Specialized doula training program coming to Cape Breton

A doula training session is set for Sydney this weekend where a dozen women will learn how to provide birthing support to those in trouble with the law.

A dozen women signed up to learn how to provide birthing support to those in trouble with the law

Martha Paynter, chair of Women's Wellness Within, says Cape Breton needs doulas trained to provide birthing support to women entangled with the legal system. (CBC)

A doula training session is set for Sydney this weekend to fill a gap in Cape Breton.

The organization Women's Wellness Within will train a dozen women to provide birthing support to those in trouble with the law.

Doulas do not replace medical professionals, but they provide emotional and physical support for women just before, during, and just after they give birth.

They also provide information on other health and community programs.

There are doulas trained to help women entangled with the law in Halifax and other areas, said Martha Paynter, chair of Women's Wellness Within.

But there are none in Cape Breton.

And Paynter said women on the island, especially Mi'kmaq women, are vulnerable.

"Because they experience poverty, because they experience racism on top of criminalization, this is a population that needs all the support it can get and, at the same time, are separated from their family and friends, so are unlikely to even have that support," she said.

"There's really no capacity in Cape Breton at this point. The trainer herself is located in Truro, and she's going up to Cape Breton. We've been working on making this happen for two years, actually. This has been a long road."

Some members of the board for Women's Wellness Within: Erin Fair, Hazel Ling, Nasha Nijhawan, Martha Paynter, Claire Rillie, El Jones and Emma Halpern. (Women's Wellness Within)

The training is being offered in partnership with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Cape Breton and the Mi'kmaq Legal Support Network in Eskasoni.

Darlene MacEachern, executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Cape Breton, said since the province is planning to build a new jail for Cape Breton, women involved with the legal system really need the help.

"They plan to house Cape Breton women in the correctional facility here instead of transferring them to Burnside [in Dartmouth], so we want to make sure that the same services can be accessed here," she said.

A dozen women will get the training in Sydney this weekend, and interest in the course was so great, a second may be coming later this year.

"It was very much sold out ... as every applicant who was a successful applicant received a full scholarship to participate," said Paynter.

"The training is sponsored by the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, and we're now looking at perhaps doing another iteration of this training program later this year, because there was so much interest."

About the Author

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 32 years. He has spent the last 14 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.