(New photo to behind the scenes of In Search of Pink Flamingos)
In Chapter, Indigenous Midwives (Part III) I explore how the head midwife, Bendu, wanted the midwives to begin charging families $1.00 for delivering their babies. I had just completed a midwifery course with eleven other midwives and supplied them with a starter delivery kit to improve birthing sanitation. Before this could be done, we needed to gain approval from the clan chiefs. Below are excerpts from the book.
…The following day Bendu, Peter (our clinic assistant), and I met with Chief Manuel (left) and Chief Ahmadou (right), each wearing their chief’s gowns and caps. During the fifteen minutes of official greetings, I never dreamt my teaching could garner such attention from the clan chiefs.…
…Bendu began the discussion, “Chief Manuel and Chief Ahmadou, Younga Ti teach us good, good things for the midwives to help da mothers and babies in the Zor Clan. She give us things to make the mothers and babies safe.” She displayed her midwifery kit as the example. “Dis box cost $1.00 from Sami’s store. We beg you ya, to make it known to the clan dat the midwives want $1.00 for every baby born by midwife. Dis money will go to buy more for the midwife box. I beg you ya.” She bowed her head in respect.
“Yes, Chief Manuel and Chief Ahmadou, I think dis is a good, good plan-o,” Peter elaborated.
Chief Manuel and Chief Ahmadou leaned and whispered to each other briefly as the three of us sat across the table. Then Chief Manuel replied, “Chief Ahmadou and I think dis is a good, good plan. Tomorrow all baby born by midwife must pay $1.00 or in food for dis service.”
Pleased with the decision, I only hoped asking for some form of payment would not be a barrier to care. Once the midwives learned cause and effect regarding my teachings, maybe each could save just one baby or one mother. And if they did, I had succeeded.
Some weeks after the training, Bendu reported the midwives were using their supplies and most families were either paying for their services with money or in kind. The midwifery kit gave the midwives prestige. More importantly, it provided safer deliveries, what I had been striving for.
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Side note: 50 year-old photos pertaining to my memoir emerge. Thanks to Mike Hohl, a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1968-70 in Sanniquellie near my village of Zorgowee, sent me this photo of the clan chiefs in my Zor Clan. Mike also was the person responsible for building the clinic and school in my village. What a treasure to discover this photo that I never had. I am now honored to share it with you today with the story that speaks to the beginning of a change in healthcare in Zorgowee. (The real names of the Liberians have been changed.)