A few weeks ago I sent the flyer out to several local women and organizations I thought might benefit from attending this event via email list serves on 2 Dynamic women who are doing research in two very different areas, but both relating to the care of African and African American women of childbearing ages. The University of Chicago held a 2 hour talk on Black Women, Maternal & Child Health, which was given by the Center for the Study of Gender & Sexuality of the Sexualities in Africa and the African Diaspora department.
Here are my notes from the talk. I would love to hear your feedback on the two very different topics and or any history or info that relates to either. I apologize for the lengthy read, but I think it is worth it!
‘Women of the Right Type: Medicalization of Maternity & Reform of Motherhood in Colonial Ghana’ led by Anne Hugon of the Universite of Paris at Sorbonne. She was able to travel to Ghana to research and interview the first midwives trained and certified by British Medical Institution to assist with the delivery of babies in local villages between 1920-1940. Anne Hugon interviewed 30 of the 500 African Ghanian elder midwives who were trained under the colonized period when she made her trips there in 2008 and 2010.
It was fascinating to hear the history of how the British came in to this particular African country to “make birth more civilized and to lower maternal and infant mortality” of Ghanian women and children by way of building 5 medical hospitals which included 2 midwifery hospitals and 1 children’s hospital, as well as implementing a midwifery training program for local African Ghanian women and mothers. In 1920, the Maternal Mortality rate for African Ghanian women was 400 out of every 1000 women (very high, nearly half). The Infant Mortality rate in 1917 was 30 out of every 1000 babies. The British thought the training would teach African Ghanian women skills in literacy, fertility, prenatal care, nutrition and food preparation, birth and delivery, breastfeeding, and postpartum care, which would ultimately prevent such high rates of death amongst the mothers and their babies. Once a woman completed this midwifery training program, she was then certified and stood as a graduate of the program which allowed her to ‘safely’ go into the homes of pregnant village women to educate and assist with common prenatal, birth, and postpartum issues. The late great Mrs. Hutton Mills was the first African Ghanian midwife to graduate from the British Midwifery Training program in 1929.
Dr. Anne Hugon’s presentation slide show of her research findings was pretty interesting, and she also mentioned that as of present day, Ghana and the capital city of Accra are currently delivery babies via Cesarean Section. 7 out 10 African Ghanian women in or nearby Accra are delivering their babies via C-Section. This rate is extremely high and allows for greater risk of Maternal Mortality as well as other relation complications.
I also found it to be interesting that as part of the “education” the British funded and allowed for a film to be made by using African Ghanian Midwives what the safest way for women to birth was as to prevent infant death. A rare film which is located at a library in Australia entitled ‘Amenu’s Child’ which was made in 1950 and shown in nearby villages of Accra throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
My question to you all: Has anyone been to Ghana recently on mission to practice Midwifery or with plans to visit? Has anyone seen this film or heard of it at the very least?
The second half of the presentation was guided by local University of Chicago professor, Dr. Melissa Gillian who is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Gillian has done extensive research since the 1990s on Teen Pregnancy, Family Planning & Contraception, and Reproductive Health. Her presentation outlined a complex history of the reasons leading to Teen Pregnancy, the rates of teen pregnancy, and the contributing risk factors specifically amongst African American teens on the south side of Chicago. She mentions health, income disparities, unsafe and violent neighborhoods and home life, lack of resources such as transportation, health care, education, and wealth opportunities all being contributing stress factors which lead to teen pregnancy, maternal and infant mortality, and preterm birth rates for African American Women ages 15-35.
Dr. Gillian then outlined the factor that the LGBTQ teen community amongst African Americans is growing as is Dating Violence amongst Teens (such as sexual violence and assault).
Her solutions were in conjunction with Dr. Amy Schalet’s who makes comparisons between her research in the Netherlands vs. the United States on how to foster healthy sexual education for teens. They included the following 5 solutions: Allowing the teen to build and develop Autonomy; Building and maintaining healthy relationships and what that means; Connecting with parents & caregivers; Recognizing Diversity; and Challenging Disparities. These are all positive ways that teens can have a more comprehensive understanding of sex education.
So with these solutions, Dr. Gillian has decided the best and most effective way to reach teens and to teach them about sex education by getting positive reactions and results in her research and in her local community of the South side of Chicago, she has created several Youth, Digital Media, Sex Education Workshops. From two of her workshops, she has been able to develop a video game that allows for interactive digital story telling covering topics of interest which many south side African American are faced with each day: gang violence, parental loss, incarceration, drug dealing, pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, violence, etc.
The name of this video game is ‘Lucidity’ which is available online for free at: luciditygame.com
Dr. Gillian has also developed a card game which was born out of the teen workshop, which she is currently writing a curriculum for which can be utilized in 8th grade sex education/homeroom classrooms throughout Chicago Public School system.
When I asked Dr. Gillian about whether or not she had plans to implement her positive strategies in health clinics like Howard Brown Center or PCS clinics like the one in the Austin area of Oak Park, she said she has not gotten that far as to work with clinics on implementing material geared toward teens just yet, however it is something she would like to do in the near future.
My question for you all: What are some other agencies or organizations that Dr. Gillian can implement her curriculum and or other tools to decrease teen pregnancy (Nationally or Locally)? Other digital media tools as way to break through? Can social media be interfaced with Dr. Gillian’s work?
Hope this update inspires and motivates all my birth worker and womb healers to uplift higher!