Kichwa Midwives of Ecuador Struggle To Protect Their Culture


The struggle that Kichwa midwives are facing in their fight for their jobs has become a growing issue. Although there are laws against the disintegration of cultural rights, not all aspects are easy to protect. Heather Wurtz talks about this in her article; Contesting the Terms of Inclusion.

It has become increasingly hard for midwives to continue their work due to the lack of support the government has provided them. Even after the efforts the UN, instigating the Rights of Indigenous People, and the commitment the government promised to support them, the only funding that the midwives have received were from NGO’s. That funding has stopped and they have had to start charging for their services. There were in fact efforts to combine the midwives and the Ministry of Public Health officials, but the midwives could not continue the hours of the program because they needed to work to continue to earn money, appose to the biomedical providers who are supported by the government. The combining was supposedly to have biomedical practices and midwives indigenous knowledge combined equally to allow for stronger healthcare services. But often the midwives were undermined because a few reasons; illiteracy leading to the struggle to document patient forms, the time constraint on the meetings, and the language differences between them and the MoPH officials.

With no pay, no external funding, and no official certification the midwives practice has become restricted and made very difficult. However, the importance of their role is vital to continuing this aspect of their culture. The midwives, although they wish to continue the indigenous knowledge they carry, are weary of passing it onto biomedical providers and would prefer to teach the younger members of their culture,  though it seems to be a slimming chance. The loss of any part of a culture is significant not only to that culture, but to our humanity. Studying these cultures is not enough, if we do nothing to protect their ways.