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Empowered Women Empower Their Communities: Mayan Midwives Take to the Radio

April 28, 2021 • Guatemala, News

Mayan Midwives participating in the PMC trainingMayan Midwives participating in the PMC training

The midwives in the Western Highlands of Guatemala are highly regarded leaders in their community, especially in their work on reproductive and prenatal health care. Their hands-on work in health clinics put them on the front lines when it comes to enforcing or changing social norms related to many of the issues Population Media Center works on around the world, such as child marriage, adolescent reproductive health, and desired family size.

The Association of Midwives of the Mam Area (ACAM) wanted to find a way to continue conversations outside of the clinics and decided to launch their own educational radio show. They wanted it to focus on prenatal and postpartum services, family planning education and services, nutrition education, and more.

While extremely knowledgeable about the subject matter, the midwives had anxieties about the show’s production. To ease their fears and improve the radio program, Maya Midwifery International, one of ACAM’s partner organizations, contacted Population Media Center (PMC) for in-person training.

“Sometimes I am afraid of not being able to carry out all the activities in a good way, to speak on the radio well, and all that,” said one midwife before training with PMC.

“I get nervous when I can’t pin down what I want to say or don’t know how to answer questions that are asked of you on the air,” shared another participant prior to PMC’s workshop.

Understanding the participant’s comfort and skill levels, PMC-Guatemala Country Director Natalia Cereser and Federation of Guatemalan Radio Schools Facilitator Karin Coc traveled to the Western Highlands and led a two-day workshop on theory and practice of radio programming and production for 11 midwives.

“The midwives we worked with spoke Mam, a Mayan language spoken by about half a million Mam people in Guatemala,” said Natalia. “While Spanish is spoken by 93% of Guatemalans, the Mam language can differ depending on the region, making this educational radio program in the local Mam language essential from public health communications standpoint.”

Natalia and Karin worked with participants during the workshop to strengthen script development, voice modulation, diaphragm use, and production skills. This included a consistent layout for each episode in the style of a radio magazine program, which is similar to a talk show or podcast with program hosts and guest speakers.

“This was really a hands-on workshop,” said Natalia. “We taught technical aspects like pre-recording introductions and how to add sound effects. After each lesson, the midwives would break into groups to learn and practice.”

By the end of the workshop, the attitudes and confidence of the midwives had changed, and a sense of empowerment had emerged within the group.

“I feel more confident with everything on the show, more than I ever did before,” shared one midwife after the workshop.

“We learned to structure the program, including the introduction, the body of the program, the farewell, and how to make the pieces clearer for the radio listener,” added another participant.

The midwives-turned-radio-producers now have new technical skills and a refreshed sense of confidence in their ability to educate audiences over the airwaves. Participants in the training specifically noted they now have capacity to put together a strong show, calculate time while on air, speak clearer, and promote the program. Combined, these tangible skills will improve their ability to communicate important health information to women and girls in their community – which is the key to any public health campaign.

“I like being responsible for the education of women on such important things, like prenatal care and everything related,” shared a midwife when asked about her experience working on the radio show.

PMC will continue to support the ACAM radio program over the next nine months with regular virtual meetings and feedback on the show.


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