Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.
Israeli-imposed restrictions on Palestinians' freedom of movement, coupled with intermittent military attacks, threaten the rights and well-being of Palestinian women, with particular consequences for women's reproductive health.
The Israeli military has already destroyed thousands of roads in the West Bank and is building a 470 mile Separation Wall that further fragments the Occupied Palestinian territories, making it extremely difficult for Palestinian women who are in labor to reach hospitals. Ambulances are regularly detained by soldiers at checkpoints or forced to take circuitous routes to medical care facilities during emergency situations. Curfews prevent women from leaving their homes, even in the midst of labor or other medical emergencies. Mandated checkpoints between Jerusalem and the West Bank often compel women to transfer to different ambulances, even if they have a life-threatening condition such as a post-postpartum hemorrhage.
Travel restrictions have major implications on women's health. Within the first four years of the second intifada, 61 Palestinian women were forced to give birth at Israeli military checkpoints, resulting in the deaths of 20 women and 36 infants. There has been almost a fivefold increase in the number of pregnant women who received no prenatal care due to movement restrictions on women and healthcare providers. There has also been a dramatic increase in births that take place in unsafe conditions or without a skilled health worker, increasing the danger to women during pregnancy and childbirth, and creating enormous psychological strain for women. These statistics do not even begin to address the limitations placed on postpartum care for women and pediatric care for newborn infants.
Mothers and newborns in the US benefit from lactation workshops, tests that monitor newborn weight and bilirubin, and the administration of routine vaccinations. Yet newborns in Palestine may never get a chance to have an early evaluation by a healthcare provider. Midwives for Peace recognizes the importance of holistic care and works to provide it for both mothers and newborns.
Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project
Aisha Saifi is a dedicated women’s health professional and the Palestinian coordinator of Midwives for Peace. Aisha has been working with women and children in different communities for 25 years, providing direct services and doing community organizing around issues of early marriage, domestic violence, child abuse and family planning.
Aisha has expertise in prenatal and postnatal care, chronic disease prevention, home health care delivery and follow up for high-risk cases. She has degrees in midwifery and nursing from Bethlehem University, as well as an MBA from York University. She also has specialized training in neonatal resuscitation, advanced life support in obstetrics, and vaccination and immunization.
Aisha is a role model for how (extra)ordinary citizens can use their skills to work for peace. Aisha understood, early on, that a mother's experience, regardless of religion or nationality, involves the same stages of pregnancy, the same pain during delivery and the same timeless joy from a newborn's first cry. She believes that every woman deserves attention, care, and support during this process. It is with this belief that Aisha founded Midwives for Peace, and continues to work tirelessly to sustain it.