7 December 2023
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has today added Midwifery to their list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
College of Midwives Chief Executive, Alison Eddy, says the announcement by UNESCO is significant as it recognises the impact and importance of midwifery as a profession across history and culture all over the world.
“This is a huge honour for the profession, not just in New Zealand but around the world. Babies are born every moment of every day. In New Zealand alone, we have around 3,000 midwives providing maternity care to, on average, 60,000 women who give birth each year. Additionally, New Zealand has a unique service model which centres care around the needs of the woman and her baby, and which is admired globally,” she says.
Ms Eddy adds that the recognition by UNESCO not only reflects the historical contributions of midwifery but also its ongoing role in society, and the profession’s historical and contemporary importance.
“Midwives have a clear commitment to the rights of women and their families/whānau before, during and after birth. Midwives are the primary health care providers for the majority of women at this first crucial point in the life course where the opportunity to influence lifelong and intergenerational health is unparalleled. During the first 1000 days a health ‘blueprint’ is established, and midwifery care plays a central role in this. Midwives and midwifery make outstanding contributions to societies globally, from reducing maternal mortality to the drive towards universal health coverage,” says Ms Eddy.
The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) which supported the application to UNESCO, wrote “Beyond its deep roots in cultural traditions, midwifery has inspired various art forms, including literature, painting, music, and film. This recognition by UNESCO would not only reflect the historical contributions of midwifery but also its ongoing role in society. In short, the nomination of Midwifery for the UNESCO list is not just an accolade; it would validate the profession’s historical and contemporary importance, promoting its preservation and continued practice.”
The College of Midwives has also thanked those who supported the nomination, including members of the new government who were approached for their backing.
-Ends- Please contact Ali Jones on 027 247 3112 for more information.
The joint application by Colombia, Cyprus, Germany, Kyrgyz Republic, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Slovenia, and Togo demonstrates the diverse yet universal nature of midwifery — every society has its own unique approach and history surrounding pregnancy and childbirth, but regardless of the location, midwives are responsible for supporting and influencing how we come into this world, underscoring the adaptability and relevance of midwifery across cultures. The nominating countries also prepared an impactful video on the work of midwives. UNESCO | The Midwife on Vimeo