The Projeto das Parteiras Tradicionais do Amapá (Traditional Midwives Project of Amapá) embodies a state government s attempt to engage a previously ignored segment of civil society. Designed to mobilize and support parteiras (midwives) in Amapá, Brazil, the project serves as a case-study of innovative governance.
Based on three months of field research, I find the Traditional Parteiras Project produces an end-sum gain by focusing attention on local knowledge and encouraging citizenship development. In so doing, it creates links between those who provide formal and informal health services to the state s women. Additionally, the project contributes to the debate concerning Brazil s high rates of cesarean section births and maternal mortality, by highlighting partos normais (normal or vaginal births).
The study, however, also flushes out challenges associated with the project s organizational structure. This governmental attempt to mobilize the grass roots does not demonstrate many of the benefits it claims. The parteiras involved with the project play a consultative, rather than a partnership, role, and lack strong leadership networks. These factors present obstacles to the sustainability of the initiative and should be considered by those who use the project as a model.
Nonetheless, the Traditional Parteiras Project sets a precedent in a newly-formed democratic state while demonstrating the influence of women in the policy process.