Become a Birth Partner for Shanti Uganda


Become a Birth Partner for Shanti Uganda


Back when I was planning Eric’s home birth, I knew that there were lots of things that I wanted for my labor and birth.

I wanted to give birth in the water.  I wanted to give birth surrounded by the people who loved me, the people who I wanted there with me.  I even wanted silly things, like the chance to wear my hot pink wrap skirt, and my Christmas trees all lit up and festive during my labor, and maybe even a big delicious meal waiting for me after Eric was born.

But mostly I wanted a peaceful birth.  A respected birth.  A safe birth.

And I didn’t deserve a peaceful or respected or safe birth any more than any other woman.  I didn’t deserve access to skilled maternity care providers and sterilized birth equipment more than any other woman.  Not any more than a mother who lives down the street from me, and not any more than a woman who lives across the ocean from me.  Not any more than a teen mother, not any more than a poor mother, and not any more than a mother who is living with HIV/AIDS.

Every mother deserves a peaceful, respected, and safe birth.

Recently, Amber Strocel from contacted me to see if I could help promote a Vancouver-based charity for whom she is volunteering: Shanti Uganda.  Shanti Uganda is committed to giving the mothers and babies of Uganda exactly what I think all moms and babies deserve: a peaceful, respected, and safe birth.  And the work they are doing is pretty incredible.


What does Shanti Uganda do?

Shanti Uganda promotes infant and maternal health in Uganda through a variety of means, including but not limited to:

  • offering woman-centered maternity care to pregnant and birthing women living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda
  • staffing the Shanti Uganda Birth House with a team of Ugandan midwives, a traditional birth assistant, and a lab technician
  • running prenatal education classes, a community garden program, a health and wellness program for teen women, and a Women’s Income Generating Group, all from the Birth House
  • providing safe birth kits for the birthing women they serve

Shanti Uganda is committed to sustainable living and community participation.  But more than that, they are committed to respecting traditional knowledge about birth–the knowledge that woman and traditional midwives has passed down through the generations–and helping all birthing women to feel empowered, no matter what their circumstances.

As Shanti Uganda Founder and Executive Director, Natalie Angell-Besseling states, “Over 100 women die giving birth in Uganda every week.  Not only is Shanti Uganda providing a safe, empowering environment for women to give birth, but we are defying these statistics and creating a new norm for birthing women in Uganda.  Of the over 100 women who have given birth at our centre in our almost two years of operation, 100% have left healthy, happy, and supported by our dedicated team of midwives.”

Those numbers are extraordinary indeed.


How can you support Shanti Uganda?

You can become a Birth Partner and support them with a regular monthly donation of $25, $50, or $100 (all prices in Canadian currency).  Each level of giving helps the midwives who are a part of Shanti Uganda to provide prenatal, labor, and postpartum care for the women in their community.

Smaller donations, of course, are greatly appreciated too.  But the regular monthly donations via the Birth Partner program help Shanti Uganda both to offer continuous support to the women they serve and to allay administrative costs that occur with less regular donations.  It’s about stretching those dollars as far as they can go to help as many women and babies as they can!

If even $25 a month seems like a lot for your family, then don’t think that you can’t offer anything to Shanti Uganda.  See if you can get together with a group of friends–other mothers, or even some of the midwives and doulas and other birthworkers in your community–and pool your funds together to make monthly contributions.

It only takes one small group of people–of mothers even–to make a world of difference in the lives of a mother and baby almost a world away.

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  1. chava

    So, long-time lurker here (I do love your blog! Promise!)

    I just don’t know about getting behind this group. Yes, cutting maternal/fetal deaths with interventions like basic sanitation is helpful, but the major needful interventions (I’m pulling this from the WHO numbers by memory here, may be slightly off) are things like fistula repair, safe c-sections, treatment for pre-ec (which would include induction) and blood loss.

    I have a fair amount of woman friends from Africa, and every single one of them knows a woman who has died or whose baby has died, and with respect, they don’t want midwives and a birth house. They want doctors and a lot of them–just as many as American women–want epidurals. They WANT “medicalization” of birth, even if we think that’s not good for them. And for God’s sake, they don’t need to feel better about having HIV, they don’t need yoga, they need affordable antiretrovirals, transportation to and from the pharmacy, and they need them NOW.

    When you take into account that overall post-op care and sanitation is poor, and that Western hospital setups are expensive, YES there is an argument for modern (not “traditional medicine”) midwifery as a useful intervention for low risk, low-cost births, and for avoiding intervention unless absolutely necessary. But let’s not pretend it’s the optimal setup.

    If you want to give money to a charity that meaningfully impacts women’s health, try here:

    They also have a project in rural Africa:

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas

      Chava, I do appreciate your perspective, and from the (admittedly limited) perspective that I have, it doesn’t seem that this needs to be an either/or proposition. What’s more, it doesn’t seem as if Shanti Uganda is opposed to any sort of medicalization of birth whatsoever. They are just one group offering these particular services (and truth be told, my guess is that this is maxing out what they can do with individual $25 or $50 per month donations). So it doesn’t mean that it’s everything that women in Africa might need for safe births, but it also doesn’t mean that it’s entirely useless either. To me, there is also something to be said for working with women in the community rather than sweeping in like knights in shining armor trying to “save those poor African women.” (NOT SAYING THAT THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE SAYING! :) But it is an attitude that gets bandied about quite a bit.)

      I will ask Amber to come speak to your concerns, though!

      Thanks for the link, by the way! A couple other birth-related organizations that I have supported (and promoted on here in the past) are Every Mother Counts and Operation Fistula.

  2. chava

    I got the anti-medicalization vibe from their website, with these sorts of statements:
    “The birthing culture in Uganda has been deeply impacted by medicalization. This has largely impacted traditional birthing practices and resulted in high intervention rates.”

    Also this:
    “The birth house is made with local building materials and will provides a safe place for women to receive care and birth their babies in an empowering, home-like environment”

    The use of the verb ” to birth,” the description of the house as “empowering,” the “local” building materials, the catchphrase “high intervention rates”–none of these things are innately bad, don’t get me wrong. But taken together they’re dogwhistles for a very particular natural birth movement that began in and is tailored to developed countries where you have the *option* of a hospital and epidural if you should so desire. That’s what really gets my back up about their rhetoric–it feels like they’re grafting an idea of “empowering African childbirth” onto, you know, a real country.

    It definitely isn’t either/or, and a midwife and safe space is better than no midwife, and no safe space. Absolutely. I’m just really uncomfortable with deploying NCB rhetoric in African NGO’s, especially when some of the dodgier moments of that movement are so tied up in racial and gender essentialism. Also, I freely admit that years of on-off involvement in the global health community has left me pretty severely jaded wrt most NGO’s, particularly ones who indulge in the woo.

  3. chava

    Oh, also? I started reading your blog because our sons have the same name and are roughly the same age. (although, I will say, at least Eric won’t have to go around his whole life saying, “NO, it’s Erik-Joseph-with-a-K.” Bad parents, no biscuit. ;-)

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