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Midwifery matters - Strengthening midwifery

The ICM envisions a world where every woman has access to a midwife’s care for herself and her newborn, writes Mary Higgins

The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) includes midwifery associations from 95 countries throughout the world. Its mission is to strengthen midwife associations and to advance the profession of midwifery globally by promoting autonomous midwives as the most appropriate caregivers for childbearing women.

The confederation believes that in keeping birth normal, midwives enhance the reproductive health of women, and the health of their newborn and their families.

The governance of the confederation is executed by its member associations. Each association appoints two named delegates to the ICM Council, the governing body of the confederation. Council delegates elect a board with members from the four ICM regions: Asia Pacific, the Americas, Africa and Europe.

The current president of ICM is Frances Day-Stirk, a member of the Royal College of Midwives in the UK.

The ICM has its headquarters in The Hague. Consisting of a small secretariat it is headed by the chief executive, Frances Ganges. The ICM board works with the secretariat to ensure that decisions made by Council are implemented. Council meets in person every three years, and board members gather annually and also communicate via teleconferencing and Skype.

Board members are responsible for keeping the associations in their regions up to date on ICM’s work, and for assisting them with professional issues. They ensure that the concerns of their associations are made known to the board.

The Midwives Section of the INMO was ratified as a member of ICM at the Council meeting in The Philippines in 1999. Since then, midwives from Ireland have played an active role within ICM and particularly in the Central European Region (CER) of which the section is a member. During the current triennium – 2011 to 2014 – the CER is represented on the board by the International Officer of the Midwives Section.

The three pillars of a strong and autonomous midwifery profession are: education, regulation and strong associations. Recognising the importance of these elements, Council, in 2008, directed the board to produce standards for both midwifery education and regulation. Midwifery competencies had already been developed in 2002 and these were to be updated. In 2011, the standards and competencies, together with a tool to help strengthen associations, were presented to Council which ratified the documents and mandated the board to implement them globally.

An accredited non-governmental organisation, ICM works with midwives associations, other NGOs and UN agencies. Funding from donor organisations supports a number of projects aiming to achieve the ‘Millennium Development Goals’ that relate directly to maternal and newborn health. The projects focus on developing and scaling up midwifery services in those countries with the highest burden of maternal mortality and morbidity. An example of such a project is that funded by the Swedish International Development Agency, which concentrates on regional development.

In 1992, ICM established the International Day of the Midwife, which falls annually on May 5. Past themes for the day include ‘Healthy Families – Key to the Future’ in 2008 and ‘The First Five Kilometres of the Long Road to Durban’ in 2011. That year, Bridget Lynch, president of ICM, came to Dublin and walked 5km with midwives from all over Ireland to raise awareness of the high levels of maternal mortality and morbidity in many countries, especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa. She also addressed midwives at TCD and at the Coombe Hospital, Dublin.

The theme for Day of the Midwife 2015 will be ‘The World Needs Midwives Today More Than Ever’. Each year the Coombe Hospital holds an ‘Essence of Midwifery Care’ conference as close to May 5 as possible. This has become a pivotal point for the annual celebrations in Ireland for the Day of the Midwife.

The ICM’s Triennial Congress will be held on June 1-5 in Prague. Its theme is ‘Midwives: Improving Women’s Health Globally’. All those attending are invited to gather on May 31 in a Prague park to raise their voices in song. This event, to be called ‘Voices of Midwives’,will be streamed live so that midwives from all over the world can join in.

For more information about the ICM or its Triennial Congress, visit www.internationalmidwives.org

Mary Higgins is the international officer of the INMO Midwives Section

Midwifery matters - Strengthening midwifery
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