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San women prefer bush birth

2022-08-04  Loide Jason

San women prefer bush birth

TSUMKWE – Young Ju/hoansi and !Xuu San women are actively taught to face the pains of natural childbirth with courage and fearlessness.

Most women who spoke to New Era last week at the Nyae Nyae Conservancy in the Tsumkwe constituency said although the government brought a health centre to the Tsumkwe settlement, they still believe that giving birth in the bush is the best choice for cultural purposes.

//Xwan Kxao, a senior citizen, who has also been offering midwifery services for the past 40 years, said the young women are encouraged to give birth in the bush, as it teaches them how to be brave. 

“I have five children, and all of them were delivered in the bush. There was no complication, and it is free there. You become strong and fearless. I encourage the women to go to the hospital only when they have complications,” she said.

Kxao’s two daughters  Bee and //Uce /Ai!ae both gave birth in the bush, assisted by their mother.

“For the past 40 years, I have been assisting young and older women with delivering their babies, and I do not experience any maternal death around my time. I got my skills from my mother and my grandmother. It is a good experience that young women need to go through for them to understand motherhood better and prevent baby dumping,” she explained.

Another local woman,  ≠Nisa Kxao from ≠ Nanihim village concurred with Kxao, saying she also delivered all her four children in the bush while the health centre was already up and running. 

“I am fully aware that the services are offered at the health centre, but I opted to give birth in the bush. It is nice and free there. No one will give you a strange look when you are in pain. You have to give birth in the bush and only come back home after you are done,” she explained. 

After coming back home, you have to be in a separate room for three weeks, and only after you healed completely that you can go to the hospital for a health passport and birth certificate registration.

She has also started helping her inlaws and family members with safe midwifery services in their village. 

“For reducing pain, I apply vaseline on the tummy and start massaging the baby to come out softly without causing so much pain to the mother. But if the baby takes time to come out. I will then recommend that a person be rushed to the hospital, which is a rare case. In most cases, it is smooth and easy,” she said.

She added she assists first mothers to give birth in a squatting position, some few hundred metres from their settlement – and this is regarded as ideal. 

Another woman, a mother of eight, proudly explained that young mothers must be encouraged to give birth in the bush because it is their culture. 

“All my eight children were delivered in the bush. It was nice and healthy. All you need is to wash yourself with salt, and you will be fine so that you will go to the hospital later for the child registration,” said Di//xao Dam from Doupos village.

She said, apart from cultural purposes, the distance to health facilities is one of the reasons she opted to give birth in the bush.

“I live in the village and do not have time to come to the hospital, as we merely depend on the field food. I can’t come to Tsumkwe, as I do not have accommodation here to wait for the hospital,” she said.

Another reason, she said, is airtime.

“We do not have airtime to call the ambulance. It is hectic here in the village. To waste no time, I will go quick, quick in the bush and come back home to my other children, who will stay with the baby after a few days while I will go hunt for food,” she indicated.

However, the young mother, who just gave birth four years ago, is expecting another baby.

 Tci! o Debe from Doupos village also gave birth to her first child in the bush when she was 21 years old.

“My experience was bad as a young mother because I lost a lot of blood. And I also do not like it when they bite the cord with their teeth and bury the placenta after giving birth. So for the child I am carrying, I want to deliver at the hospital,” she explained.

 She said after she gave birth, she also witnessed her assistant midwives returning the placenta, which is no longer needed, to mother earth. 

Kxao, one of the midwives, said the placenta is being returned to connect the infant to the territory a particular clan occupy.

≠Nisa Tsamkxa from !Ukurama village explained she delivered all her four children at the hospital – and only a fifth one at home, as she had complications during labour.

She had mixed feelings about hospital and bush deliveries, saying there is not much difference.

The chief of Nyae Nyae, affectionately known as chief Bobo Tsamkxao, said he strongly encourages women to give birth in the hospital, although a majority of them still believe in giving birth at home.

“Another issue that does not encourage people to give birth at the hospital is the lack of shelter for the expectant mother. If we could have one in the area, we could easily encourage people to come to the hospital to deliver their babies in a western way,” said the chief.

He further added the young ones also need to experience the cultural way of doing it.

Health director of Otjozondjupa Timoteus Gebhardo confirmed a majority of San women prefer giving birth in the bush due to several reasons, such as cultural beliefs, poor roads infrastructures and network problems.

“It is a challenge to get these people to come to the health centre. We have tried to educate them several times on the importance of delivering the babies at the hospitals. But because they are hunter-gatherers, they move to certain places deeper, in search of field food that is sometimes seasonal – and it is hard to get them,” said Gerbhardo.

Gerbhardo said it is quite difficult to manage the San expecting mothers, as the hospital has a record of those who show up for antenatal care but still opt to deliver in the bush when pushing nature calls. 

“The chief has a point about shelter – but as relevant stakeholders, we first need to educate these people on the importance of the shelter at the hospital so that we cannot just build a shelter that will not be utilised. We tried to do outreach programmes but when it is their season for gathering their food, it is hard to find our people at the same time. It is really a challenge,” he explained.

He added the San women prefer to give birth in private, and they have their special way of performing their cultural rituals during that time, which is why they are hard to convince to give birth in the hospitals.


2022-08-04  Loide Jason

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