The B!RTH Project – a unique fusion of science and theatre – is expanding its education programme and encouraging midwives across the UK and further afield to get involved.
Did you know that each year, an estimated 303,000 women die because of pregnancy-related causes? And that in addition to this, 2.6 million babies are stillborn and 2.8 million die within the first month of life? 99% of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, and most are preventable.
B!RTH aims to use theatre to raise awareness of this global inequality in maternal healthcare, using seven specially commissioned plays written by seven female playwrights from seven different countries.
First performed as part of a festival at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, the project is now based at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the plays, along with an accompanying educational toolkit, are available to download and use free of charge for universities, NGOs, and charitable organisations.
The power of the plays to change hearts and minds is well-testified; a performance of our Kenya and Syria plays at the World Health Organization prompted this response from one senior delegate: “We have the facts and the evidence; we know these subject matters well. We’ve got it in our heads but you also need it in your heart. The power of theatre and storytelling does that.”
Now universities and community groups across the UK are using the plays in their work: whether that’s hosting a performance as part of a conference or awareness-raising session to provoke debate, reading the scripts aloud with perinatal support groups, or using excerpts of the plays as teaching materials in lectures, we’re here to help you to work with the plays. A number of UK university Midwifery departments are already incorporating B!RTH into their teaching; the plays touch on themes including choice, autonomy and the devaluation of the role of the midwife, and focus on topics such as Obstetric Fistula, pregnancy as a refugee, and forced sterilisation. As all seven plays tell the stories of real women’s experiences, they offer a unique perspective in any environment.
Because the plays tackle real issues, we are constantly trying to push for change, and so anyone who downloads or sees our plays is encouraged to share their ‘Challenge to the Changemakers’ with us: what challenge would YOU make to those in a position to make a change in maternal health? We will ask your questions directly to politicians, NGO leaders, funders, and other leaders to provoke real debate and keep the conversation going, so do get involved and add your voice!
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