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Orma Tribe Labour: Hadiram Abarufa

testimonio-maternity-hadiramHadiram belongs to the Orma tribe and she is a traditional midwife. She has attended hundred of deliveries in her life.

“In our tribe women give birth in a squatting position. I touch their bellies and I feel the baby, where he or she is, if he or she fits correctly or not... if it seems to me by massaging the belly that the baby is not well situated, I place him or her into the correct position. Sometimes, the baby doesn’t allow me to do so and he or she borns standing. In such cases, I pull his or her little leg gently, I look for the other leg and then I pull both legs until he or she is completely out”. If it is a breech delivery, the labour becomes much more difficult “in such cases I have to push the baby inwards, I push him or her inwards forcefully with a piece of fabric until he or she is inside again and then I try to place him or her rightly, I look for his or her little legs and get them out kindly... later the baby comes out practically by his or her own”.

The midwife follows the dilation and when it reaches the right moment, the midwife sits on the floor with the legs extended. “The mother squats over my legs while other women of her family hold a stick or rope so that the mother can get hold of it and make an effort. I guide her, when to push, when to rest, until the baby borns and falls gently over my legs”.

If it can be observe that it is about to happen a vaginal tearing or that the baby is stuck, the midwife proceeds to do an episiotomy of the vagina upper zone without suture the cut after the labour. If the woman suffers a perennial tearing, she goes to the hospital the next day to get the cut sutured. The cutting tool is a razor blade that costs five pence and is not sanitized.


“I cut the baby’s umbilical cord with a razor blade which we buy in a shop. Then I tie it with thread. To disinfect I use some medicinal plants that we chew in order to remove the juices and then I split on the baby’s belly”.

The navel is left exposed; it isn’t sanitized or treated again.

The cut material is a razor blade about 5 centimeters, which isn’t sanitized before or after. A new one is used for each pregnancy, but it comes wrapped in paper: it isn’t sterilized or vacuum-packed.

Right after, I massage the mother’s belly so that the placenta can come out of the womb. Both, mother and baby, take a shower afterwards. The baby in warm water (unboiled well water) and then seed oil is applied all over the baby’s body. The mother in very hot water (almost boiling) over the whole body, and afterwards she is massaged with seed oil in all parts of her body.


“During seven days I take care of the mother and the baby. I clean them and help the mother with the household chores. In one week time, the mother is ready to do the house chores by herself”.


Giriama Tribe Labour: Gertrude Charo

testimonio-maternity-gertrudeGertrude tells us that the mothers giriama give birth to their babies practically without help; they consider the labour as what it actually is: something completely natural and that is part of the life-cycle.

“When it’s time for the baby to come, we place old used sacks on the floor and we sit on a little wood stool supporting the back against a chair or someone who is placed behind”.

The midwife is placed in front of the mother but with certain distance. The mother does all the labour by herself grabbing tightly her legs and pushing when she feels the need.“When the baby is born, it is the midwife who takes and cleans the baby with coconut oil and a cloth. The baby isn’t bath until the next day”. The mother cleans herself with extremely hot, almost boiling, water and applies coconut oil all around her body.


Giriama mothers don’t use episiotomy, therefore, if the baby cannot get out well or if it’s the first time for the mothers, they usually get ripped in a natural manner. “We don’t suture the labour’s tears, we have got a container near with the fire stove’s ember, and after giving birth we sit directly on the ember”, in such a way the wounds or tears that may have been caused during the delivery can cauterize. With the same embers the umbilical cord is cauterized once cut.

The sacks with the rest of the delivery on them are collected and burned.

“We don’t have an exact time to stay in bed, it depends on when you feel strong or if you have help from someone or not. If you don’t have help, you even have to get up and bring water, chop wood, prepare the meal for the kids... Who is going to do that if not?” The local midwifes don’t make them postpartum monitoring.


Swahili Tribe Labour: Maryam Azakil

testimonio-maternity-maryamSwahilis women who decide to give birth at home do it in bed. Maryam Azakil tells us that a plastic is placed under the sheets and women lie down on them. The local midwife attends them and also friends and family, who usually are present, help.

“The midwives massage our belly preparing the baby for the birth. In the room there are close relatives, never men, present".

If women need an episiotomy, it is the local midwife who makes it, but if the tear has been worse, then the next day women will go to the doctor so that he or she can suture them.

“When the baby is born we welcome life by offering the baby a tiny bit of honey diluted in water so that she or he can lick it. We put black wanda makeup on the baby’s eyes and forehead in order to prevent anyone from jinx the baby”.

After the umbilical cord cut it is applied hot seed oil in the belly. The mother’s belly is massaged very well so that the placenta gets detached, which is placed in a plate bought specially for the occasion. Later on the placenta is thrown and that plate is offered as a gift for the midwife together with various types of oils used in the labours.

The midwife cleans the mother and the baby with hot water and massages them with seed oil. During one week, the midwife will take responsibility for both, cleaning them and controlling everything is under control. During the postpartum quarantine, the mother neither leaves her house nor does a task beyond taking care of her baby. It is the family who provide support with household chores.

“Until 40 days after the delivery, the husband sleeps in a separate room. The day 39 we paint ourselves with henna and get ready for the following day, when we celebrate a little honeymoon. From that day, we can sleep together again”.


Although many Swahilis women give birth at home, some others decide to do it in hospital. This is the case of Maryam herself.

“8 years ago my fist daughter was born and everything went smoothly. My second pregnancy went very well as well, except the last month of the pregnancy, when I suffered from acute diarrhea. It was incessant. I was worried about how it could affect the baby, but even though I went to the doctor, I was always told not to worry because it was normal and nothing was wrong. The doctor told me that the baby was fine although any sonogram or kind of recognition was never done to me.

One afternoon, when I started to feel the contractions I went to the hospital with my aunt and they told me that there was still a lot of time to the baby to come. As I still had contractions the doctor came a while later in order to check the advance of the dilation and he or she said that there was still a little while. I told him or her that it was wrong because I felt something that was going down, but he or she insisted that there was still much time and went to bed. I told my aunt that I really felt something, and I asked her to insist to the doctor but she didn’t want to as a mark of respect. 15 minutes later my son was born by himself on the bed... my aunt went running to wake up the doctor, who took my baby to clean him, without paying much attention to me because he was still drowsy. While he was cleaning my baby, I gave birth to a second baby, by myself again. It was totally surprising because I was never told that the babies were twins. Sadly, one of them died 6 hours after the labour. The doctor checked the other baby and told me he was healthy and there was nothing to worry about, but he died the next day. I felt devastated because no one could tell me why my children died; because no one listened to me when I needed them...

I gave birth to my younger child in the hospital too. There was a little complication but nothing serious according to the doctor. My son is now 5 years old, since then, I cannot get pregnant again; I have had 6 miscarriages, all of them in the second week of pregnancy. No one can tell me what happened in the hospital, the doctor says it is normal to have some miscarriage, but I know that my case is not normal, there is something wrong with me.

Now I am pregnant again and I am afraid of losing the baby once more. If the pregnancy progresses, I won’t have the baby in the hospital for sure”.


Massai Tribe Labour: Nailois Birisha

testimonio-maternity-nailoisNailois is Maasai, she tells us now how the labours at home in her tribe are.

All the women from the small village come to the Maasai labours. The men normally stay at his maternal mother’s house waiting.

“In our culture it is not allowed to have sexual intercourses during the pregnancy beyond the three first months of gestation. They are not allowed from that moment until two months after the labour. We think it is something nasty and it might affect the baby”.

Maasai women give birth lain down, either in bed or on the floor if they don’t have a bed at their disposal. They take their bended legs and follow the midwife’s directives. The midwife rubs the baby’s belly considering the baby’s position and places him or her well if necessary.

Most of the Maasai women go through the ablation at the age of 15 approximately. According to the WHO, in addition to severe bleeding and immediate urinary problems, it may cause later cysts, infections, infertility, complications during childbirth and an increased risk of death of the newborn.

“In my first pregnancy I lost my baby the day after he was born. I still don’t know why it happened”.

When the baby doesn’t have enough space to be born, the midwife does the perianal episiotomy, but she doesn’t suture in any case. Neither the wound is cauterized with ember or sanitized, it is allowed to heal by itself.

Once the baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut with a razor blade without cleaning. The umbilical cord is tied with thread and after the cut it is cauterized with embers of the kitchen’s fire. The baby is not cleaned nor applied any type of oils until the next day, when he or she is bathed with warm water and children soap, and oiled with baby oil.

“After the labour the tribe’s women apply us paraffin over the whole body. They massage strongly in order to clean well and then apply us very warm water. If everything has gone well in the labour the husband sacrifices a goat and then soup and meat is prepared so that we eat it and thus restore our energy after the labour. The midwife also receives some meat as part of the payment”.


Most of the babies in any part of the world are born with a whitish protective fatty substance called vernix caseosa which protects the baby’s skin from the external aggressions. In the Maasai culture, the fact that the baby is born with that fatty substance means that the woman has had sex beyond the three months of pregnancy allowed. “The fact that the baby is born with that white dirt means that the woman has had sex and the baby has been stained with the man’s sperm. In these cases, the women of the community who attended the labour will beat the mother as a punishment for breaking the law and having sex”.

The midwife comes the next day in order to check everything is okay. During the following two months the Maasai mother won’t make significant efforts, and either the rest of the women or the mother of the husband will be who help her, cook for her, chop wood and bring water.


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Translator: Jeannette Canet


Afrikable is a Spanish charitable organisation, registered in the National Register of Associations under number 1/1/594088 and in the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development (AECID)'s Register of Non-Governmental Organisations under number 2033.


In Kenya our association is called Afrika Able Organization and is registered with Kenya's NGO Coordination Board under number 10976.


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