TAGAYTAY CITY (Oct. 24) — Traditional village childbirth attendants may be accredited and their indigenous knowledge and skills recognized, as agreed in a workshop as part of an orientation on indigenous peoples’ rights and issues among government agencies, here.
Reconciling the need to enhance indigenous knowledge, skills and practices with the health department’s policies was among the challenges posed by indigenous peoples (IP) and their advocates during a gathering of government officials.
In a workshop on social services at the orientation on indigenous peoples’ rights and issues seminar held Tuesday and Wednesday for government focal persons, the participants recommended that IP birth attendants should be accredited by the Department of Health and recognized for their extra-ordinary skills.
Ferdinand L. La Puebla of the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control said IP birth attendants are not recognized at present. Village midwives are ocally known as hilot (Tagalog), mammaltot (Iloko), inchawat (Bontok), manayah-golang (Ifugao), mana-lon (Isneg) and manamyanak (Pangasinan).
“They have to be trained by the DOH to be recognized,” La Puebla said.
Fr. Herbert Fadriquela of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), who facilitated the workshop told the participants there are knowledgeable and skilled men and women from IP communities nationwide who are capable of assisting in childbirths. He raised the issue that these are even threatened of getting apprehended by local authorities for practicing midwifery.
“Pati mga bata na ipinaluwal nila ay inaayawang irehistro ng lokal na civil registrar,” (Local civil registrars even refuse to register children the IP birth attendants have delivered) Fadriquela said.
In the Cordillera, almost all tribes have exposure to local “midwives” who have no formal education on midwifery but because of their practice, they have been successful in assisting in childbirth. Some even manage their own childbirths.
For instance, Lourdes Ayadi, a Kankanaey who lives in Ucab, a mining community in Itogon, Benguet, had given birth with only her husband and her knowledge in birthing to help. She told Nordis in an earlier interview that she used to prepare all the materials, days before the actual date she is to give birth.
The most important material Ayadi prepared was a piece of bamboo (bolo) knife, with which her husband would cut the newborn’s umbilical cord. According to her, the non-metal “knife” was more hygienic than the clinical scissors.
“Hygiene is one of the most important considerations in childbirths,” said La Puebla. He said to avoid infection in the newborn and the mother the birth attendant should be trained on good hygiene and sanitation.
Either a grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, or even a grown-up daughter of the expectant woman may assist her in childbirth. Rarely does a husband assist as in the case of the Ayadis.
The DOH, according to La Puebla does not encourage home deliveries. While it promotes facility-based childbirths, it also encourages community-based maternal and child care.
Other workshops tackled land use and resources; human rights and empowerment; cultural heritage; and planning and budgeting.
The activity was jointly launched by the German Church Development Service, Philippine Partners’ Task Force Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (EEDTFIP) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). # Lyn V. Ramo for NORDIS