domingo, 18 de noviembre de 2007

Nueve Lunas Visits

During the Months of October and November, I (andrea) have visited most of the students at Nueve Lunas, the Midwifery school/training program where I have been volunteering. It has been a really inspiring experience and a lot of fun getting to know the future midwives and learning about the state of midwifery and women in their communities. In some communities there are still some active midwives, though most are getting older and have generally stopped practicing. In other communities there are long traditions of male midwives (parteros) , and that tradition continues at Nueve Lunas where 4 of the students are yound men. In other areas there aren´t any practicing midwives and most women now birth in hospitals or clinics. This is in sharp contrast to the previous generation of births. Almost all the students I visited had been born at home, and all of their parents had been born at home, most with the help of midwives. Federal welfare programs, such as Oportunidades, which is run by the doctors and nurses of local clinics, strongly discourages women from giving birth with a midwife, and punishes women by witholding money and services if they decide to give birth at home. Needless to say, it will be a challenge for all of the midwives-in-training to establish themselves in their communities and to gain the respect they so deserve.

Of course the midwives are not just health practitioners, they are also women´s rights activists and promoters in their communities. In talking to the students about issues affecting women, several stories/themes came up. Having worked on domestic violence in the US, I was interested to see how it was dealt with in Oaxaca. Unfortunately it is extremly prevalent, from some accounts, much more so than in the US. In most families, domestic violence is the norm rather than the exception. Impunity is also common. One student told me about a recent case in her town where a woman was murdered by her husband, who cut her up with a machete. He served a year in prison and was released. In most cases women´s only legal option is to make a formal complaint to the municipal agent or president. Should the authorities (mostly men) decide to take any action, it is often a light reprimand of the husband, who can defend his actions by saying he was drunk or his wife didn´t make dinner.

In another town, a woman sought help from the midwife in training, as her husband was trying to charge her with having an abortion. When the husband had learned of his wife´s pregnancy he had her pregnancy registered with the authorities. (I don´t understand what this means, or how he can make a matter of personal health public record.) She claims that she had a miscarriage at three months, (which occurs, unprovoked, in about 20% of known pregnancies, if not more frequently.) Her husband didn´t believe her and is trying to have her investigated for a provked abortion. At this point there is no proof either way whether it was provoked or not. The penalty for abortion is up to 8 years in prison.

In many rural areas of Mexico towns may govern themselves either by "Usos y Costumbres", by tradition and custom, using popular assembly, or by political parties. Most of the towns I visited were run by Usos y Costumbres. Perhaps the one downside of this method of rule is that the town determines who can and cannot participate in the popular assembly. In some communities only landowners may participate (mostly men), and in other communities women are completely banned from attending and participating in the popular assembly, nor can they be elected to any positions of power.

After feeling a little glum about the status of women in Oaxaca, I had the opportunity to attend another training workshop with Nueve Lunas, when was wonderful. We learned about obstetric emergencies, and reviwed positioning of the baby, etc.

Learning about fetal positions, we made paper pelvises to practice.

Students practice finding fetal position on each other.

How much blood is too much? Students learn what a normal about of blood looks like and what hemmoraging looks like.

1 comentario:

maria dijo...

Hi Andrea!!

Me parece que estas aprendiendo un monton en Oaxaca!! Gracias por mantenernos informados sobre todo lo que estan haciendo en encantaria visitarte y Nueve Lunas. Estaremos en Mexico en enero (no se la fecha todavia) y tambien...para la boda (probablamente en Mayo). Aqui, todo sigue igual...siempre con las mujeres en la Clinica y con mucho trabajo. Espero que me contratan para 3 partos - entonces finalmente voy a obtener mi certificacion para ser una doula!

Saludos y abrazos,