I first went to Nepal as a midwifery volunteer in 2013. It’s not the kind of place you ‘fall in love’ with but I loved being there. Such a vibrant, busy, hooting, tooting, colourful place and I have  met so many good people.

From the smells (wonderful and awful), the colours, the people, the cows in the streets of Kathmandu, the street dogs ruling the night, the old man and his sewing machine on a street corner, to the awe inspiring scenery, I feel the pull and have been back to volunteer independently every year since.

Sadly, maternity care in Nepal is far from inspiring. Women are not treated with respect and kindness and obstetric violence is the norm. In the rural areas many women and babies die in childbirth, healthcare being sparse or non existent with women often walking for days to reach centres where medical help is available, in the towns and cities hospitals are overcrowded and dirty, the care over medicalised and impersonal. Intervention rates are high and almost half of labours end in Caesarean section with all its implications.

However there is always hope and things are slowly improving. In December 2016 Nepal’s first ever midwifery courses commenced and 15 young women are now making history by becoming Nepals first ever Midwives.  

The challenge for them is that there are no midwives to teach them. Their teachers are nurses-midwives who themselves are part of the system that abuses and disrespects women. They themselves fear and dread the prospect of birth or have their own horror stories to tell.

The students and their teachers desperately need and want support to make the transition from nurses to midwives so that they can start to protect, advocate for, and support the human rights of women in their care and begin to make pregnancy and birth a celebration rather than an ordeal that women dread.  

With two colleagues I travel to Nepal each year to share our skills with the maternity workers, hold multidisciplinary workshops, encourage empathy, kindness and human rights for women and teach the new students the skills they need to advocate for the women in their care.