The Newsletter 65 Autumn 2013

Towards recognition of traditional midwives (Dais): The Jeeva Study

Mira Sadgopal

In 2005 the Indian government, under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), launched an initiative to reduce the number of child deaths by 67 per cent and maternal deaths by 75 per cent, in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals #4 and #5. Under its Safe Motherhood Scheme the NRHM has declared the practices of Dais [traditional midwives] and homebirths to be ‘unsafe’, and hospital deliveries ‘safe’. Many in public health, both outside and within the formal system, do not agree with this policy. The Jeeva Study looks at the actual role of the Dais, from a dual ‘public health’ and ‘indigenous knowledge’ perspective. The study aims to build the evidence base on the Dais’ contribution to the wellbeing of mothers and newborns. It also explores their critical points of interaction with other maternity care providers, the families of the women they help, and the varied communities around them.

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