Founder’s Bio

Shafia M. Monroe, DEM, CDT, MPH

Founder and President of International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) and community activist devoted to infant mortality prevention, breastfeeding promotion, and increasing the number of midwives of color.

In addition to being a Certified Midwife by the Massachusetts Midwives Alliance, she is also a Childbirth Educator, a Doula Trainer, and mother of seven children. Shafia M. Monroe is a health activist, organizer, and international speaker. She holds a BA in sociology, with a concentration in medical sociology, from the University of Massachusetts. Monroe is the founder and President of the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC); the nation’s first Black midwifery training, breastfeeding promotion and capacity building non-profit organization, headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Shafia is the visionary behind the prominent Black Midwives and Healers Conference that brings midwives and other health care providers together to galvanize resources and implement strategies for reducing infant mortality and strengthening families. In 2006, the Black Midwives and Healers Conference received a Proclamation from Oregon’s Governor Ted Kulongoski. In 2007 she authored the Black Midwives and Prenatal Providers Directory-Essential Recipes and Words of Wisdom for Expecting and New Parents.

Though born in Boston, Massachusetts, she recognizes her Alabama roots and practices the Southern style of healing, using the laying on of hands, herbs and prayer for pregnant women, newborns and their families. As early as seven years of age Shafia realized she had been called to be a healer. At eighteen years old she became involved with the midwifery home birth movement and witnessed the under-representation of women of African descent as midwives and doulas. This was the beginning of her organized outreach efforts, not only to recruit and train Black midwives as a method of reducing infant mortality, but also to encourage women to consider home birth and midwifery services as a tool for empowerment.

Monroe formed the Traditional Childbearing Group in 1976, in part because of the need for better health within Boston’s Black community, but also because White women dominated the field and opportunities for aspiring Black midwives were few and far-between. Monroe was profiled in the book “Granny Midwives and Black Woman Authors” for her ground breaking work in training African American midwives in Boston, Massachusetts, her hometown.

Monroe’s African spiritual and ritual-based practice was also chronicled in a photographic essay in the Boston Globe before her move to Portland in the early 1990s. For over twenty years, Shafia has successfully reached out to Black women from every walk of life and has served as a midwife for thousands of women. Shafia has conducted countless childbirth classes, breastfeeding promotion classes, parenting classes and worked on legislation with others to help bring the services of midwives to all women.

Along with the Creator’s blessing, Monroe attributes her success to incorporating African and Southern outreach traditions; aiding families in communicating with their health care providers for quality health care, infant mortality reduction and sustained breastfeeding. Her midwifery training model has been embraced by members of different backgrounds, cultures and nationalities because of its traditional perspective and its foundation of cultural competency.

As a president and founder she tours the country presenting on an array of subjects to promote midwifery in communities of color, to increase breastfeeding rates and improve birth outcomes in communities of color.

Her speaking audiences encompass many diverse organizations, academic institutions and individuals, including: Rikki Lake, Black Men’s Coalition, Albina Rotary Club, Oregon Health and Sciences University, The African Women’s Coalition, State of Oregon’s Tobacco Advisory Committee, San Francisco Healthy Birth Initiative, California Black Parenting, Inc., ACNM Midwives of Color Association, Minnesota’s Phillips Powderhouse Cultural Wellness Center, The 4th Annual Muslim Women’s Conference, National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Oregon Health Sciences and University, Harlem Birth Action Committee, Midwives Alliance of North American, Midwifery Today Conference, Portland State University, Universite De Libre in Colombia (South America), Black Women and Wellness Inc., Yele, Sierra Leone (West Africa), The Birth Congress—Water Birth International, High Schools, National Conferences, and many more.

Monroe’s work to reduce infant mortality and promote midwifery has earned her numerous awards:

* The Achievement Award – 4th Annual Muslim Women’s Conference, LA, CA 2008
* Women Making History in Portland’s- A Mural – City of Portland, OR, 2007
* Certificate of Recognition for Preserving the Legacy of Midwifery – National Institute of Health (NIH), 2007
* Proclamation from Georgia’s State Representative Mabel “Able” for her commitment to reducing infant mortality, 2006
* Wall of Tolerance Certificate from the late Rosa Parks for her commitment to peace and justice, 2006
* Martin Luther King Jr. Merit Award – The Skanner Foundation, Portland, OR, 2003
* Outstanding Contributions – Massachusetts Department of Public Health – Boston, MA, 1991
* The Haki Madhubuti/Family Tree Award – Urban Security Patrols, Boston, MA, 1991
* Outstanding Leadership – Coalition for Better Birth Outcomes, Boston, MA, 1991
* Women Who Care – Women in Philanthropy, Boston, MA, 1991
* Unsung Hero of Community Medicine – The Boston Institute for Social Therapy

Her extraordinary model and advocacy is being replicated throughout the nation and has been featured in the following:

* Bringin Da Spirit, documentary produced by Rhonda Haynes
* It Just Ain’t Fair, by Annette Dula and Sara Goering
* Granny Midwives and Black Women Writers, by Valerie Lee
* Sisters on a Journey: Portraits of American Midwives, by Penfield Chester
* Our Bodies, Ourselves: a Book By and For Women, by Boston Women’s Health Book Collective
* Magazine coverage: Essence, Heart and Soul, Midwifery Today, World Pulse and Mothering