Transforming lives in Ethiopia

Interview with midwife Atsede Kidane

Reading time: 4 min

"I always knew I wanted to be a midwife"

Atsede is co-founder and Director of Atsede Clinic, one of our inspirational maternal health partners. In this interview she shares her journey to becoming a midwife and setting up the maternity clinic, to care for women living in the mountainous terrain of the Gurage Zone.​

"My work is a privilege. I know women through the most amazing, most challenging, most changing times in their life, and, hopefully, I see them through it all, safely and empowered."

This Clinic is what I could never even dream about as a young girl.

Initially, I was given a government-funded place to be a teacher, but I always knew I wanted to be a midwife, because I watched my father working in the hospital, and caring for women after they had their babies, and the difference it made to have a kind person there.

I was awarded a scholarship for my midwifery training almost fifteen years ago, and then worked for close to a decade at Attat Hospital, the only hospital for hours. It was difficult, beautiful work. As more women came to the hospital to have their babies, though, there wasn’t really enough midwives to care for them, not really, so instead of making each birth special, it felt like we were just keeping them as safe as possible. I wanted more. I wanted the feeling my father gave the women.

Five years ago, when Indie came to work at the hospital, it became a possibility, and three years ago, when we opened the Clinic, it became a reality. Since then, our most important guiding principals have been compassion and community; we keep everything informed by the community, led by the community, evaluated by the community, and we work always with compassion.

From that came the projects we’ve implemented over the years, SAGE (supporting girls in education), MUSE (ultrasound scanning), CHANGE (childhood growth monitoring and education), and MoM (Midwives on the Move), and many more.

I am the Clinical Manager, so in the morning, I meet the midwives who are going out and check their schedules, give them each a mobile, oversee the restocking of the bags, and then give out the transport money. If there isn’t a birth, or an antenatal clinic, then I also lead the team. So we travel, either by bajaj or just walking, to the area where the women live, and go house-to-house, covering whatever is needed in the antenatal appointments, which can be anything from rapid malarial tests to ultrasounds to preparation for labour. Often we are given coffee or tea, with kollo, at each house, and if it’s around lunchtime often are given injera and wot, too.

In the afternoon, we finish the visits, and head back to the clinic, where we make sure all the notes are written up. If there are any laboratory tests that need doing at the laboratory, then we hand those over, and wait for results. If there are any referrals that we made, we make sure that is properly recorded, and if there are any that weren’t immediately necessary but which need to happen soon, then we do what we can to help that process (calling ahead to the hospitals, etc). Usually, I then go back into the Emergency Room to see the final patients of the day, before having more coffee with the staff to catch up on the day. In the evening, we lock up, and head home.

Many of the Gurage women either aren’t able to travel to health facilities for antenatal appointments, or don’t think they’re important enough. Which means many of the Gurage women die. And so much of it is preventable. The chance we have, taking midwifery into the homes, can change that. Since we started the project we’ve seen a change in attitudes amongst the women, who can see the value in talking to midwives, and sharing problems, and accepting treatment. I know some of the referrals we’ve made have been just in time, and I don’t want to think what would have happened otherwise.

In the birth room, your ethnicity, your language, your religion, your politics, none of that matters. And as midwives we get to be the embodiment of that, of equality and compassion and peace. How could I not be passionate about that!

I would like to be a doctor, I think. I want to bring the ways of midwifery into obstetrics. Just because women are having an induction or caesarean, it doesn’t mean that they can’t also be empowered and in charge. I heard, recently, though, that there is now a Hamlin Masters in midwifery, which would train midwives in obstetric care. This would be amazing.

By supporting the work of our maternal health partners like Atsede Clinic, you can help save the lives of mothers and babies, prevent and treat childbirth injuries and equip women to make informed decisions about their own health. 

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