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  • Writer's pictureAbby Hopewell

Cultural Safety and Competency

As part of Ruth Dennison's (121 Doula)'s Breastfeeding Cultural Safety course, I was tasked to "be creative" and took the opportunity to write a blog about what I have learned.

In January I bought Ruth's course and in March I attended a Cultural Competency course by the wonderful Mars Lord and Nicola Mahdiyyah Goodall.

As a birth worker, but more than that, as a person and specifically a white person, it was so important to me to be an ally and to also be as safe as I can be for people.

There's a lot of unlearning to do and discomfort, too but as Mars Lord said when I heard her speak at the Milton Keynes breastfeeding festival a few years ago "You can sit in your discomfort for a few minutes because I have had to live in mine all of my life" - or powerful words to that effect!

If you're a white person reading this, as white people, we cannot let our discomfort and anxieties around getting it wrong stop us from doing the work. We can support someone by treating them politely and going down a check list of things they may need help with - and yes it can be done with respect; however, if we go into these situations with preconceived ideas and assumptions and without listening to the person in front of us and we do not make a connection with that person, then they are not going to get appropriate support. We cannot leave people without access to support because we as the people supposed to be helping them aren't adequately equipped to do so.

One way which I keep my biases (we all have them, don't fool yourself into thinking you don't) in check is with these visual prompts by "Play the Race Card" (images taken from their etsy listing).

These prompts are really useful for anyone working with birthing people as they make you challenge your own thoughts.

We owe it to all people to be competent and confident enough to treat those in our care (and in general!) by taking their unique cultural needs into consideration. We need to acknowledge that there may be specific cultural barriers and we need to understand how best to overcome them and education is key to that, as well as being anti-racist.

I really would encourage all birth workers, but especially white birth workers, to complete these courses. It's an ongoing process, it's never finished; but we all need to start.

Abby <3

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