbon Alliance in the UK.

Preventable deaths

Figures show that in every minute of the developing world, a woman dies during childbirth. 

The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality by 75% by 2015 is far from being achieved.

The Tanzanian health minister, professor David Mwakyusa, said the situation was not acceptable and that at least 10,000 qualified health care professionals were needed. Supplies are so short that mothers are asked to buy their own gloves and gauze.  

"We're beginning to see a positive change but we have to keep up the pressure. It's the biggest health injustice in the world"

Brigid McConville

'Heroic struggle'

'Play Your Part' is part of an initiative by the White Ribbon Alliance, a coalition of grass root organisations and governments which aims to prevent childbirth mortality.

It features interviews with village chiefs and mothers in a crowded maternity ward.

Brigid McConville, the Alliance's UK director, said the project aimed to give midwives the opportunity to make their voices heard as they knew exactly what the problems were and how they could be solved.

Team meeting

Brigid writes about women's rights

"The stories are riveting and often express a passionate commitment to their work while struggling heroically against enormous odds: long hours, low pay, shortages of drugs and equipment."

Brigid, a journalist who's written books on the issue, became involved with the Alliance when she made a film looking at childbirth mortality entitled My Sister, Myself.

"I've always worked on woman's rights and issues. There's no distinction between women and pregnancy is part of our whole world story- it's connected to us. It's preventable- it doesn't have to happen.

"Stories and messages from the films make a big impact. It's now a matter of changing peoples' thinking and encouraging them to know their rights.

"Now there is a sense that the communities here in Somerset and in Tanzania are working to the same end. We have had tremendous support locally, from the Engine Room and Bridgwater College - where one of the Tanzanian team will be meeting students in March - and also sponsorship from local company Hippychick. But there is still a lot of work to be done.

"We're beginning to see a positive change but we have to keep up the pressure. It's the biggest health injustice in the world."

last updated: 01/05/2008 at 15:21
created: 07/02/2008

You are in: Somerset > People > People > Engine Room supports Tanzanian midwives to bring about change

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