Regardless of economic standing and resources, youth unemployment is a prevalent and pressing issue across the entire continent of Africa.  Young people – industrious, passionate, and motivated to work – are oftentimes unable to enter the job market at a rate that reflects their aptitude.  This creates a paradox in which young people who are waiting for an appropriate professional opportunity seek challenges in other ways.  Some seek further education, others undertake volunteer work, and others start families.  This, in turn, enhances their qualifications or capabilities to the point that they become overqualified or inappropriately qualified relative to their lack of professional experience, which sees them inadvertently pushed out of being able to undertake appropriate roles for their interests.

 

However, in the context of development, there are inordinate opportunities for governments to invest in job creation with negligible expense incurred.  The solution? Midwives.

In health systems that are required to stretch limited resources across a number of competing priorities, midwives can fulfil a vital gap in capacity relating to sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health; a health professional to provide support not solely during childbirth, but in all contexts related to family-planning and infant care.  The promotion and training of midwives is a low-risk, high-yield investment for governments and health system administrators, and an ideal solution to the current global shortage of midwives, which currently teeters on the precipice of an outright crisis.  Moreover, if there is more demand for skilled midwives in an African context, there are more professional opportunities for young people to train as midwives.

The hurdle to creating this sustainable health career avenue for young people is, however, not rooted in logistics, but in Public Relations.  This is a noted difficulty encountered by the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), whose 31st Triennial Congress was held in Toronto, Canada, from the 18th of June, 2017, and placed emphasis on how midwives make a difference in the world – something that shouldn’t even need promotion when pregnancy and childbirth is the literal genesis of humanity!

Patriarchal governments do not appropriately value midwifery; often it is minimised as a mere women’s role for women, and a role of little significance beyond the birthing room.  Accordingly, young people seeking careers in the health industry overlook midwifery as a viable option for them.

However, with an expanded understanding, promotion, and investment of midwifery from governments and development partners, the entire scope of midwifery – not just in Africa, but around the world - can be rejuvenated by an influx of new midwives’ who can contribute to healthier and happier families, communities, and countries.

The best time to invest in youth unemployment is yesterday, but the second best is today.  And with midwifery as a rich professional opportunity for young people, now is the time for Africa’s governments to make a commitment to invest in midwifery.

 

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