2020 International Year of the Nurse and Widwife
Getting to know BCCIC’s delegation to CSW64
Written by Janet Ray
Nurses and midwives play a vital role in providing health care to individuals and families and often are the only point of care in communities. At the frontline they deliver babies, give immunizations, offer health information, care for older adults and assist people with disabilities. As leaders, midwives and nurses act as resources to communities making decisions about the health of their people and the impact of factors such as water, sanitation, food and shelter. Nurses and midwives foster resilience in women who encounter gender-based violence and advocate for women’s full access to sexual and reproductive health services. Considered pivotal to achieving universal health coverage, “nurses and midwives are the backbone of every health system; in 2020 we’re calling on all countries to invest in nurses and midwives as part of their commitment to health for all.” (Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, WHO Director-General).
As predominantly female professions, nursing and midwifery are embedded in all of the gender issues experienced by women. In response to these challenges, Women in Global Health calls for a five point action plan asking UN member states to 1:
- INCLUDE nurses and midwives in strategic decision making
- PAY nurses and midwives fairly
- ENABLE female nurses and midwives to lead
- SUPPORT diversity in nursing and midwifery
- END sexual harassment, violence and bullying of nurses and midwives
On the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, I reflect on my forty year career in nursing and am reminded of the collective history of power imbalances and systemic structures that reinforce traditional gender roles. Empowerment in the profession has not been a linear process and, although it has yet to be fully satisfied, we’ve gained ground. But like gender equality, there is more to be done for emancipation – to secure nursing’s footing on equal ground with other more influential professions. I ponder both my own life’s work to claim personal agency, as well as the nurses that I supported in challenging this historical legacy.
I celebrate smart, young nurses whose starting point is that their contribution is valuable and that their voice will be heard. Mid-career nurses, I see you and laud your tenacity for continuing to shape practice and to give leadership to this wacky system we call health care. I high-five my retirement contemporaries who, like me, can barely believe that we’ve reached the place of Nurse Elder Statesperson.
I stand in awe of my midwife colleagues who attend women at their most vulnerable, most momentous time of birthing a child. Such value you bring and how many more of you we need in our changing world.
I remember patients, residents, clients and their families, and I cherish the picture frame moments that I’ll never forget. You have allowed me into spaces that are sacred – at birth, during illness and in death.
I’m reminded of the battles I’ve lost and the scars that I’ve won, of lives that I have been privileged to touch, of pain relieved and hope restored, of the power in walking with people along the journey. I have given much and have received a hundredfold.
Although I’m retired, I’m not finished professionally. I have a responsibility to give back to society, have resources to offer and I want to make a concrete contribution to making a better world. The CSW64 Delegation is focused on gender equality, equity and empowerment, asserts issues of compelling importance to me as a woman, a person of privilege and as a global citizen. I own the power in seeing justice served.
Nurses and midwives, I salute you! I’m proud to count myself as one who served in the most trusted profession — https://news.gallup.com/poll/274673/nurses-continue-rate-highest-honesty-ethics.aspx.
This blog post was written by Janet Ray, BCCIC delegate to CSW64 in 2020.