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Tomoka Takano, a Japanese midwife committed to assist pregnant women in Morocco [Interview]

Tomoka Takano is a Japanese midwife whose love for volunteering made her cross the seas to work in Morocco. She gives pregnancy classes to women in the region of El Jadida, assisting them throughout the stages of pregnancy and childbirth. Interview.

Tomoka Takano, a Japanese volunteering midwife in Morocco./Ph. JICA

Tomoka Takano is a Japanese nurse who has been working in Morocco and most precisely in the region of El Jadida for 15 months. She was sent to the kingdom by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to assist women during pregnancy, childbirth and post-delivery. Through the overseas midwifery volunteering program, the Yokohama native had the chance to share her skills and know-how with midwives in the region and broaden her knowledge in the field. In an interview with Tomoka Takano, the Japanese nurse in the middle of the Doukkala region told Yabiladi about her pregnancy classes, Morocco and working as a midwife.

How did you make it to Morocco to start working as a midwife ?

When I was a middle school student in Japan, I read a book about Doctors without Borders and I was fascinated by the role it plays in fostering international cooperation. Since then, I fell in love with the job of a midwife and wanted to be one. Later on I joined the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) by being part of the overseas midwifery volunteering program. I attended the university in Japan and I was trained to be a midwife and studied nursing and public health as a major, all in four years.

TomoKa Takano with a delegation from the JICA./Ph. JICATomoKa Takano with a delegation from the JICA./Ph. JICA

What is your main mission here in Morocco ?

For the time being, I am part of a department called “Reseaux des Services et Etablissement Sanitaire”, in El Jadida which is the governing body of all the small hospitals located in the region. I am working with a Moroccan midwife who is assigned with the task of assisting women in all stages of pregnancy, childbirth and post-delivery. So I get to visit almost every health center in the region.

My main mission consists of providing coaching classes to pregnant women. I help them through a range of tips and tricks to take care of their health and their babies’ well being. I also train other midwives here in the region using an ancient method that was adopted by the Japanese for decades and which helped decrease the infant mortality rate in my country. The class started in Morocco since 2012 and I am here to boost that. In July my mission will end and I will have to go back to Japan.

What do you think of Morocco now that you are working as a midwife ?

It is an excellent experience for me, I had the chance to discover the Moroccan culture. Everything is different from Japan, especially when it comes to religion. As you know in my country, we don’t have a lot of Muslims, so we know nothing about Islam. In Morocco I had a lot of adventures, for example, I fasted during Ramadan and celebrated the Eid.

On the other hand, I love the people here, they are very nice and I am very happy that JICA sent me to Morocco.

Tomoka Takana with a Japanese delegation from JICA./Ph. JICATomoka Takana with a Japanese delegation from JICA./Ph. JICA

What about work, do we do things differently in Morocco when it comes to midwifery ?

In Japan things are totally different and at the beginning it was hard for me to get used to it. But I had to adapt and with the help of other midwives here I managed it. However, it was very surprising to know that midwives in Morocco deliver more services that in Japan. We have very limited tasks to fulfill as midwives in Japan. Also in Morocco the amount of work we deal with everyday is enormous as opposed to Japan.

Differences also exist when it comes to the training we get as midwives. In Japan a midwife is not allowed to assist a pregnant woman during giving birth without the presence of a doctor. In Morocco midwives do almost everything and sometimes without the help of a doctor. However, Japanese midwives are trained to give an ultra-sound based diagnosis.

What marked you the most working in Morocco ?

When I first started working in Morocco, I was in charge of a small hospital in the Moulay Abdellah commune near El Jadida, and have noticed that midwives had a class for assisting women but it wasn’t done in correctly. I then promised myself to make these nurses gain new skills and perform better. Everyone was motivated and ready to learn new things which I liked so much.

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