The OPSEU Social Justice Fund Board met this month with Indigenous midwives from Guatemala who are visiting Canada for the very first time. These midwives are members of a delegation that includes two doctors, Dr. Jorge Ariel Diaz Ordonez, director of the Maternal Child Health Centre, and Dr. Iris Gamez, Project Coordinator. Their visit to Canada is through the Horizons of Friendship, a not-for-profit organization based in Toronto, and its Guatemalan partner, the Association for Health Promotion, Research and Education (PIES).
The midwives are participating in a four-year project that began in 2016 and aims to reduce maternal, newborn, and child deaths in the Guatemalan province of Totonicapán. This project, which is one many that has received funding through the OPSEU Social Justice Fund, is focused on transforming the lives of thousands of Indigenous women, children and families through delivery of culturally relevant training and equipment by traditional Indigenous midwives known as “comadronas.” These midwives are receiving relevant training with the objective of creating linkages with women’s health groups and with the involvement of male Indigenous community leaders, among others.
Through the "Water is Life" Symposium organized by the OPSEU Indigenous Mobilization Team (IMT) on March 22, the visiting midwives had the opportunity to meet with some Board members from the OPSEU Social Justice Fund and other invited guests.
“We are very grateful for the financial support we received from OPSEU," said midwife Angela Antonienta Vicente. "This support is very important to the work we do as Indigenous midwives in the Totonicapán province of the Guatemala.”
In appreciation, the visiting midwives presented OPSEU and the Social Justice Fund Board with a traditional bag which the midwives use to help in safe and clean deliveries. The midwives also use latex aprons embroidered with culturally designed fabric. Both items have been donated to the Silent Auction at OPSEU Convention; the funds raised will go towards the Social Justice Fund and the Live and Let Live Fund. Anyone can bid on these items in the Silent Auction Room 104B, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, during Convention.
“We each plan to train another 25 midwives," explained midwife Nazaria Xiloj. "There is great need for well-trained indigenous midwives who are well equipped to work in partnership with the government. We refer all difficult deliveries to the Ministry of Health but provide soothing herbs and support to pregnant mothers facing difficult child birth.”
Both Angela and Nazaria have undergone a series of training sessions for traditional Indigenous midwives in the maternal child health centres. They are actively involved in their communities as health promoters of maternal health and immunization of children in the rural villages. The OPSEU Social Justice Fund Board is proud to be associated with this project.