The Gathering

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Traditional birth attendants and midwives gathered to share their common knowledge at the first international gathering of traditional birth attendants in Zimbabwe in 1998. It was held in the Ntshamathe (Sha-ma-tay) village in Umzingwane (Oom-zin-gwa-nay) District – Matebeleland (Ma-ta-bay-lay-land) South Province.

The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare in Zimbabwe showed their enthusiastic support by co-hosting the conference with Common Knowledge Trust and The Traditional and Medical Clinic. Local African women who were both traditional and modern trained nurse midwives attended.

The Aims of ‘The Gathering’:

Common Knowledge Trust wanted to:

  • Learn about the traditional knowledge of the local women.
  • Support cultural diversity.
  • Introduce modern trained midwives from other countries to traditional knowledge and practices.
  • To meet in a village where traditional women live.

The Zimbabwe Clinic wanted to:

  • Bring together women from different tribal groups to share their knowledge.
  • Bring modern trained midwives of Zimbabwe to meet with some of the traditional midwives.
  • Look at the realities and problems facing both the traditional and modern midwives in Zimbabwe.
  • Build communication between the modern and traditional midwives.

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Wintergreen, founder and trustee of Common Knowledge Trust, met Dr Barbara Sibanda, founder and director of The Zimbabwe Traditional and Medical Clinic, several years ago with the idea of bringing together traditional midwives and modern trained midwives from other countries. Her hope of keeping alive the common traditional knowledge which is so often hidden by the impact of modern ways, was met with rejoicing by Barbara, whose life’s work has been similar.
Barbara, a dynamic and highly respected woman in Zimbabwe, opened The Traditional and Medical Clinic in 1981. She went on to open the King’s Maternity Clinic, a small private clinic in Bulawayo which provides a warm and friendly environment for 300 women a year who give birth to their babies. She also opened a rural village clinic which is where ‘The Gathering’ met.

At The Gathering, Barbara, the organisational wonder, brought together traditional midwives, Government officials and modern, medically-trained Zimbabwe midwives. More than 120 people came to the village to rejoice, learn and share. It is very difficult to organize such an event without financial support and we all had to sacrifice to bring this event to reality.


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