Maternity Stream of Sanctuary Trustee Sara Abraham, City of Sanctuary Trustee and Researcher in Midwifery & Reproductive Health at Bradford University Dr. Mel Cooper and National Streams Coordinator Rose McCarthy attended the 5th International Nursing and Midwifery Conference for in Galway, Ireland in April. They talked about the Maternity Stream of Sanctuary, how to apply for a Sanctuary Award and Sara shared her two experiences of giving birth in the UK. Sara highlighted the benefits of receiving specialist midwifery care when seeking asylum and the difference having friendly caring staff can make. Sara, a young single mum who speaks English as an additional language and has sought sanctuary in the UK, spoke with such passion and humour that she was a star. Hearing her speak provoked discussion about stereotyping women and brought the issue of supporting migrant women to people’s attention, which otherwise was sadly lacking in this two day conference.
Rose and Mel applied to join the 1st COST research event in Barcelona in May and made useful contacts with midwives and researchers across Europe and beyond. COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) is a European funded grant which enables people to meet in working groups, network and focus on different areas of research over the next four years.
Mel and Rose joined the Migrant Women working group and heard how pregnant migrant women are treated in different countries, especially Eastern Europe and Chile. They worked with midwives, sociologists, and anthropologists from across Europe to prioritise work around migrant women’s access to maternity care, their mental health needs and also how to gather opinions on maternity services from asylum seekers and refugees across Europe.
Under the previous COST funding, a questionnaire with ethical approval had been used throughout Europe to gather women’s views and experience and compare different practice in different countries. The questionnaire is limited in the number of languages it is in and at present it depends on the women being able to access the internet. City of Sanctuary will work with volunteers from the maternity stream to translate the questionnaire into common languages used by asylum seekers and refugees and Rose and a researcher from Hungary are going to trial this with focus groups rather than dependence on the internet.
There is some funding in the COST project to bring experts to future meetings and Rose suggested that migrant women are the experts and that City of Sanctuary knows many amazing women who would be willing to share their stories.
The idea was welcomed. In the future we will be setting up a training workshop somewhere in Europe where our maternity stream volunteers will be the expert trainers!
The City of Sanctuary Maternity Stream films generated interest and many delegates want to use them to train their students who come from a range of disciplines including midwifery, medicine, sociology, psychology, anthropology, human rights activist and bioethics.
One researcher from Germany is now planning to attend our upcoming “Striving for Excellence in Maternity Care in Leeds; a Focus on Asylum Seeking and Refugee Women” organised by the Maternity Stream in partnership with Leeds Beckett University and the Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust.
Another researcher from Hungary who was inspired by the City of Sanctuary presentation in Brussels last year, found funding to set up a befriending scheme for the Roma community. She is interested in researching support for the Roma community in the UK and comparing this with Hungary. She hopes to visit the specialist midwifery service in Leeds which caters for asylum seekers, refugees and the Roma community.
Mel and Rose will also present the CoS Maternity Streams work along with Diana, who is seeking asylum, at the National Primary Care and Public Health Conference, attended by 8,000 delegates in Birmingham on May 20th. They have also received a request from the British Journal of Midwifery to write an article about the Maternity Stream for publication.
The City of Sanctuary Maternity stream is definitely making an impact. Mel will be presenting its work in September in London at the national conference “Innovation and Practice Developments in Women’s Health”.
For further information or support in your city to develop the maternity stream please contact Rose McCarthy [email protected]