There is a global consensus that there is a need for increased investment in young people and young professionals hence the urge not to delay the early development of leadership skills. As such, there is no universally accepted definition of leadership, however, several taxonomies of leadership styles and behaviours have been proposed and published. For the purpose of this opinion piece, leadership is defined as a desirable act of influencing people to pursue common goals, which are important to a particular group or organisation. A leader is that person who is able to create a compelling vision, who is optimistic and who is able to instil hope into others, a leader who is able to translate a vision into action. Thus, leadership is seen as a process during which the situation dictates how a leader should behave.
The nursing and midwifery training in Namibia compels young women and men to undertake an integrated training, and only after employment, can these professionals get themselves an identity of whether to refer to themselves as nurses or whether to refer to oneself as a midwife depending in the setting where one is working. The topic of nursing and midwifery conflation is, however, receiving global attention and there is a serious consideration to separate the nursing and midwifery professions because they are distinct, however, closely linked but operating with different scopes of practice. Midwifery is defined as an approach to care for women before, during and after pregnancy and their newborn infants in addition to the sexual and reproductive health of women. In midwifery, midwives optimise the normal biological, psychological, social and cultural processes of childbirth, thus only midwives can practice midwifery. While nursing is defined as the promotion of health, prevention of illnesses, care of the ill, the disabled and the dying persons.
It is a known fact that globally, midwives and nurses make up half of the total health workforce. In addition, the midwifery and nursing workforce is relatively young, however, there are disparities across different regions of the world. In Namibia, evidence have indicated that 70% of the midwives and nurses are young professionals. It is therefore important that these young midwives are supported to develop leadership skills because they are the solution to the challenges of providing universal and quality maternal and new-born care. Indeed, young midwives are professionals who possess the right blend of knowledge, skills and professionalism and they will make use of these skills to motivate and inspire others. Investing in young midwives will ensure that they will progress from their own training, learning and education in order to teach others. Indeed, with support, the young and vibrant professionals will ensure that their careers are advanced and would do anything to help shape the career paths of others. It is thus important that young midwives are allowed and should take up space and grab every opportunity presenting itself, and become advocates, make sure they are remembered for being bold and unapologetic when advocating for midwives and issues concerning midwifery practice.
Richard Boyatzis, an American organisational theorist at Case Western Reserve University, explained that “Leadership is a relationship, it is a resonant relationship, and it is a sync of being in tune with or on the same wavelength with others”. Richard further emphasised that leaders should be able to create experiences of hope, compassion and mindfulness. Dare to support and invest in leadership skills of young midwives, allow them opportunities to create these experiences and permit them to become agents of change. Without doubt, these changes will positively impact girls, women and their babies, their families, the community and the nation at large! The president of the International Confederation of Midwives, Franka Cadee once highlighted the importance of finding a balance in leadership. She explained that a leader should be proud and should be able to put down their foot if a decision needs to be made. Leaders should remain humble, speak the language, which people understand but most importantly, leaders should be their authentic self. Thus, if young midwives are well supported, they have the potential to become powerful strategic leaders and advocates who are needed to engage in national policy dialogues with a robust evidence-based voice.
Investment in young midwives will highlight the role that midwives play in achieving sustainable development goals and universal health coverage through increased knowledge. In addition, investing in young midwives will also enable them to be aware of the emerging midwifery practice issues at national, regional and global levels. Strong support for young midwives will assist in the creation of a global network of young midwife leaders who will serve as a community of practice for exchanging good practices and transforming ideas into practical and sustainable actions to assist in scaling up and strengthening the midwifery profession. In the era of the 4th industrial revolution, young midwives are ready to take up the challenge of acquiring knowledge and skills in technology, to keep up with innovation ideas aimed at improving the quality of midwifery care while ensuring that human interaction, respectful and compassionate maternity care is maintained. I challenge individuals, community members, senior midwives, the Ministry of Health and Social Services and all developmental partners to play their role by supporting and investing in the leadership skills of young midwives. Empower young midwives to develop leadership skills while early in the midwifery profession so that they can form part of the global change-makers in sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health!