The integration of traditional midwifery into the health system. The case study of a traditional midwife among the Toka of Zambia

Thesis by Victoria Phiri

Health is one of the major problems facing most developing countries like Zambia. Poor economies, low funding, shortage of staff, epidemics like AIDS, coupled with poor and sometimes inaccessible facilities make the provision of health difficult. The 1978 Alma Ata conference’s call for health for all seemed a far cry for such countries. But the conference was aware of this problem and thus, its recommendation for the utilization of traditional practitioners in an integrated health system. One of such integration is that of Traditional midwifery with the health system. Under this system, observations and questions arise; does the traditional midwife lack any form of knowledge that can be exchanged between the two systems of medicine? What does the traditional midwife know? Is it knowledge from the point of view of the traditional midwife herself, from her clients or indeed from the biomedical professionals? Thus, the focus of this thesis is knowledge. Traditional midwifery is analyzed from a point of view of knowledge; how it is perceived, recognized and/or utilized, in such an integrated system. The analytical frame work in this thesis consists of situated knowledge, Epistemology discrimination and Feminist critique on development theories. Qualitative methods were the main methods used to collect primary data during the field work in Kabuyu, Zambia. In this thesis, I argue that what the traditional midwife practices is knowledge. Based on the local experiences and traditions, this knowledge may be different from what is commonly called “western” knowledge. However, this difference should not be the basis of discriminating it from the world body of knowledge. I suggest communication between the different kinds of knowledge systems under the integrated program for any meaningful development to take place.

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