November 09, 2015
Childbirth link with land revived
A study of Maori childbirth has won Waikato University geography and environmental planning lecturer Naomi Simmonds the New Zealand Geographical Society’s President’s Award for Best Doctoral Thesis.
Dr Simmonds says patriarchal and colonial ideas and values have become embedded in childbirth.
The professionalisation of obstetrics after World War 2 marginalised Maori women and their families during pregnancy and birth.
She says women are looking for elements in Maori matauranga and traditions that can re-empower them and their whanau, such as the burial of whenua or placenta.
"Kia hoki te whenua ki te whenua. That is a prime example of the way that the institutionalisation of birth and particular ideas around birth and afterbirth should be by hospitals and the medical profession. It almost saw the complete erasure of that practice for a whole generation. My whenua wasn't buried, my fathers whenua wasn't buried because of that process but it's really exciting to see the ways in which whanau are reclaiming that, ' she says.
One of Dr Simmonds’ doctoral supervisors, Professor Lynda Johnston, says she had produced a rigorous yet empathetic, and politically important piece of research that adds to existing knowledge on kaupapa Maori, mana wahine and maternal geographies.
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