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Being a mom in the "wild" jungle - Santa and Epera Women

There is a huge amount of knowledge that we tend to ignore in our ancestral and indigenous communities. Lets Listen!

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There are 25 families living in Santa Rosa, a small community in the borders of Colombia and Ecuador. There are not medical services around, in fact, the nearest town is 45 minutes away... by river... 

Each family has between 4 and 7 children and Santa is the responsible for bringing them to life. She is amazing and she knows so much! She knows the sex of the baby by touching the mother´s temperature in her forehead. She knows when the baby is entangled in the umbilical cord by touching the belly, and she knows how to fix it with massages. She knows the special diets moms have to eat to get her vitamins, she knows the right songs and the right plants to produce the medicine she needs. No doctors, no hospitals. She hasn´t had any deaths in her duty, she loves every little children in the community as if they were hers, and she has decided not to have children of her own. Santa is teaching other women about he knowledge, so it won´t get lost. 

Yes, there a lots of women that have children and never see a doctor. There is amazing and really valuable knowledge in their practices. 

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Ancestral knowledge is key to understanding alternative and more human ways for pregnancies and delivering a baby. There are thousands of women who have children and never step foot into a hospital, ¿how do hey do? They have amazing women who take care of them, we should learn more about these practices.

How does this research relate to our use cases and personas?

Janet - the under resourced mom is a urban version of the women who live in Santa Rosa. Santa would be of great help for Janet during her pregnancy process and Ana would be able to learn so much from Santa! There are indigenous women going to hospitals, but they leave because they do not get the attention they are used to. Health systems should be intercultural too.

Tell us about yourself:

I am an anthropologist who runs a design studio where we try to "make visible what is invisible", that is using design, culture and arts as our most powerfull weapons to fight unequity.

Are you currently an employee of Sutter Health or UCB Pharmaceuticals?

  • No


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Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Daniela!

Super interesting post!

How would you create Santa in somewhere like the US? How can multicultural societies include all of these perspectives in modern medical treatment?

There is another post in the challenge that might interest you - Losing a young mother due to poor access to emergency obstetric care in a remote tribal village in India by Maninder Manihani 

Photo of Kate Rushton

I am tagging a few more anthropologists for their perspectives on this as well - Juli Finlay Katie Hillier Charles Rutheiser Nati Weimann-Guardia 

Photo of Daniela

Thanks for your contribution Kate! How to recreate Santa in somewhere like te US? I am pretty sure that native americans and indigenous communities from the US have a lot of knowledge in this subject too... and the US is a country where you can find people from every corner of the world. I know there is a really important community of Otavalos (indigenous nationality from Ecuador) who have lots of acient medical practices. I think everything has to do with changing and questioning etnocentrism, wich means believing that occidental knowledge is the only one that works. If we beging to listen other knowledges not as magic or superstition, but from a formal point of view, we will be amazed. I am sure Santa will love to teach girls from the US how to become a birth assistant.

There is an iniciative of our goverment for intercultural health in public hospitals in big cities such as Quito and Guayaquil (which are closer to the US than to the "wild" jungle). Many of my friends have given birth standing up, with the help of a partera (such as Santa), drinking the waters made out of the medical plants and so on... inside a hospital. Mixing knowledges and learning form each other can truly make a difference for more human births. (sorry for my english, is quite a huge challenge for me!)