Midwifery as a Tradition and a Revolution

For thousands of years, women have been giving birth with only the help of a sister, mother, or midwife. It is only recently that doctors and hospitals have been included in the birthing process. In Latin America, and specifically in Ecuador, there has recently been a movement to protest the intrusion of medical professionals on an event that has been working to continue human life, and succeeding, for so long. This controversy is closely intertwined with many violations of civil and indigenous peoples’ rights. When one tradition is squashed out, it paves the way for others to follow suit. Other issues that have been overlooked are environmental policy and general medical practices.

The professionalism of the midwives has been largely dismissed and ignored by the Ecuadorian government. The support of the indigenous traditions of the midwives, or rather, lack there of, signals to the Ecuadorean people how their government attempts to understand or back them up, but continues to fail. There have been many intercultural and generational misunderstandings that have barricaded the midwife’s way of life.

At first glance, this might seem like a problem with the health care system of Ecuador and the lack of reform, but it is really much more than that. An anthropological lens reveals the depth of the situation and its importance for preserving and empowering the culture and place that has been around for so much longer than the political ideologies that are in power now.