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Benefits of Midwifery in Afghanistan

Posted on: Monday, July 9, 2012

Keywords: Afghanistan, Middle East, Women's Health, Economic Justice, Combating Violence Against Women

Afghanistan is often in the headlines, but far from the limelight, MADRE is working with a network of brave midwives who dare to stand up against violence and for women’s health.

Keep reading for more information about the threats women face, and what we’re doing about it.

Violence against Women: 

Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a woman.

“Honor killing,” marital rape and domestic violence, among other forms of abuse, is widespread and deeply entrenched in notions of traditional gender roles. It is estimated that one in three Afghan women experience physical, psychological or sexual abuse.

These women are systematically denied access to their basic human rights, including education, healthcare and freedom of movement. For example, cultural practice forbids a woman to travel outside the home without a male relative, making it nearly impossible to escape life-threatening abuse.

In these situations, Afghan women have little chance to live a life free from violence.

Maternal Health:

Afghanistan is also one of the worst places to be a mother. With one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, a woman in Afghanistan dies from child birth every 27 minutes.

A majority of these deaths are preventable, but barriers stand in the way of Afghan women’s access to health care services, such as pre- and post-natal care:

  • Cultural preference dictates that a woman be treated by women, despite a scarcity of trained female health workers.
  • In rural Afghanistan, the nearest clinic could be hundreds of miles away, too far to reach in an emergency.

As a consequence, only 16 percent of Afghan women receive prenatal care, and only 14 percent of births in Afghanistan are supervised by skilled health attendants. Unsurprisingly, Afghanistan’s health record is among the worst in the world.

How MADRE Helps:

While the status of Afghan women’s health remains dire, the recent rise in midwifery throughout the country has proven essential in improving the health—physical, mental and social—of women in Afghanistan.

MADRE recognizes the unique opportunity offered by a midwife’s access to the intimate spaces of women’s lives that are often hidden away from public view. For a woman trapped in an abusive and violent situation, her midwife is one of the few people she can open up to about the dangers she faces.

Through expanding our Afghan Women’s Survival Fund, an underground rescue network where women who are threatened with violence can covertly escape to safety, MADRE has newly partnered with a network of midwives to help identify at risk women.

The midwives, who themselves must remain anonymous throughout this process for their own safety, can now activate the Fund to connect abused women to resources and aid them to safety. Our Fund covers the costs of emergency medical care, food, shelter, transportation, clothing and other personal effects for women to escape.

Midwives do more than deliver babies—they give women a chance at a healthy life, safe from violence. When we support midwives, we help to clear that path to safety.

To support the Afghan Women’s Survival Fund, click here.  

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