Gertrude, Uganda, 2015
In Uganda, giving birth is predominantly a women-only affair. In a society where women have little or nothing to say, giving birth is one of the spaces where they can feel in control. Traditional society perceives women who handle the process alone as more vigorous and regards babies born with Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) as stronger than babies born in hospitals.
Officially banned in 2009, rural women still use Traditional Birth Attendants. In many villages with little access to formal health care, financial shortcomings and lack of transportation to the nearest health facility, women in labor are often left little choice but to work with TBAs. Herbs are used as painkillers or to induce labor, sometimes bringing relief but also a potential disaster if wrong dosages are administered or complications are not assessed correctly.
Gertrude, a village midwife in Kayunga, Uganda for over 40 years, has delivered thousands of babies. For her patients, she is the only option available. She is a helper and companion in the difficult hours of labor yet has no formal education, running water or electricity and works with merely her hands sand her experience.
Sadly a woman in Sub-Saharan Africa still has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in childbirth.
Shot on assignment for CNN / Courageous Studios