Smith, Diane with Jagori. Birthing with Dignity: a guide for training community level midwives and healthworkers. 2004. Jagori, New Delhi, India.

Birthing With Dignity: A Book Review by Theresa WolfwoodThis beautiful conceived and created book is more than a guide for birth attendants; it is a tribute to the act of creation and our creators – mothers. It comes from a land where women and their role in creating life are devalued and ignored. That birth is an act worthy of dignity should be sung from roof tops of mansions and shacks; this book is the libretto of that song, a guide for the restoration of the value of women and motherhood.

It is also a guide to a circular journey that lead a midwife from a forest glade on a small island off the southwest coast of Canada to a crowded village in India to find a companion who understood her vision: To see women birth in dignity and to uphold the work of the traditional midwife to help them with this. And so with Abha Bhaiya, her companion, the way was set. Abha is a co- founders of Jagori; a New Delhi based feminist collective, 20 years ago, committed to the spread of feminist ideology to create a just society for women and other marginalized groups. Abha’s dream was to create a Women’s Health Literacy Program that would educationally support the village Dai, the traditional midwife, and preserve and promote traditional and self-help health care.

This book is the result of that meeting and the commitment of Diane Smith to be open, to listen and to learn from Dais and all Indian women. The book begins with a record of women and birth through art and history from a time then women were honoured and birth was an act of wonder and awe. The present situation where women have such a demeaned status that they eat last, if any food is left over, and fast if there is only enough for men. This affects not only their health but the health of their children. Part of honouring women’s lives is to increase their self-confidence, empower them to act in their society and to change their degraded status. Health literacy is part of the process.

Much of the book is the practical journey through pregnancy to birth and to post-natal care, based in community where traditional knowledge must be restored and preserved.

Birthing with Dignity: A Book Review by Theresa Wolfwood

Photo by D.S.

The illustrations and photos are clear and detailed; the guide could be used anywhere for helping women. The wisdom of the women who participated in the workshops that provide he basis of this work is carefully documented. All the basic information about pregnancy, gestation and birth as well as outlined care instructions will help any community of women and birth attendants to work to together for the benefit of all.

With the publication of this powerful book, Diane Smith closed the circle and returned to Canada to assist her daughter to give birth last year. This book is a lasting testament to her passion and vision: To see women birth in dignity and to uphold the work of the traditional midwife to help them with this.

(Jagori Website:

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