• Team BAME Maternity

Giving voice and visibility to South Asian midwives

A chance meeting at a midwifery conference led to the establishment of community interest company the Association of South Asian Midwives (ASAM)

The three founders (pictured from left to right) – Sundas Khalid, Benash Nazmeen and Nafiza Anwar – struck up an immediate rapport during a conference break bonding over their shared experiences as student midwives and then qualified midwives of South Asian heritage.

Perhaps taking this as something of a sign – the decision to move ahead was made

Conversation continued over lunch at a Birmingham restaurant and as they talked so the idea that the time had come for an organisation that would champion the interests of South Asian midwives took hold. By chance a psychologist was eavesdropping on the conversation and weighed in to endorse the plan and – perhaps taking this as something of a sign – the decision to move ahead was made.

Sundas says the organisation's mission is a “kind of double edge sword”. The objective is not only to raise the voices, profile and morale of South Asian midwives and expectant mothers within their communities but to elevate the status of the profession throughout the UK’s South Asian population. Nafiza agrees, pointing out that there are members of the various communities who struggle to understand how unmarried women can enter the profession and others who see the career as inferior to that of a doctor, or barrister. Having come from a medical family the issue resonates strongly.

Themes that were at the core of Benash’s address at the 2020 BAME Birthing With Colour annual conference

Two further objectives are working towards addressing inequalities and challenging stereotypes, themes that were at the core of Benash’s powerful opening address at the 2020 BAME Birthing With Colour one day annual conference.

Benash in a highly personal presentation, set out the extent of present day challenges. “We need to ensure that the workforce is representative of the communities that we care for… less than four per cent of midwives are from a South Asian background – a figure out of all proportion with the proportion of South Asian pregnancies in the UK population. At the same time, we need to think about what we can do within the South Asian communities so that midwifery is considered a viable career choice. It was only when I was in University that I learnt from my parents that my grandmother had been a village midwife.”

For those that do make the career choice Benash makes the case for more South Asian representation at senior levels to support the progression of those coming through the ranks. “Black, Asian and ethnically diverse staff are less likely to believe that trusts provide equal opportunities for career progression or promotion and more staff from these backgrounds are experiencing discrimination at work from a manager, team leader or colleagues. Sadly we’ve been talking about this without progressing for years. The time has come for action.”

“Are we giving enough time to overcome the language barrier when treating women from different communities?”

Time was a recurrent theme during the presentation. “Are we giving enough time to overcome the language barrier when treating women from different communities?” Benash asked rhetorically. “Using Language Line or interpreting services is not in itself enough. Typically these services halve valuable appointment time as the conversation triangulates between patient, midwife and translator. It’s not about giving people equal amounts of time for appointments… it’s about being equitable and building cultural understanding and sensitivity.”

Sadly a lack of understanding and sensitivity also extends to the classroom. An all-too-common issue is an unwillingness to learn how to pronounce students names correctly or at all. A profound humiliation and cultural affront. To tackle this ASAM is launching the ‘Not My Name Campaign.’

The physical manifestation of this campaign is a pin that will be available to purchase through the ASAM website. The pin will be a way of the wearer outwardly supporting their belief that the effort to learn names is both valid and vital. “Proceeds from the sales will go towards supporting South Asian midwives through their journey into midwifery,” explains Benash. “They're going through some tough times.”

About BAME Birthing With Colour BAME Birthing With Colour is a one day conference organised by registered charity The Brun Bear Foundation in association with a top team of healthcare professionals led by Helen Knower, Director of Midwifery, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust. The conference’s objectives are to draw together medical professionals, policy makers, the third sector, community groups and mothers themselves for an outstanding programme that helps shape, deliver, direct and influence higher standards of BAME Maternity care. Proceeds from the day – which is being organised on an entirely voluntary basis – fund a bursary scheme and support relevant medical and other causes. The 2021 event will take place on Saturday 6 November. For more information including speaking, attendance, sponsorship, media and supporting organisation opportunities please email To secure your ticket please visit Author: Edwin Lampert

66 views0 comments