Including male religious leaders into midwifery education to reduce maternal deaths in Uganda. Can it work in your setting?

Mrs Margaret Docking1

1Wise Choices For Life, Ringwood East, Australia


This presentation addresses the maternal mortality rate in Uganda using a unique approach. Knowing people follow their traditional faith leaders  on the use of family planning we can reduce maternal deaths by embracing male religious leaders into midwifery education.

Our traditional model of education does not equip us to reach male faith leaders so we need to shift the way we approach midwifery education.

We need to shift from hospital to community-based education. A model that does not lock out the key influential people needed to bring about societal change. We need the critical mass of men and traditional faith leaders to support midwives.

In Uganda, the cultural beliefs and practices around pregnancy and family size is deeply connected to their beliefs about God and a woman’s purpose in life. When men own women it becomes their right to control their fertility. Empowerment of the women alone to use contraception often leads to gender based violence. The purely medical approach of midwifery has not been able to affect behavioral change in these contexts.

Wise Choices for Life is a medically sound curriculum, equipping locals to facilitate training through drama discussion and song. Engaging traditional leaders to debate consequences of child marriage and large family size.

Reaching the non-medical religious leaders, we give them their rightful place in determining community thinking and new ideas. Presenting medical truths without embracing their worldview removes the powerful instigators of change in the community.

By realigning our educational approach to leverage the traditional male roles we empower leaders to support women in pregnancy without usurping their traditional place.

We now have traditional faith leaders taking reproductive health messages into churches, Christian university, youth groups, prisons, schools and a Bible college.

A successful train the trainer curriculum endorsed by Ministry of Health Uganda, ready to replicate.


Registered Midwife/Nurse, Graduate Certificate Vocational Training Curriculum Development Charles Sturt University, 2003, Sexual and Reproductive Health / Family Planning 2011,

Having worked as a midwife in rural, remote and African settings I see traditional male religious leaders are often seen as the problem and yet rarely included in the solution.

From Aurukun Nth Qld (1978) and Arnhem Land N.T (1989 to1995 ) then Nairobi slums, (2003) Albury/Wodonga (1995 to 2009 ) Ugandan villages Hospitals ( 2009 /10)

Now a Director Wise Choices for Life, Ugandan male and female leaders are running their own NGO with support from Australia.