Once again, our time with the Mayan traditional midwives was extremely rewarding! We spent our first week in San Lucas TolimÃ¡n, the town on Lago AtitlÃ¡n where we began our project 9 years ago. We taught 24 women from a variety of walks of life but all were very eager to learn the essentials in becoming more knowledgeable traditional midwives. Our youngest student was the granddaughter of a woman we taught during our first course in 2003! She now wants to accompany her grandmother and also become a midwife. We have, through the years, emphasized the benefits of working in pairs and it was wonderful to see this taking place. All but 2 of our students could speak Spanish, which made the teaching go much more quickly. Those who spoke Spanish and their Mayan dialect translated for those who spoke only Kaqchikel. This left more time for our discussions of family planning, emergency planning, as well as human rights, women’s rights and how to promote good self esteem in pregnant women (a common problem in many instances).
Our second week was spent in San Antonio PalopÃ³. Our team of 7 travelled back and forth to this town daily by boat. We taught another 24 women there, a group made up of 4 nurses from the public health unit, 6 traditional midwives from the town itself and 14 traditional midwives from outlying areas. The municipality provided transportation by pickup, those farthest away being picked up at 6:30 to be at class at 8 AM. The teaching during this week also went very well and there was important dialogue between the traditional midwives and the professional nurses (to increase cooperation at the local clinic). All of the teaching was done in Spanish and Kaqchikel. This kept our 2 Mayan team members very busy indeed.
Each week during our closing circle, we heard many women express their thanks to us. Many of them eloquently shared that this was the first time they had received any hands-on training and how useful this was for them. After doing many demonstrations and role playing situations, they felt quite confident that they had learned the information. This was obvious to us as well.
An important meeting took place in July, 2010 in which the indigenous people of Guatemala were asked by the Guatemalan government to share their experiences as well as their ideas regarding improvement of health care of the indigenous. This came out of recognition that 75% of indigenous people live in extreme poverty and have been exploited. The government recognized that racism and discrimination were continuing problems and human rights were regularly violated. The government has implemented “el Tiempo de Solidaridad” (the Time of Solidarity) to rectify this situation. We hope to see more cooperation at the ground level over the coming years as we continue with our vision of improving the maternity care of women and babies, decreasing their mortality and improving the lives of our Guatemalan neighbours.