In Uganda giving birth is a women only affair. In a society where women generally have little to say giving birth is the last space where a woman may feel that she is in control of things.
Traditional society looks at women who handle the process alone as strong individuals and regards babies born outside the hospitals with TBAs (Traditional Birth Attendant) as stronger than babies born in hospitals. However in rural areas with little access to formalized health care and financial shortcomings regarding transport to the next health facility, women often seek help in labor with traditional birth attendants (TBAs). In roughly 80% of these births traditional herbs are used as a painkiller or to induce labor, sometimes bringing relief but also disaster when wrong dosages are administered or obstructed labor is not assessed correctly.
Gertrude has been a village midwife in Kayunga (Uganda) for more than 40 years and delivered thousands of babies. For the women that come to her she is the only help available for if she wasn’t there they probably would have to give birth on their own. TBAs are dear helpers and companions in the dark hours of labor yet often have no formal education, running water, electricity and work with merely their hands and their experience. Sadly a woman in Sub-Saharan Africa still has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in childbirth.
produced in November 2015 for CNN Courageous.