It was a freezing, gritty, grey day in London and we all gathered outside Waterstones on Gower Street, a big blue #bursaryorbust banner fluttering in the wind.
(You can see it was cold from my expression, that was me trying to stop my teeth chattering).
A helicopter was above us, police were around us, and in the crowd, there were many charged political banners of different types. We were there for one thing: to stop the cuts to the finances of future NHS professionals. If you don't know about this already, tuition fees and bursaries are to be cut, putting future health care professionals in massive debt.
Before we marched, I was lucky to meet some gorgeous professionals who wanted to stand up against the midwifery student cuts.
These professionals had busy lives because of shifts and other commitments, and you could see they were tired but oh-so-passionate.
It’s incredibly inspiring to be around such a good group. We drank tea. We ate cake.
We talked about the possible changes to the demographics of midwives that will be able to train, the impact on care if mentors are flooded with students, and the overall future of the profession.
But it wasn’t the injustice or the stupidity of the cuts that I reflected on most.
(Though I’ve done plenty of that!)
It was the bravery of midwives and others to keep looking at the political situation, assessing it from every side with intelligence, authenticity, the wellbeing of families at the centre of their decision to protest.
When you read about it in the news, protesting might seem a simple enough decision.
Midwifery student cuts are a threat, so reach for the placards.
It might look like committing to the cause and loudly protesting is the simple, right thing to do.
But real life midwifery is far more complicated than that.
Midwives are part of an autonomous, but regulated, profession and their interests are all about the women they care for.
In deciding to march, you have to think through every possible outcome.
Will women have confidence in professionals who march as part of a Unison/RCM rally?
What if you’re caring for someone who doesn’t believe striking is the right thing?
What if you end up on TV or in the news, against the contract of your workplace?
For instance, many hospitals and trusts ask if you do march, that you shouldn’t do it in uniform, or at least cover the logo.
As a midwife in a difficult, litigious world, you have the feelings of the women in your care, and your colleagues to think about.
It’s always going to be a dance between protesting for the rights of women, without fear, like my heroes Mary Cronk and Shelia Kitzinger – and being a registered professional.
Because this is the real world, not some idealised activist film (however much I like watching them and think they’re important 😉 )
Back in October last year, the Royal College of Midwives decided to organise a strike for the first time ever.
It was about fair pay, but I know the midwives who took part were really striking for the overall care of women and babies.
But this wasn’t an easy decision, illustrated really well by the fact the Royal College of Nurses, decided not to strike despite the fact their profession was facing similar financial cuts.
So this stuff isn’t simple. You have to deeply consider what you want to do….then find your tribe who think the same….then act!
I continue to be inspired by the bravery of midwives.
I recommend you do as much reading as you can on the history of midwifery. It’s always been a profession based on the brave political decisions of women, for women.
Educate yourself, know that your voice and your views matter.
And don’t beat yourself up for ANY decision – just as long as you know it’s the right one for you, validated by thought and debate and learning.
Please let me know, anonymously or not, via the comments below….
- Do you agree or disagree with the bursary cuts?
- Would you march to protest?
- What would make you take to leap to protest for midwifery?
Thanks Roblanephotography.co.uk for the photo.