At the Intersection of Midwifery and Gender-based Violence

By Martine Jean-Baptiste, Founder and Executive Director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Haitian Midwives

(Photos by FAHM)

According to the 2017 Demographic Health Surveys (DHS), approximately 23.5% of women in Haiti reported sexual and physical violence committed by a partner. Many experts feel that the statistics about gender-based violence in Haiti are even greater than the numbers reported by DHS. Haiti, like many other developing countries, has structural socio-economic inequalities and barriers that implicitly enable gender-based violence (GBV).

The unsafe living conditions in the temporary displacement camps set up after the horrific 2010 earthquake are major contributors to the increase in violence against girls and women. After the earthquake, many non- governmental organizations (NGOs) “set up house” in Haiti to provide services to victims. Despite some progress in assistance and resources that were organized to fight violence against women following the earthquake, conditions have deteriorated for women during the months prior to June 2015. At that time many post-earthquake NGOs left Haiti, resulting in the decrease of services and resources over time.

As trusted health professionals, midwives play a critical role in supporting and caring for victims of GBV. The Association of Haitian Midwives (AISFH/Association Infirmière Sage Femme d’Haiti) recognizes GBV to be a significant problem facing their patients. Given that GBV is a complex issue with multiple layers of consequences that can be psychological, physical, economic, social, legal, and cultural, AISFH requested to have additional training in this area in order to improve their skills in performing trauma-informed care for victims.

Midwives are often the only care provider that a woman will seek care from in her lifetime. Empowering Haitian midwives with the knowledge, skills, and sensitivity required to work with GBV victims creates a sustainable model of care. Haitian midwives are part of the community in which they live and work. They are in the optimal position to provide culturally sensitive and evidence-based care to Haitian victims and survivors.

From November 6th to 9th, FAHM (Foundation for the Advancement of Haitian Midwives) hosted a four day conference for Haitian midwives on GBV in Port-au-Prince Haiti. Twenty two midwives from 7 of Haiti’s 10 departments were in attendance. The topics and discussions of the conference required self-reflection and examination of personal ideas and biases related to violence, sex, and barriers to seeking care. These included cultural and societal norms affecting health, sexual and reproductive health, respectful and privacy-protected care, principles of trauma-informed care, types of gender-based violence, human and women’s rights according to Haitian law, medical exam of victims, the medical-legal aspects of reporting and ethics, and professional development.

We were honored to have formative presenters, including SHOG (Société Haïtienne Obstétrique et de Gynécologie) and Monique Manigat, a Haitian psychotherapist based in Haiti with Billion Women Rising Ayiti. We thank our partners: AISFH, Every Mother Counts, Rona Jaffe Foundation, Global Health Action, and NYC Midwives.

The Foundation for the Advancement of Haitian Midwives (FAHM) works to improve maternal health through a model that promotes leadership, networking, empowerment, and education for Haitian midwives. They have been a partner of Every Mother Counts since 2017.


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