Midwives in Rwanda Complete Respectful Maternity Care Advocacy Training

KIGALI, Rwanda—The National Council for Nurse and Midwives Rwanda (NCNM), in collaboration with the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (WRA) and the Health Policy Project (HPP), hosted an advocacy workshop for midwives on March 25-27 in Kigali, Rwanda. The training event was part of a larger effort to create an environment where midwifery and nursing practice contributes to the safety and quality of delivery care in the region.
Dr. Anita Asiimwe, Honorable Minister of State, opened the workshop, which focused on building the skills of participants to advocate for respectful maternity care — a concept outlined in the “Respectful Maternity Care Charter: The Universal Rights of Childbearing Women.” Respectful maternity care is a universal human right due to every childbearing woman. Yet, the fear of the disrespect and abuse that women too often encounter in facility-based maternity care can be a powerful deterrent to the use of skilled care in countries with a high burden of maternal mortality, such as Rwanda.

Participants in the Kigali training discussed the problem of disrespect and abuse in facility-based maternity care in Rwanda and deepened their understanding of the various contributors to the problem. Exercises included defining the role that nurses and midwives can play to address facility-based disrespect and abuse, and group work to develop advocacy objectives and a work plan to promote respectful maternity care in Rwanda.

Participants included representatives of the NCNM Board of Directors, the Nursing/Midwifery Association, WRA Rwanda, directors of nursing and staff in district hospitals, faculty from six schools of nursing and midwifery, students from the Byumba School of Nursing and Midwifery and the Kibungo School of Nursing and Midwifery, and members of the Rwanda Women’s Parliamentary Forum.

A 16-member respectful maternity care planning committee and work plan was established to carry forward the advocacy campaign throughout Rwanda. The plan aims to educate 500 healthcare providers, including nurses, midwives, and physicians, about respectful maternity care by the end of December 2014. Formation of a respectful maternity care provider network is also underway and there are plans to conduct a healthcare provider baseline situational analysis survey to assess the awareness of respectful maternity care principles and practices.

Training healthcare providers and others about the importance of respectful maternity care is an important step towards improvement in the quality of service at delivery facilities. The advocacy workshop also served as the first event to launch NCNM Continual Professional Development efforts. As the NCNM vision statement proclaims, “We look forward to a time when every nurse or midwife is equipped to advocate for his or her patients and profession.”