The dai

© Wendy Marijnissen - Sherbano has been a dai for over 40 years. She doesn't know her age but recounts many of the deliveries she's conducted over the years. Trained by her mother and grandmother, she assists both normal and breach deliveries. Most dai deny delivering any complicated cases and say they refer the patients to nearby hospitals when problems arise. Yet most maternal deaths happen due to untimely referral or the lack of skill by the midwife during the home deliveries. Rehri Goth, Karachi, Pakistan, 2011

For the past 1,5 years I have been very intensely working in Pakistan on maternal health stories.

The first time I went there and met with Dr. Shershah, who became my most invaluable guide, I was shocked at the conditions in which women gave birth and from what I could see at first glance, the dai were not really playing a wonderful role within this story.

It was the dai that were not trained properly, working in unhygienic conditions and were too stubborn to learn safe techniques to assist their home deliveries right? Partly this is so, but as you learn by working on stories for a longer time and when you take this time to stick around, things aren’t as black and white as they first appeared.

During my last visit I wanted to go deeper into the story of the dai, to get a better understanding of who they are, why they do what they do, …  I had already met many in the previous visits, but the meetings were always too short to my own liking and I needed to learn more. On top of that I wanted to be present and see a home delivery, which proved to be about the most impossible thing to want to do. The dai, who were very suspicious, first needed to start trusting me. Then they needed to have clients that were about to deliver a baby. If so, the woman about to give birth needed to give her permission, but even more importantly, her family needed to give permission too…

It became a wonderful, frustrating yet eye-opening journey into the world of the dai. The result of this (re)search  and more in depth info can be seen online here

Not all the photographs are online, so if you want to see more images, you can do a search in the archive and you’ll find the older black and white work as well that meant the start of this story.









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