CULTURAL APPROPRIATION... Do NOT steal my culture please!
I want to have a discussion about this, not a debate, as this is something important in general, but in the birth world it is essential.
If you search on google, this is what Cultural Appropriation is defined as:
"the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation, often framed as cultural misappropriation, is sometimes portrayed as harmful and is claimed to be a violation of the collective intellectual property rights of the originating culture".
Love, compassion, sharing, supporting, empowering, encouraging...
These are all words most birth workers hold dear to their heart and believe that their job is sacred and support their fellow sisters.
Yet, as in any industry, we have backbiting, the hate, the competition and it is not all so 'love for your sister, what you love for yourself' kinda vibe.
Women from developed nations take traditions, history, rituals, etc from developing nations and use it for their financial gain... and to support women.
Some women may innocently think what they are doing is ok...
While others, take that knowledge, knowing it is not right, but use it to 'support' other women.
I see this all the time now...
Someone from a different culture travels somewhere, spends some time somewhere, does a training course somewhere and then VOILA, they are immediately an 'expert' in that field and use that culture for their benefit.
How many people teach Bengkung belly binding without a training course which has provided the blessing and approval?
How many people teach closing the bones without a training course which has provided the blessing and approval?
How many teach rebozo without a training course which has provided the blessing and approval?
How many teach about Ayurvedic medicine without a training course which has provided the blessing and approval?
The list goes on and on...
It is one thing to receive approved training from the source, to receive a blessing and certification to share it with mothers you work with.
It is another thing to take the culture without any blessings and work with mothers and even worse yet, teach other birth workers.
How can an industry that promotes love, kindness and compassion be blind to the other side?
How do we attend their workshops?
Is it really that we innocently do not know? Yes, I believe that is the case for some people.
But, what about the rest, who do know?
Who take a culture and use it for their financial gain and make a GOOD living off it...
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
It is important because these traditions are sacred. Yes we need to reclaim them and preserve them, BUT not at your gain and their loss.
How many women who practice cultural appropriation give back to the communities, how many visit them and hear their stories, how many of them feel their pain in their heart, how many???
Let me tell you a little story.
So, I know a traditional Qabla (midwife) in Morocco. Her name is Rahma. She is from a family of about 4-5 generations of midwives and healers. She lives in a small town called Chefchouen. She has been doing this work for about 30 years. She believes it is a gift from God and a blessing. She loves her work...
No one wants to carry on this work. After her, there will be no one who will share the ancient traditional wisdom and knowledge she holds. Every time I meet her, she blows me away and her stories are incredible.
Why does no one want to carry on this work?
It is hard work, long hours, continuous hours...with little to no pay.
Rahma told me that if women had money to pay her, then she accepts what she is given. If they do not have any money then she forgives them (the traditional midwives mainly work with families who have little to no income).
She told me that some Nafsa's (postpartum women) do not even have money to buy a glass of milk, so if she has anything, she offers it to them.
So, I do not blame the women for not wanting to take up this work, which does not support them or their families.
I do blame others, who take the work to their developed nations, and use it to make a good living, with no knowledge of what suffering other women like Rahma face on a daily basis.
Being Moroccan and seeing the ancient traditions slipping away from my country, I have taken it upon myself to revive and reclaim them, but not at anyones expense.
Every time I spend time with any traditional midwives, I pay them well.
In the near future, I will be launching trainings, certification programs, a book and much more. I will ensure that from every penny I receive a portion will go into a fund to support the women who shared this knowledge and have worked hard to keep the traditions alive. I am planning to set up a program where the traditional midwives can train other women who are passionate, while they receive a monthly salary to support them.
This is my culture, I am sharing it with the world. It should be respected.
I do have a fear...
A fear for it to be misused. I pray not.
I attended a training on the Cerrada in London based on the lineage of the midwife Angelina and it was amazing. We learned about the closing bath and bones, the traditions and received the blessing to use it on mothers. I would never misuse that after promising I would not. We should also only use rebozos that are sustainable and support the women in Mexico, not random scarves and fake rebozos.
So, what do you think?
Have you experienced this?
How can we work together to stop this?
Please join my group on Facebook: TRADITIONAL POSTPARTUM DOULAS and we will be having a discussion there!
PEACE & LOVE,