Katie, Sonah and Karen smiling with bouquets of flowers

Colleagues from across the West of England and beyond gathered at the Malcolm X Community Centre in Bristol on 7 December for a joyous celebration of our Black Maternity Matters programme and the achievements of all the participants and champions involved in cohorts one and two.

Thanks to George Chan at Blue Fire Films for producing our short video!

Black Maternity Matters is a ground-breaking collaboration, supporting maternity and neonatal staff to reduce the inequitable outcomes faced by Black mothers and their babies.

In the UK, Black women still face significant disparities in maternal health outcomes, experiencing higher mortality and stillbirth rates compared to their white counterparts. These disparities are rooted in systemic biases, structural racism, and a lack of racial literacy within healthcare services.

To address these issues, Health Innovation West of England formed a collaborative with Black Mothers Matter, BCohCo and Representation Matters to develop the Black Maternity Matters initiative, which was launched in 2021 with funding from the Health Foundation through its Q Supporting local learning funding programme. The focus is on targeted anti-racism education, peer support, and quality improvement (QI) transformation projects for perinatal staff.

Original members of the collaborative grouped in front of a Black Maternity Matters banner
The founding members of the Black Maternity Matters collaborative (L-R): Sonah Paton, Black Mothers Matter; Ann Remmers, Health Innovation West of England; Aisha Thomas, Representation Matters; Noshin Menzies, Health Innovation West of England; Katie Donovan-Adekanmbi, BCohCo

At the event, we celebrated the achievements of the 84 maternity and neonatal staff (from Gloucestershire; Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire; Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire) who have been through the Black Maternity Matters programme so far, many of whom shared some of their learning and insights from the journey they have been on and how it feels to be ‘part of the change’.

Group of Black Maternity Matters participants gathered on stage
Some of the participants of the Black Maternity Matters programme
Black Maternity Matters champions: Anushia Goodman, Charlea Williams, Zara March and Laura Lewinson

Interested in joining the Black Maternity Matters collaborative? We are offering perinatal colleagues across the West of England the opportunity to join one of four new cohorts starting in February and March 2024 and take part in our unique six-month education and training programme. Find out more here.

The anti-racism education programme was developed and delivered by Katie Donovan-Adekanmbi (BCohCo) and Aisha Thomas (Representation Matters).

Katie talked about how building anti-racist perinatal systems takes a combination of expertise, hearts and minds and shared some of the ingredients that go into the special ‘sauce’ of their training. This includes time for reflective practice and introspection, including time to explore personal challenges around fragility and defensiveness, lack of shared language, denial and privilege distress, as well as both the macro and micro dimensions of racism.

Katie Donovan-Adekanmbi speaking into a microphone
Katie Donovan-Adekanmbi, BCohCo

Sonah Paton gave a repeat performance of her recent TEDxBristol talk, providing a powerful and moving account of her own maternity experiences, and how this led to her and a group of friends setting up the support network Black Mothers Matter.

Sonah Paton talking on stage
Sonah Paton, Black Mothers Matter

Noshin Menzies and Ann Remmers from Health Innovation West of England gave an overview of the Black Maternity Matters journey to date – a story of true collaboration – and what others can learn from this experience. It’s important to acknowledge that advocating for change is tiring and the mental effort is real, and to recognise that our role as connectors, collaborators and creators means knowing our limitations – getting the right people around the table means sometimes giving up your seat.

Ann and Noshin on stage
Ann Remmers and Noshin Menzies, Health Innovation West of England

Our keynote speaker was Dr Karen Joash, a Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, who gave a powerful and activating talk on The Power of Inclusion. Karen explored NHS culture and the psychological and physical impacts of racism, as well as outlining her main priorities for achieving true equity in the future – from improving health monitoring data to establishing a research institute of women’s health with a hub focused on ethnicities.

Talking about Black Maternity Matters, Karen said: “Truly inspiring to see the work that’s being done to ensure that health inequities are reduced and health rights are restored. It is a civil right for all to have access to healthcare that listens, learns and grows.”

Karen Joash speaking on stage
Keynote speaker, Dr Karen Joash

During the event, delegates were encouraged to make a personal pledge to hang on the pledge tree, inspired by what they had seen and heard. Pictured below is our incredible host and MC for the day, Aisha Thomas reading out some of the pledges.

A huge thank you to everyone who came to the Black Maternity Matters celebration, and to everyone who played a part in the planning and hosting of the day.

Find out more about Black Maternity Matters here, and follow us on Instagram.

Here are some more images from our fabulous photographer, Sharon A Anderson:

Posted on December 13, 2023

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