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For thousands of years indigenous midwives in south Asia have helped women during childbirth and in the postpartum period. Today the "dais" are the inheritors and of the birth traditions of the Asian subcontinent. Much of their practice is congruent with other traditional health systems, including the codified 'indigenous systems of medicine' (Ayurveda, Siddha, Yoga, Unani) and the vast local health traditions (or LHTs). While dais continue to serve poor and marginalised populations, in recent years policy makers have entirely sidelined them as providers of maternal and child health care, seeing them as "unskilled".

Many of us working in the women�s health field have had reservations about this exclusion of dais and their skills. We disagree both because so many women lack access to other service providers and because we personally know many dais who are knowledgeable and skilled. This is not to deny reports of sub-standard practices among dais. We believe all dais� practice could be improved if the formal health care system recognized dais' sound traditional practices and integrated them into the maternal and child health services taking care that they not be relegated to subservient �sweeper� positions.


Furthermore, poorly conceptualise dai-training serves to obscure and eradicate dais� traditional skills. The absence of referral linkages compounds maternal child health negative outcomes.

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