Birth Workers of Color Scholarship – Phase One

Reflections on racism and oppression in midwifery


Matching scholars to scholarships to reduce disparities in birth outcomes

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Birth,

Last week, we posted an Open Letter to remind us all of “A Scholarship Solution and Grand Challenge” issued by Vicki Penwell of Mercy in Action for midwifery schools and programs to provide more scholarships to students of colors.

We birth workers know that racial and class disparities are killing our babies and harming our mothers; we know that part of the solution lies in quality midwifery and birth services care and we firmly believe in ‘a midwife for every pregnant person who wants one’, “a birth worker for every pregnant person who wants one”. We must come together to increase the numbers of students and practitioners of colors in all of the professions that can have a direct positive impact on the maternal and infant outcomes in this country. This includes doulas, childbirth educators, and breastfeeding educators and consultants. This Grand Challenge is for all!

The web site,, has been launched and the sign-up sections for mentors, preceptors and programs are open!

This website will serve as the Clearinghouse and Resource Center for schools, programs and trainings for birth workers, focusing on those that offer scholarships for students of colors. Most of us do not know all of the schools, programs and trainings that exist, far less how many of these currently have such scholarships. So we are going to build that database, and then we are going to make it grow. We need your help!

We can have a great impact on increasing the number of scholarships for students of colors to attend schools, programs and trainings for birth workers. It calls upon all of us (students, birth workers, parents, midwives, school and program officials, reproductive justice activists, and folks who believe in what is right), working in a concerted, cohesive order together in teams to accomplish this. We will need five small teams for this first phase of the project.

Phase One – Building the Clearinghouse and Resource Center

We are completing “The Open Letter” to be emailed to all midwifery, doula, childbirth educator and breastfeeding counselor/ consultant/educator training programs. The letter will ask if the program has already designated a scholarship for students of colors (or a similar designation) and, if so, what are the parameters of the scholarship. If they do not already have such a scholarship, the letter will invite them to join The Grand Challenge.

Vicki has selected Jeanette McCulloch to manage and update The Grand Challenge web site. Jeanette has developed a master spreadsheet that will contain all of the information collected via web site and team member input. She will populate this master spreadsheet so that all of the data is consistent and add the information to the web site.

This is where we need your help. We are assembling five teams to collect information about every existing program that can be found on the internet that trains U.S. students in the birth worker professions. The first four teams will collect, using the spread sheet provided by Jeanette, the following information:

    • Name, address, phone number, web site, contact person, email address of the school, program or clinical site;
    • Name and contact information for the person in charge of financial aid or admission; and
    • If there is a scholarship listed on the web site for students of colors, briefly list key features of the scholarship

This information, and any other pertinent information will be submitted by team members, to Jeanette who will enter it into the master spread sheet for updating the web site.

The teams will be organized as follows:

Team #1 Midwifery Schools and Programs and Overseas Clinical Programs

Team #2 Doula Training Schools and Programs

Team #3 Childbirth Education Programs

Team #4 Breastfeeding Counselor/Consultant/Educator Programs

Those schools, programs, and trainings that have already established scholarships for students of colors will have their names added to The Grand Challenge web site. In addition, a badge, “We Support The Grand Challenge” will be made available for supporters to place on their web sites.

Team #5 The Open Letter Email:

Once this information is compiled and entered into the master spreadsheet, then this team will email The Open Letter to those schools, programs, and trainings that have not yet signed up for The Grand Challenge. The letter has instructions for completing The Grand Challenge form online. This letter will not be modified in any way – a consistent, clear message is our goal.

For the schools and programs who have submitted the form online, a follow-up telephone call will be made to get additional information such as: the required book and supplies list for students in the programs, and information on faculty of colors.

I am hoping that once again you will join us in accepting Vicki’s call to action and sign up for one of the teams. Please contact me by email at: if you want to sign up for a team.

Who wants to be a Team Captain??? What students from which school or program want to take on a Team project? Since the first four teams (Midwifery, Doula, Childbirth, Breastfeeding Teams) are charged with compiling information mostly from the internet, I anticipate they could complete their tasks in less than 2 weeks.

Please let’s do The Work!

Claudia Booker, Midwife

Birth Workers of Color Scholarship

Reflections on racism and oppression in midwifery

Birth Workers Of Color Scholarship

In the Spring 2013 issue of Midwifery Today magazine, Vicki Penwell of Mercy in Action issued “A Scholarship Solution and Grand Challenge” to midwifery schools and the midwives in general and understood, perhaps for the first time, what was at stake. One of the main components of this call to action is for midwifery schools and programs to provide more scholarships to students of colors. But few schools and programs have actually instituted these scholarships and other programs that will facilitate students of colors in becoming midwives.

Sadly, nothing much has changed – women and babies from communities of colors continue to be disproportionately affected by poor outcomes. Likewise, an increase in the number of training opportunities for the practitioners best set to help and support them has not changed this year either.

Can we count on you and your institution or organization to be the change and join in actively supporting the Grand Challenge?

We birth workers know that racial and class disparities are killing our babies and harming our mothers; we know the solution lies in quality midwifery care and we firmly believe in ‘a midwife for every woman who wants one’. To that end we must come together to support the diversification of midwifery and we must increase our numbers of students and practitioners of color. But our goal is not limited to the practice of midwifery; we are committed to increasing the numbers of students and practitioners of colors in all of the professions that can have a direct positive impact on the maternal and infant outcomes in this country. This includes doulas, childbirth educators, and breastfeeding educators and consultants. This Grand Challenge is for all!

How can you actively support the Grand Challenge?

Our first focus is on increasing the number of scholarships for students of colors to attend schools, programs and trainings for birth workers. There is a dire need for more diverse practitioners who represent the communities of color and other marginalized communities. The current system is not working; for decades, America’s healthcare system has had no impact on reducing disparities in communities of colors and low income populations. Midwives and birth workers may be part of the answer, but we must reflect the communities we wish to serve.

Mercy in Action has had an informal scholarship program for years, but since issuing this Grand Challenge, Mercy in Action has awarded over a dozen scholarships to its various programs to midwifery students of colors! As Vicki has said “… now we want to make our scholarship program formal to impact the ‘at risk’ populations in America as well as the rest of the world.”

Let’s pull together and join with Vicki as she leads by example, once again. We are compiling a list of all of the midwifery schools and programs, doula trainings, childbirth educator programs, mentors and midwifery preceptors that have answered the Grand Challenge.

We hope that others involved in midwifery and birth worker education will take our ideas, replicate them and scale them up to whatever will help to eliminate the racial disparity in birth outcomes. Vicki and her team continue to show us that anything is possible; where there is a will, there’s a way. We can do better! We can be the change!

If you currently provide scholarships specifically designated for students of colors (or a similar scholarship designation) please let us know! If you would like to precept or mentor a student birth worker of color, please sign up on the web site! We would like to place that information on the Grand Challenge web site ( so that more will know of this opportunity. Please visit our Grand Challenge website often to witness the ever growing list of change agents, like yourself, and championing institutions who are making a difference.


Claudia Booker and Jennie Joseph

Why ALL Midwives Should Care About What’s Going On with Midwife International

Reflections on racism and oppression in midwifery

This guest post was written by Wendy Gordon, CPM, LM, MPH. The thoughts expressed are her own and may not be representative of all members of Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Work in Midwifery, nor of the other organizations with which she is affiliated.

The events over the last few days are causing quite a buzz in the midwifery community, as Midwife International – a U.S.-based training program that focuses solely on the use of clinical sites in low-resource countries as a vehicle for student midwives to gain experience – has been called out for reports of unethical behavior.

Full disclosure:  I am a midwife who participated in a short-term clinical rotation in a low-resource country to “get my numbers” some years ago.  I regret that I did not have much of an ethical or anti-racism lens at the time.  I didn’t think twice (or even once) about the power dynamics of being white, relatively wealthy, and American in a country where most of the people were brown, impoverished, and had been colonized by American military in WWII.

I didn’t think much about these power dynamics, because I convinced myself that the gentle, woman-centered type of care I was trained to provide would benefit all mothers and babies, even across international boundaries and language barriers.  Because the hospital maternity ward I trained at didn’t have enough staff as it was, the only logical assumption was that my presence there would be beneficial to the local midwives.  My American dollars were being spent in that community.  It was so obvious that this was a win-win.

My training helped me to justify that the type of care these mothers were getting from me, even as a student, was better than what they would have had without me there.  Furthermore, my whole life experience as a working, middle-class white person led me to believe that it was perfectly OK for me to elevate my needs and desires over the concerns of people who were poor, lacking formal education, or had brown or black skin.  I could enter that community without knowing their history, their language, their cultural norms, their concerns or their needs, and just assume that whatever I had to offer was better than what they had.  My primary interests were to “get my numbers”.  My training in a white-dominant society demonstrated on a daily basis that there would be no adverse consequences to me for believing and behaving in that way; in fact, it was “normal.”

I had no knowledge of the centuries of white, wealthy, European-Americans practicing on the brown and black bodies of low-income, enslaved and/or colonized communities – not for the benefit of those communities, but for the purpose of advancing medical knowledge for the ultimate benefit of the white folks who were accessing it.  It was rationalized just like I did; it was decided (by the white folks who were doing the practicing and experimenting) that the people of color in these communities were getting better care than they would have otherwise (although they weren’t really asked).  Some call this “medical apartheid.”  I didn’t have to know or care about this; there was no penalty to me as a white person for not knowing it, no adverse impact on my life for not having educated myself about these atrocities, no one in my family was involved or impacted, and besides, that stuff happened in the past, right?

So it is without surprise that I recognize the same cultural training in the formal response of Midwife International’s CEO and President, Sarah Kraft, to the testimonials from people who are speaking out against her actions in their communities.  In an open letter to the members of the Alliance for Ethical Midwifery Training (and also copied to the members of Midwife International’s (former) advisory board and the leadership of NARM, MANA and ICM “to ensure transparency”), Sarah writes:

The statements recently circulated about Midwife International on are not based in truth and we have a strong body of evidence to disprove and discredit the accusations that have been made against our organization. 

Midwife International is committed to holding high standards of quality midwifery care and midwifery education in the international context. Because the individuals who have spread these statements do not meet our credentialing requirements and have not proven to be accountable financially or otherwise, we stand by our decision to dissociate from these individuals, their organizations and their affiliates. 

With gratitude for the voices that help us grow and evolve our pioneering model, we always welcome constructive feedback. However, we consider it unethical and a breech of privacy to engage in public discourse about any of our past and current site directors, students, preceptors, or other affiliates. We therefore request that “Alliance for Ethical Midwifery Training” website be removed until it contains accurate and valid information that has been verified by credible sources.  

For anyone who is currently endorsing this campaign we ask that you educate yourself about all sides of the issue and do homework before jumping in and taking sides. By supporting a negative campaign without knowing the full story, you can harm the very causes you support.  Midwife International stands firmly for ethical behavior, inclusiveness, integrity, and truth and invites the larger midwifery community to stand there with us.

We intend to remain focused and move forward with the development of our programs, and to deliver a curriculum that demonstrates evidence-based midwifery and optimal MotherBaby maternity services ( We will remain accountable to all of our current students and partners and will continue to forge a path for improving international midwifery educational standards, while honoring our true clinical partners and the mothers and babies with whom we work.


Sarah Kraft

President/CEO, Midwife International

Vice President & Treasurer, Midwife International Foundation


It is Sarah’s white culture training that says the white person’s story — even when it remains untold — is always more believable than the person of color: “we have a strong body of evidence to disprove and discredit…” 

It is Sarah’s white culture training that helps her to believe that people of color need white folks more than we need them: “we stand by our decision to dissociate from these individuals…”

It is Sarah’s white culture training that says that the tone used by those people of color is offensive, so we can dismiss what they’ve said: “we always welcome constructive feedback…”

It is Sarah’s white culture training that says that her beliefs about what is unethical trump those of people of color: “we consider it unethical and a breech of privacy to engage in public discourse about…”  (while the ethical concerns of the people being harmed are not addressed at all)

It is Sarah’s white culture training that says that white folks get to decide what and who is to be believed: “we request that … website be removed until it contains accurate and valid information that has been verified by credible sources.”

It is Sarah’s white culture training that makes her believe that her truth is The REAL Truth: “educate yourself about all sides of the issue and do homework before jumping in and taking sides.”  (while not offering any information at all)

It is Sarah’s white culture training that permits her to think that she gets to determine when REAL harm is done: “By supporting a campaign without knowing the full story, you can harm the very causes you support.”

It is Sarah’s white culture training that tells her that there will be no consequences to sweeping aside the voices of people of color who express that harm is being done to them, so go on and forge ahead: “We intend to remain focused and move forward with the development of our programs…”

It is Sarah’s white culture training that allows her to decide who, if anyone, she will be accountable to, which generally in a white dominant culture does not include the communities and people of color who receive the impact of our actions: “We will remain accountable to all of our current students and partners…”

It is white privilege that permits Midwife International employees to silence dissent by deleting curious questions from their Facebook page; to remove their own names and information about their foundation from their website; to keep recruiting and pretend as if there is “nothing to see here” while sending out a fun-filled newsletter that makes no mention of the issue at hand.  After all, it is the winner who gets to write the history of what really happened.

It is white privilege that refuses to examine the possibility of another version of the truth other than our own; that will actually lash out at those who dare to speak up about injustice and turn the tables back on them, making ourselves out to be the real victims.  It is white privilege that says that the real damage done here is to the good reputations of the  midwives on Midwife International’s (former) advisory board, and that this concern for the reputation of white midwives supersedes the harms being done in communities where Midwife International operates.

The concerns that have been raised (and that keep coming in) about the ways in which Midwife International has been operating describes extremely unethical behavior.  It is one example of how midwifery training – like medical training in other professions – can be medical apartheid. This is a problem for all of us, and it is an extremely complex one. The criticisms leveled at our field yesterday by “Dr. Amy” on her hateful blog are not, as some have suggested, the fault of those who have called for changes at Midwife International. The ethical problems of medical apartheid have existed in our profession for decades, and we as a community have an opportunity right now to begin to address it.

White culture training assures us that there will be no adverse impact to white midwives if we just walk away from this piping hot mess. The folks at Midwife International could just continue to wave their hands, avoid the conversation with the community, and hope that this blows over quickly so that we can all just get back to getting our numbers.  It is certainly uncomfortable to have to think about the complexity of this and the deeper training issues that need to be addressed within midwifery and all healthcare professions.

And when we exercise that ability to turn our backs and walk away without consequence, to go back to our daily struggles that are already hard enough, and we leave this mess for someone else to sort out, then we have opted to once again leave people of color to bear the brunt of our profession’s problems.  When Midwife International is not only allowed to be completely unaccountable to the communities that they purport to serve, but are openly bullying them in front of our professional leadership for speaking about being harmed, they highlight a major, major problem for the entire midwifery community.

What can you do?

  • If you are a student midwife, start to learn about medical apartheid, the complexities of midwifery tourism, and the long history of ethical injustices in learning and practicing on the bodies of people who have less power and privilege than you.  Will you be getting any training at all on these issues, cultural competency, power & privilege, and/or the history, challenges and strengths of the community that you would be practicing in/on?  Demand it of your program, and seek it if you are educating yourself.
  • If you are a midwifery educator in a program that offers international training for your students, what are you doing to adequately prepare your students to learn and practice ethically?  What are best practices for true service learning, and how might you implement these in your program?  Should we be doing this at all? What conversations are you having about this, and how can we broaden these conversations within the midwifery education community?  How can we reach out and be accountable to educators in international sites who are hosting U.S. students?  How can we help Midwife International to be more accountable and transparent?
  • If you are a leader in the U.S. midwifery profession, please don’t walk away from the issue for fear of getting your hands dirty.  In what ways might you reach out to Midwife International to learn more about how they are preparing their students and preceptors, how they are working with host sites, and how they are being accountable to the communities they hope to serve?  How might you lead our profession into the work that needs to be done around this issue, so that we might once again act as an example to other healthcare professions for best practices?


Consider the ways in which you personally can add your voice and your actions to the immediate and longer-term hard work ahead of us around this issue.  Now is the time.

New Resources section

Reflections on racism and oppression in midwifery

Hey everyone!  We’ve significantly updated our Resources section and have organized things into the following pages:

Racism 101

White Privilege 101

Impact of Racism & Oppression on Birth Outcomes

Racism in Midwifery

Multicultural Midwifery History

Intersections of Race, Gender, Class

For Activists

For Clinicians

LGBTQ Healthcare

For Educators

How to Be an Ally

Talking with Children

Feel free to leave a comment in any of these sections with your favorite books, articles, videos or blog posts and we’ll add them to these growing pages.

We’ve also got a page for Workshops, on which we would love to post upcoming events and trainings by region. Let us know what’s happening in your area!  And if you’ve attended a workshop, we’d be happy to post your write-up and reflections here.  Just let us know with a comment here or via our Facebook group and an admin will connect with you.

Happy reading!