Posts Tagged "Red Hill"

Anamboya means ‘midwife’ in Shona

Posted by on Sep 6, 2015 in Writings

Anamboya means ‘midwife’ in Shona

I have heard about this Zimbabwean midwife in the informal settlement of Masiphumelele for about a year now. I have heard that she is a traditional midwife and that many women in the Zimbabwean community in Cape Town seek her out during their pregnancies for their births. I have also heard that she has expert fingers that can detect when a baby is lying breech and that those same nimble fingers can also turn the baby so that it can be born head first. Grace, who is also from Zimbabwe, and who lives on Red Hill, first told me about this midwife and Grace was the one who arranged for me to meet the midwife. On Sunday morning, I drove up to Red Hill and fetched Grace. Grace would take me to see the midwife and also act as interpreter, since the midwife spoke very little English. Grace’s sister Alice, and Grace sister-in-law Privilege, with her 18 months old daughter, also called Grace, tagged along – they also wanted to consult the midwife. It was a beautiful day and as we drove through the labyrinth of shacks and RDP houses in Masiphumelele, people walked about, many in their Sunday best, clutching Bibles. The midwife, Clara, came and met us along the way, she got into my car and directed us the rest of the way – she did not want us to get lost. I was surprised at how young she was. I was told to park my car on a pavement and then we were guided down a sandy corridor between shacks to a small one roomed shack where another woman met us. This was Clara’s sister in law, Masiiwa, and it seems, that they are two midwives, who live and work together. The shack was small and simple, made of wood and sheets of metal. The walls were lined with cardboards and large pieces of paper. It was fitted with only a single bed, a television, and some some simple kitchen equipment. There was very little floor space and most things seemed to be stored under the bed or at the foot of the bed or hung behind the door or on the walls. Water was stored in empty oil buckets.We crowded into the tiny shack and I was given the best seat in the house – an upturned crate with a cushion on it. The women who had come along all had readily agreed for me to sit in with their consultations and were happy for me to ask questions, write this blog and take some photos. It seems the midwives did not only work with pregnancy and birth but were known as general healers for women and children, so many came for their advice and wisdom. We were lucky that it was not so busy that day, sometimes there was a queue of people standing outside to see them. Adult Grace had a check up first. She had skipped a period and wanted to know if anything was amiss. Clara asked her to lie down and Grace’s belly was massaged and palpated with cooking oil. This took some time but eventually Grace was told that all was well and she need not worry. Next was little Grace’s turn. She had been constipated and had developed a terrible fever and cough. She had not been eating properly for days and had lost weight. Her worried parents had rushed her to False Bay Hospital on Friday night, they live on Red Hill and have no transport themselves, and they had to pay someone to take them. They had been given some...

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What Happens When a Group of Women get Together?

Posted by on Jun 28, 2015 in Writings

What Happens When a Group of Women get Together?

On Saturday, inspired by Cape Town Embrace, a group of women, mostly mothers, from Scarborough and surrounds, arrived at Buyiswa‘s house on Red Hill, with some tea and cake and fruit and biscuits. Some of the mothers from the Red Hill settlement were there to meet us, some more trickled in. We sat in a circle in chairs, clutching our steaming cups of tea, children playing around us and we shared why we were there. Buyiswa, who was hosting us, has spearheaded the Red Hill Literacy Programme – a project which sprung from her sitting room. She saw a need for a space for some of the children to do their homework after school and that has grown into an after school literacy programme helped by volunteers, as well as a feeding scheme to make sure that these children did not have to learn on an empty stomach. This programme is now a registered NPO and Buyiswa has won a Lead SA Award for her work. Victoria, Buyiswa’s neighbour and friend, joined her on this project and now helps run the literacy project. The women from Scarborough were all there because they all wanted to help somehow but did not know how to begin or who to approach. This was an opportunity to meet with some of the women on Red Hill to find out what some of the issues and needs were…and to meet and chat. And to meet and chat. Some of the women from Red Hill are unemployed or are single mothers supporting many family members on very little. The needs are simple, yet complex. Food. Rain jackets for children. School fees for the young children in the creche. They need the internet for the Literacy Project.  Driver’s licenses – there is no reliable public transport. Building permission is needed for one woman’s house to change the roof (the old roof leaks, she needs special permission but does not know where to go to get this, if she changes it without permission, they will tear it down…at present her roof leaks onto her bed. She actually has the building materials to fix it but needs the permission first). A rape counsellor is needed. We discussed the possibility of opening up the clinic for an extra day for the pregnant women and the babies. At present, it only opens once a week for vaccinations. An offer was made to help start a vegetable garden. Connections were  made and we meet again in two weeks time to chat further. Buyiswa sent me a text last night simply saying: “That was amazing.” And it was. Simple but amazing. So what happens when a group of women get together? Let’s see… If you would like to connect or help somehow, please let me...

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Do we Need More Midwives in South Africa?

Posted by on Apr 19, 2015 in Writings

Do we Need More Midwives in South Africa?

Apparently, if you call up the South African Nursing Council (SANC) (under which all registered South African midwives must fall) then you will be told that there is a long list of registered midwives in South Africa – their database seems to reflect an adequate amount of trained and registered midwives. Midwives are known to improve the outcomes of births and yet here in South Africa, our maternal mortality rates do not reflect this. Since the Millenium Development Goals were set in 1990, with decreasing maternal mortality by 75% by 2015 being one of the goals, South Africa’s maternal mortality have risen. If you scratch below the surface, you will discover that South African midwifery training at present requires four years of nursing which includes only six months of midwifery. There is an option to study Advanced Midwifery at university level after qualifying as a midwife and some midwives may choose to go this route. What essentially happens, is that many nurses are trained who can call themselves midwives, are registered and listed as midwives, and can work as midwives but who may not choose to work as midwives, or who feel no particular compassion for the pregnant and labouring women they serve, or may not have a passion or drive for midwifery. And even if they do feel passionate about midwifery, they often feel inadequately equipped to work in the settings they are placed in after qualifying. Some Facebook support groups have sprung up for midwives in South Africa and they have grown as a place for midwives to voice their fears and concerns, as well as a place for them to share stories and information.When I see that midwives are too afraid to work in the labour ward – I feel that our midwifery education system has failed them. Jason Marcus and Jenna Morgan, both midwifery educators in South Africa, refer to the current South African midwifery training as ‘the fruit salad’ and both feel strongly that South Africa needs to look at the needs of our pregnant population and meet those needs through our midwifery training. At present, both feel that those needs are not being properly looked at and, therefore, are not being met. When I hear stories of abuse in South African maternity wards, from mothers, medical students, midwives, doulas and through the media (and I have witnessed it on numerous occasions), then I know that something vital is missing. That we are failing pregnant and labouring women. Last year, I sat with a support group of mothers from SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce) and discovered that out of about ten of the mothers present, four had chosen to give birth at home unassisted, some because of precipitous labour, but primarily because it felt easier and safer to give birth alone than to be mistreated and shunned. And when they called me a couple of weeks later to let me know that a first time single mother, who lived under a bridge and survived as a sex worker, had died whilst trying to birth on her own under that bridge, I knew our maternity system had failed her. When I drive past Red Hill informal settlement and I give lifts to the women who are hitch-hiking to have their antenatal check-ups, or to take their sick babies to the clinic and I hear the stories of how many women avoid those antenatal checks, or don’t even book at the hospital, and try to arrive at the hospital as late as possible, or not at all, because it is too far, or too tedious or because of how...

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This is a Baby of Rape

Posted by on Jan 5, 2015 in Writings

This is a Baby of Rape

I live in the seaside village of Scarborough, near Cape Town, at the tip of Africa. It is rather idyllic; small, safe and beautiful. I live in a simple wooden shack near the beach. Life is simple but good. This morning I went to see a pregnant client at her home in Glencairn. It is about a ten minute drive. It was overcast and drizzling but warm. We sat at her table, sipping rooibos chai and chatting while her nearly two year old daughter played around us. I left after an hour or so. All was well with mother and baby. We hugged and said our goodbyes. I drove back to Scarborough and at the bottom of Red Hill, a young mother from the settlement was hitch hiking with her baby on her hip. I stopped and with relief she hopped into the back of the car and told me she was travelling to Ocean View to the clinic there. Her baby had a rash and she needed to have it checked out. I apologised that I was only going to Scarborough ( I had another pregnant client to see there) but could at least take her that far. She said she was happy with that. I asked her how old her baby was and where she had given birth to her. “She is seven months…I gave birth to her in the Eastern Cape,” she said. I asked her if this was her first child. No, she replied, this was her second. Her eldest child was already eight years old. “This is a baby of rape,” she said matter of factly. I was not sure what to say. I turned around and looked her in her eyes and said, “I am sorry.” I am still not sure if that was the right thing to say. But what do you say? I then turned back again and looked at the baby. So sweet and innocent and beautiful, sitting in her mother’s lap. “Your daughter is beautiful.” I said. She laughed and agreed. When she got out of my car I asked her what her daughter’s name was. She told me. I repeated it back. “What does it mean?” I asked. ” It means, ‘We are Friends’…” Then hoisting her daughter onto her back, she slammed the car door, smiled, waved, and walked...

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