In a small town in the Ecuadorian Amazon called Archidona, a group of 10 indigenous Kichwa midwives fight to practice and maintain their ancestral medicinal traditions despite daily challenges with discrimination, misogyny and lack of government or monetary support. Their association, called AMUPAKIN, or Association of Kichwa Midwives of the Upper Napo, remains devoted to passing on their ancestral knowledge to future generations through workshops and a 24/7 clinic serving patients in need.
When a woman in labor comes to us, whether it is at night or early morning, we are always available. Because we have to work this way to save a human life.
The Ecuadorian Amazon is touted internationally as the home to the most biodiverse territory in the world. But along with the flora and fauna live nine different indigenous nationalities, each with its own distinct language and diverse cultural practices, ranging from hunting to plant medicine. While the Ecuadorian government recognizes the legal rights of nature and indigenous peoples in its constitution, many indigenous people see it as merely symbolic.
AMUPAKIN hopes for a more monumental change, one where it’s both officially recognized and financially supported by the government as a viable alternative to biomedicine. The women of AMUPAKIN often work on their own dimes, charging the bare minimum to cover maintenance costs. These costs can be prohibitive to some patients, and the women worry that their traditions will be lost. Nevertheless, the midwives work daily to fight to keep their ancestral traditions — and the pregnant women and their babies — alive.
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