International Center For Traditional Childbearing

Mother Earth Pregnant

Legacy Of The Black Midwife
Shafia M. Monroe, CM, CCE
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Shafia M. Monroe, CM, CCE


Founder and President
International Center For Traditional Childbearing

Building Capacity through motivational speaking, diversity training and coaching.

Sistah Midwife International (SMI) promulgates midwifery as a solution to better birth outcomes, healthy communities and sustainability; and mentors those aspiring to become midwives, sound parenting and doulas. Monroe is a Certified Midwife by the Massachusetts Midwives Alliance, a Childbirth Educator, a Doula Trainer, a health activist, organizer, and international speaker. She holds a BA in sociology, with a concentration in medical sociology, from the University of Massachusetts. Monroe is also the founder and President of the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC); the nation’s first Black midwifery training, breastfeeding promotion and capacity building non-profit organization, headquartered in Portland, Oregon.

Shafia is the visionary behind the prominent Black Midwives and Healers Conference that brings global midwives and other health care providers together to galvanize resources and implement strategies for reducing infant mortality and strengthening families. In 2006, the Black Midwives and Healers Conference received a Proclamation from Oregon’s Governor Ted Kulongoski and in 2008 from New York’s Mayor. In 2007 she authored the Black Midwivesand Prenatal Providers Directory-Essential Recipes and Words of Wisdom for Expecting and New Parents. Though born in Boston, Massachusetts, she recognizes her Alabama roots and practices the Southern style of healing, using the laying on of hands, herbs and prayer for pregnant women, newborns and their families. As early as seven years of age Shafia realized she had been called to be a healer. At eighteen years old she became involved with the midwifery home birth movement and witnessed the under-representation of African American women as midwives and doulas. This was the beginning of her organized outreach efforts, not only to recruit and train Black midwives as a method of reducing infant mortality, but also to encourage women to consider home birth for empowerment. Monroe formed the Traditional Childbearing Group in 1976, in part because of the need for better health within Boston's Black community, but also because White women dominated the field and opportunities for aspiring Black midwives were few and far-between.

Monroe was profiled in the book “Granny Midwives and Black Woman Authors" for her ground breaking work in training African American midwives in Boston, Massachusetts, her hometown. Monroe's African spiritual and ritual-based practice was also chronicled in a photographic essay in the Boston Globe before her move to Portland in the early 1990s. For over twenty years, Shafia has successfully reached out to women from every walk of life and has served as a midwife for thousands. Shafia has conducted countless childbirth classes, breastfeeding promotion classes, parenting classes and worked on legislation with others to help bring the services of midwives to all women. Along with the Creator's blessing, Monroe attributes her success to incorporating African and southern outreach traditions; aiding families in communicating with their health care providers for quality health care, infant mortality reduction and sustained breastfeeding. Her midwifery philosophy has been embraced by members of different backgrounds, cultures and nationalities because of its traditional and cultural competency.

As a president and founder she tours the country presenting on an array of subjects to promote midwifery, increase breastfeeding rates and improve birth outcomes in communities of color. Her speaking audiences encompass diverse organizations, academic institutions and individuals, including: Rikki Lake, Black Men’s Coalition, Albina Rotary Club, Oregon Health and Sciences University, The African Women’s Coalition, State of Oregon’s Tobacco Advisory Committee, San Francisco Healthy Birth Initiative, California Black Parenting, Inc., ACNM Midwives of Color Association, Minnesota’s Phillips Powderhouse Cultural Wellness Center, The 4th Annual Muslim Women’s Conference, National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Oregon Health Sciences and University, Harlem Birth Action Committee, Midwives Alliance of North American, Midwifery Today Conference, Portland State University, Universite De Libre in Cali, Colombia (South America), Black Women and Wellness Inc., Yele, Sierra Leone (West Africa), The Birth Congress—Water Birth International, High Schools, National Conferences, and many more. Monroe’s work to reduce infant mortality and promote midwifery has earned her numerous awards:

The Achievement Award - 4th Annual Muslim Women’s Conference, LA, CA 2008
Women Making History in Portland’s- A Mural - City of Portland, OR, 2007
Certificate of Recognition for Preserving the Legacy of Midwifery - National Institute of Health
(NIH), 2007
Proclamation from Georgia’s State Representative Mabel “Able” for her commitment to reducing
infant mortality, 2006
Wall of Tolerance Certificate from the late Rosa Parks for her commitment to peace and justice, 2006
Martin Luther King Jr. Merit Award - The Skanner Foundation, Portland, OR, 2003
Outstanding Contributions - Massachusetts Department of Public Health - Boston, MA, 1991
The Haki Madhubuti/Family Tree Award - Urban Security Patrols, Boston, MA, 1991
Outstanding Leadership - Coalition for Better Birth Outcomes, Boston, MA, 1991
Women Who Care - Women in Philanthropy, Boston, MA, 1991
Unsung Hero of Community Medicine – The Boston Institute for Social Therapy Her extraordinary model
and advocacy is being replicated throughout the nation and has been featured in the following:
Bringin Da Spirit, documentary produced by Rhonda Haynes
It Just Ain't Fair, by Annette Dula and Sara Goering
Granny Midwives and Black Women Writers, by Valerie Lee
Sisters on a Journey: Portraits of American Midwives, by Penfield Chester
Our Bodies, Ourselves: a Book By and For Women,
by Boston Women's Health Book Collective
Magazine coverage: Essence, Heart and Soul, Midwifery Today, World Pulse and Mothering

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