Guadalupe Hernandez has been working as a pioneer nurse midwife in Mexico for over 20 years. She has been influential in repositioning Mexican midwifery so that the profession is better understood in the country, and so that people can see that it is not only about the important traditional midwifery the country knows best. She has also been a champion for formally-trained midwives who are struggling against tremendous odds to both self-identify as midwives in a country that discriminates against midwives, and who are little by little proving that midwifery needs to be recognized and developed in Mexico.
Guadalupe heads one of five centers that train nurse midwives – of which there are some 16,000 in Mexico – in the 46 International Confederation of Midwives/World Health Organization competencies. Of the five, her center provides the strongest training, and she personally works incredibly hard and with great dedication to place and help the graduates of her program in the public sector and to help them do their best there, despite the fact that professional midwifery in Mexico isn’t quite recognized yet.
In addition, Guadalupe co-founded a health center where low-income women can access natural childbirth care. She also provides home births – something uncommon in urban areas, but growing slowly in popularity among a certain population. This is a new phase in Guadalupe’s professional life, as she and others are recognizing her own discursive strengths, and her ability to talk about the situation in Mexico for all different types of midwives. She has begun to speak out more, and earned broader recognition for the work of midwives.
In coordination with the Federal Ministry she is spearheading a project that will train a cohort of some 30 new midwives who will work in just one state, in the hopes that she can help prove more broadly that midwifery is needed and desirable. The Midwives4All award supports Guadalupe in her advocacy work, but more importantly the need and recognition of midwifery in Mexico, where many are unfamiliar with, skeptical about, and in some cases against the profession itself.
This is what the award winner herself had to say about the situation of the midwifery profession in Mexico:
How did you start working as a midwife?
Ever since I began my contacts with pregnant women in my role as a professional, I have loved it. I also participated in a project at a state-run hospital, where I assisted as a midwife during delivery. This was where I learned the importance of my profession and when I realised that this is what I want to do, and must do, so that all women receive individual support and help, as every delivery is unique. Being present during the delivery of a new life fills me with vitality.
In your opinion, what is the significance of the midwifery profession in Mexico?
The midwifery profession is one of the oldest and most beautiful professions, and this is true in Mexico as well. Those working as midwives must have a large capacity for paying attention to and giving personal care and support to every woman who gives birth and her family. This assistance then helps development in the country when delivery is made safer for both mothers and newborns.
In what ways are midwives important for the country?
Mexico currently finds itself in a very complicated situation when it comes to reproductive health. There is very little funding, the mortality rate is high, and there is considerable risk for both mothers and newborns of suffering from birth-related illnesses. Women and their children are also exposed to dehumanisation and, through this, to structural violence within maternity care, and in other countries it has been shown that increasing the number of midwives is an important factor in avoiding these specific problems.
What are the greatest challenges at the moment?
That women must have greater confidence in themselves and that they must discover their own strength when it comes to giving birth. At the same time, greater political influence and engagement in the issue are necessary to ensure that midwives become the norm and are accessible for everyone, and that the status of the profession is raised, leading to dignified wages.
What does the award mean to you?
The award is a symbol of the importance of the work that I and my colleagues do every day. It tells us that we are on the right track and that what we are fighting for – increasing the presence of midwifery and spreading knowledge about its significance for safer maternity care – is important.
Embassy of Sweden in Mexico