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Copyright: J. Weiland Photodesign
Copyright: J. Weiland Photodesign

We reached our goal: the recognition of midwifery as a cultural heritage of humanity!

Midwifery inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

December 2023

On Wednesday, December 6, at its meeting in Kasane, Botswana, the Intergovernmental Committee of the 2003 UNESCO Convention decided to inscribe the "Midwifery: Knowledge, Skills and Practices" on the "Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity". The nomination was submitted by Colombia, Cyprus, Germany, the Kyrgyz Republic, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Slovenia and Togo.

> To the live stream of the recognition including the moving speech by our midwife colleague Liceth Quinones from Colombia (contribution at approx. 5.38.15)

Midwifery as a cultural practice

Midwifery includes knowledge and skills promoting the well-being of women, babies, children and families. Midwives ensure continuity of care and support during the natural processes of pregnancy, childbirth and after birth. They use evidence-based research, intuition, as well as empirical and traditional knowledge. Midwifery guarantees fundamental human rights, especially for women. Midwifery can be exercised by people regardless of their gender. However, the majority of the practitioners have been and are women.

Besides their medical and anatomical knowledge, midwives rely on the senses touching, smelling, feeling and observing. Their skills and knowledge have been safeguarded, further developed and passed on by the communities through numerous generations. Nowadays, the transmission takes place in formal, non-formal and informal education settings. Furthermore, midwifery entails specific cultural practices, vocabulary, celebrations and rituals, such as cutting the umbilical cord. 

An inscription based on community initiatives

Midwives are the main bearers and practitioners, who often form groups or associations. They initiated the inscription. Other networks promote the transmission of skills and knowledge, such as academic institutions or organizations for childbirth, breastfeeding, women's rights and family planning. In addition to an extensive international consultation process to develop the file, communities and groups concerned were also involved as broadly as possible at the national level.

Midwifery nominated for the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage

After 4 years of work, at the end of March 2022, an international working group of midwives and staff* of the respective government agencies or UNESCO National Commissions completed and submitted the application for the inclusion of midwifery in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

For this purpose, the logo was updated with the mention of all participating nations: Colombia, Cyprus, Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Slovenia and Togo are part of the nomination and support the global importance of protecting and preserving midwifery and its practices in its diversity.

Midwives provide continuity of care and individualized support for improved outcomes during the natural processes of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum (the period after childbirth), using and combining evidence-based research, empirical and traditional knowledge, and intuition.

A decision by UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee in Paris on this application is not expected until late 2023 at the earliest. If added to the list, other nations may join and express the importance of midwifery in their country and worldwide.

If you are interested, we will gladly send you the application for nomination (PDF, en, 15 MB): This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We are happy to provide references to projects and events taking place around the world on midwifery here. Please send us your details.

Immaterielles Kulturerbe

Midwifery was included in the Federal Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2016.

In March 2018, an independent expert commission recommended midwifery and subsequently the German UNESCO Commission decided to nominate midwifery as Intangible Cultural Heritage for the international UNESCO list.

> to the register

"(...) midwives (...) do very valuable work every day. Their knowledge and far-reaching skills are essential for births in this country, but also in many other parts of the world".

Prof. Dr. Christoph Wulf, Chairman of the Expert Committee on Intangible Cultural Heritage

Basis for a multinational nomination

Initial understanding and basis for a multinational nomination for the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity are 15 items, that can be read here.


All over the world, experienced women assist other women in pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. Midwives have fundamental medical, anatomical and obstetrical knowledge, which has been passed down from midwife to midwife for generations.

Midwives provide care for expectant mothers from the beginning of pregnancy to the end of breastfeeding. This can be up to two years or more. During pregnancy, midwives perform or arrange for preventive medical check-ups, support mothers in dealing with health problems, and advise on their choice of birthplace. On the basis of tactile findings, they record, among other things, the size, position and vitality of the child. With the aid of an ear trumpet they can detect the heartbeat of the child.

A midwife is responsible for assessing the condition of the woman, the child and the course of the birth, and decides whether it is necessary to consult a doctor if complications arise. After the birth, she checks the regression of the uterus, monitors the child's development and offers instructions for breast or bottle feeding. She supports families during the transition to a new phase of life. Unfortunately, overwork and high liability risks in Germany today sometimes lead to difficult working conditions for midwives.


Lisa von Reiche

+49 (0)177 757 25720
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We would like to thank you for your support of the project!