“I speak to all the women, not just young women and girls. Knowledge of sexual health is too important a topic in a woman’s life for them to be ignorant about. I want women to know as much as possible so they are informed and therefore can make informed decisions for themselves. It is so taboo to talk about these things, but it doesn’t have to be, especially for women who are already married.
I started learning midwifery about 1996 when I was 16. I took a course in Nyaung Shwe after my grandmother encouraged me. Actually, I never attended 10th grade; I dropped out after 6th grade but she believed this was a good vocation for me to follow. After some time, I started learning about traditional medicines and how to administer some drugs but mostly I work as a midwife. If it’s quiet and there is not much to do, I farm my crops and I give talks to women on sexual health.
I don’t care whether their husbands like what I have to say. Women should be informed about how a baby is made. I know some of the men don’t like what I have to say but I have nothing to hide. I am very open about talking about what I do and yes, I will educate my own daughter about this when the time comes.
I remember one of the first times I delivered a baby by myself. I mean, I was a farmer, I was so afraid that I would mess it up and I was so young, just 16 or 17. But my grandmother had faith in me; she really supported me. And then I became quite skilled at it so I got to learn more and then eventually, teach and inform others about their health as well. It’s very important to teach women about how to stay healthy and eat well when they are pregnant – no one educates them about this so it becomes the midwife’s job. But it shouldn’t have to take until you are pregnant to find out what is happening or how to take care of yourself and the baby. That is why I try to teach what I know. And I am very open to learning more.
I also teach basic health like what happens if you get a flu or cold or diarrhea. Obviously, I stick to the simple things and if it’s really complicated I will advise them to go the hospital – I only finished 6th grade after all!
I’ve delivered at least a hundred babies over the past 19 years. I do this work because I care about the health of people and my own Pao women. I teach them about contraceptives, I teach them about what it means when you marry a man.
Pao people are mostly poor. There is a lot of malnutrition in our society and it’s simply dangerous for pregnant women to be malnourished – for them and their unborn children. I feel terrible when I see this, so that’s why I try and inform and educate as much as possible. It starts with explaining to one person, and then maybe two people and then I hope they tell others and information spreads. I also try and encourage them to wait a couple of years in between having children, so their bodies can rest and recoup.
I am motivated to support other women, to help them achieve what they want. I want women to have full access to knowledge, to work. They come to my house at all hours to ask questions and I try and answer all their questions. You know it’s not just young people who are curious, older people also want answers and want to know and understand these issues too.
Daw Naung Tin Oo
Farmer and mid wife