One evening the frustration of seeing all the conversations and retweets around COVID, and its effects on BAME staff/communities, left me asking: who would be interested in a discussion in a virtual chat?
I invited all those who responded and someone mentioned how great it was to be starting a ‘BAME’ maternity forum.
I knew this was something I had to address. As an Asian I fall into the ‘BAME’ category and, while I use the term to have my voice heard, I do not identify with it at all. Most ‘BAME’ people, pre-COVID media, did not recognise this as a descriptor of ‘Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic’ groups, or realise that this was a term coined to describe them. The term was probably created by a well-meaning high-level official who was trying to make everyone’s life easier for discussions and reports around ethnicity. But in doing so they alienated entire communities further, for if these communities are unaware that ‘BAME’ refers to them, how will they pay attention to, engage in, or oppose, vital debates, discussions and plans regarding them?
When I saw the advert for ‘BAME lead midwife’ I almost didn’t go for it — but I’m so glad I was advised to apply because, after having this same conversation with my amazing Head of Midwifery (HoM) and Deputy Head of Midwifery (DHoM), they fully supported my request to seek community feedback and change my job title to Specialist Cultural Liaison Midwife. When I now have to explain my role to my colleagues (which I had to do even with the ‘BAME’ title) I talk about how all communities have cultures, my job is to liaise between them to raise awareness and understanding of barriers and work towards building mutual learning and trust. This means that, as healthcare professionals and community members, we can all work towards reducing health inequalities and disparity by taking individual responsibility.
So now you may understand why I decided to name the forum ‘A Community of Cultures Maternity Forum’ (CoCMF). The first meeting was mostly attended by Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) representatives and midwives. During the discussion it became obvious that the issues we were facing were linked to a fear of being misunderstood or causing offence. The reality is that most people fear broaching such topics through fear of being judged and causing offence, but this concern works both ways. Community members also fear being perceived as ‘difficult’ or ‘awkward’ if they have certain discussions or raise concerns.
Nazmeen B. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, vol 30, no 3, September 2020.
© MIDIRS 2020
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