What do you call a Nepali midwife?

As part of the promotional materials we are creating for the birth center, I asked a couple of the midwives to translate a piece called “What a midwife does”. This proved extremely difficult. Despite an online dictionary, translations were elusive. Most difficult of all…. the word “midwife”. In Nepal, English words are often used for things of a technical or maybe prestigious nature. (This sometimes leads to both the sense that an individual Nepali’s English is bettter than it is, and also sometimes to the feeling that you understand things that are being said when you actually do not). Thus, Nepali midwives like the term “midwife” to describe themselves even though it is in English and ordinary Nepalis do not really know what it is. They do know the word “daiamma” which means literally “with mother” and also the word “sudani” which means community health worker (I think). But neither of the words satisfy the midwives at APS. The “daiamma” is an untrained village traditional birth attendant and the sudani is not right either. So they choose midwife. I understand but I am sad. I am sad that the word “daiamma” which is clearly related to so many words for midwife in so many languages (partera, sagefemme, meyaledet, hebamme) has been tarnished with the reputation of the untrained. How can midwifery in Nepal be professionalised if it cannot claim it’s name?


Prena struggling with the translation

Rashmi has decided that with my help (our help, thank you donors), she would like to make a few physical changes at the center. I am relieved. She is so modest with her ideas. We walked down the hill from the center to the carpenter’s shack. He will put up a movable partition to help the flow of the center. Currently most people walk through the pharmacy to get into the main building. It doesn’t really make sense. The carpenter and Rashmi seem to be old buddies and after planning the changes we wandered a few steps behind the shack to his house for cups of tea with his wife and sister. They have a sewing business in their home and quickly whippped out the tape measure, spread out the cloth and had me measured for a “kurta” before I knew what was going on.

Rashmi and Dev the carpenter shooting the breeze

Rashmi and Dev the carpenter shooting the breezeIMG_0610


So that was a slice of today.


2 comments on “What do you call a Nepali midwife?

  1. Diane says:

    Would love to see you dressed in the kurta when it is finished. You need something bright to go with that dazzling smile! Enjoying the updates and perspective from Nepal. Keep it coming!

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