Board of Director Statements
Social Justice is dependent on equity and the ability to treat all people with respect and dignity. The external influences on the MANA Board of Directors now, are completely out of line with social justice understandings. It is imperative for the MANA Board to move away from these types of power control of the privileged that brought MANA to the place of deterioration noted by membership and board members when I accepted the board’s request to serve as president. The leadership tools I used during my presidency were in line with the tools given to the MANA Board by experts who participated and led MANA’s Division of Access and Equity. In my leadership I strive to uphold the values of transparency, access and protocols that are the foundation for equitable and collaborative leadership and will continue to hold to those ideals. – Sarita Bennett, DO, CPM
Vice President’s Statememt
Dear Members of MANA:
I love being a Midwife, deep down in My Soul”…(song)…When I came on the MANA Board, I had much to learn about the internal workings of MANA, which are very different, but not unlike other organizations that struggle with corporate leadership. My motivation to serve comes from wanting better for my junior midwives and birth care providers worldwide! Traditional Midwifery is very important to every thriving culture on this planet!
Upon learning of a skip in this board’s process of elections approximately four months ago, I asked the membership to consider my candidacy to be elected to the office of Vice President.
I did this aforehand, with integrity and stood alone wanting member feedback, my talents, my pride and my diversity unmoved. For me, it was best to be chosen by those who truly are the voice of MANA, YOU, the members. Today, I remain Vice President as an interim officer to the current President Sarita Bennett. Per a survey titled “MANA Member Ballot,” I am listening for the voice of the membership and I hold fast to what further actions will be necessary to continue in the best interest of MANA. Watch, read, learn, take your time, and always follow what you believe in. This is in your best interests during this election season! Be persuaded within and unashamedly forward about your choices, for there is more to come beyond this moment, and the work continues.
The shift in MANA describes the condition of MANA when I joined the board from “shore bound” surrounded by intrepid waters, to now “sailing” on intrepid waters. The heroes on this board emerged to the undertaking as volunteers who are midwives bringing the time, energy, effort, sweat and loyalty it takes to keep MANA sailing and restore breath to MANA. If this MANA is to survive, this shift needs to continue…
The job I do with this shared leadership board entails adding members, answering when called upon by members in need, addressing the updates to the Policy&Procedures/Bylaws, studying the incorporation laws, checking for organizational deficiencies, retrieving the MANA Stats Project, and collaborating within ICM and handling internal affairs confidentially with keen justice through an Ethics & Restoration Committee soon to come. Plans to keep MANA on course never sleep.
These matters, and the radical waves that demand cries of change within the current leadership of MANA, begs for some innovative, fresh, supernatural and impervious pioneering spirits who have the energy to uphold the mission and vision of MANA, which defines this current MANA Board! We have shared appreciation and support of one another’s positions. And whatever becomes of this story, MANA Members, it’s yours to decide.
Thank you Members of MANA for stepping up, stepping out and stepping forward! Until the fall elections determine my tenure as Interim Vice President, I give much gratitude to the leadership of my fellow board officers. I honor those members willing to trust a process that, like MANA the organization itself, is in transition. Be well, be optimistic, be midwifery!
– Midwife Tomasina Oliver, Professional Birth Care Provider
I am a Traditional Midwife / CPM / resigned RN in Southern Mississippi. I respect all routes of Midwifery, as long as it is competent and compassionate care for the families they present themselves to be serving. I regret the division that sometimes personal opinion and philosophy causes in any situation. In a culture where everyone seems so easily offended and so aggressive in their responses, I wish each would render the same grace to others, and that we hope to receive it. – Renata Hillman, Secretary
Dear MANA members,
After discussions with the board and hearing from you, I believe the members of MANA want three things:
1) To vote on all the board positions.
2) To vote on removing or retaining Sarita.
3) To further MANA by bringing unity for all.
I can understand how you and the memberships at large are having difficulty trusting MANA and some of its current directors. Our goal is unity and objectivity, and we need to do just that. At the bottom of the membership form it asks members if they want to be involved with MANA, and several of you have indicated interest. It sounds like there are many of you (and 30+ new members) who would like to have input on MANA’s future.
Sarita has done some good things, but a big mistake has been made that cannot be overlooked. Therefore, as a current board we must listen to what you, the membership, have to say. I do not plan to re-run as Treasurer, but plan to stay very active in MANAs development. I am willing to remain treasurer of MANA until a replacement is elected.
Deb Sahltstrom, Interim Treasurer
Director of Policy and Advocacy’s Statement
Hello MANA membership,
I am Wendi Cleckner, midwife for 22 years. I believe in the intrinsic knowledge birthing people and women hold in the ability to bring forth life and will continue to work both individually and with the community, rallying for birthing people and women to give birth as they choose. It is a human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children in safe and sustainable communities. I am passionate about justice and advocacy. I received my Juris Doctorate in 2018 and currently getting my license in several states in order to serve more people. I now advocate for folks who have experienced obstetrical violence, educates doulas, midwives, friends and families what their rights are in the birthing space, and works toward changes at the policy level so that birthing people feel safe and cared for throughout the childbirth years and midwives are protected in the work they do. .
I currently serve on several boards including: MANA’s Director of Policy and Advocacy, the Vice President of Postpartum Support International, Arizona Board of Directors, the current Secretary and former President of the Arizona Association of Midwives. As you can see, I believe in the importance of organization and board work.
I have been involved in MANA for 20 plus years. Even with all it’s trials and tribulations, I still believed MANA was and is needed in the midwifery community. MANA’s Vision Statement is my heart song – The Midwives Alliance of North America envisions Midwifery as a thriving, diverse, autonomous profession in service to families throughout North America. I believe in places where all are welcome, and that we are stronger together. I think MANA holds a unique position in North America and globally that we should not take lightly. However, the future of MANA is completely in the hands of you, our members. It was a high honor to be asked to be on the MANA board. But being appointed and being elected are two completely different things. As such, I would love to be officially elected, by you the membership, into the position I was appointed to a year and half ago. It would bring me great joy to continue serving in this capacity. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Wendi Cleckner, LM, CPM, JD
Director of Division of Events
Dear MANA Board,
Hi, I am Lori Gibson, Director of Events since September 2020. I am a home birth midwife in South Carolina and co-founder of Carolina Birth Junkies–an organization which strives to coordinate and offer continuing educational opportunities for everyone: midwives, physicians, doulas, students, or anyone else with interest. I also serve as Midwifery Advisory Council Chairperson for SC Department of Environmental Control and as Secretary for the SC state licensed midwifery organization, Palmetto Association of Licensed Midwives.
As the director of events this year, I have begun to coordinate webinars for MANA members, 2 regional MANA conferences and the online conference scheduled for later this year in an effort to bring the educational component for MANA members back to them. As a newbie to MANA and the board, I hope that MANA’s future will bring a clearer understanding of effective teamwork, unity and focus as MANA members and the board work through these growing pains and recover as a stronger organization.
In keeping with transparency and working within by-laws, I am happy to be placed on the ballot alongside anyone who may be interested in serving in the position of Director of Events.
– Lori Gibson, Interim Director of Events
Director of Organizational Development
“Hello MANA members and potential members.
I BELIEVE in midwifery and in the collective strength of midwives to bring positive social change. Over the years we, midwives, have pushed so hard to return midwifery to more and more birthing people in our communities. We haven’t done a perfect job of it, and the work has come at great personal cost for many, but we have persevered and we have progressed.
I know that to continue to progress we must pull together instead of away from one another, we must build connections and nurture the collective strength between all of the many beautiful versions of “midwife” that exist in this world. I also know that’s not an easy task. It’s a hard thing to develop a set of strong, shared values and goals, but WE CAN DO HARD THINGS. Especially us. I know this to be true.
I believe MANA is an extremely valuable part of this goal. I know it has suffered some damage on its journey through the storms, but it still holds valuable resources that can greatly aid us. This organization is ideally situated to become a host of diverse roundtable working sessions where members, groups, and organizations can collaboratively grow, improve, and continue toward the visions we imagine; it can be a vehicle for collective actions, an international voice of North American midwives, and a gathering place for the fellowship (and CEUs) we need to strengthen ourselves for the continued journey. Yes, it is ugly right now, but it’s serviceable. It’s worth saving.
This is my vision, and it inspires me to imagine it, but even more than that, I desire to serve (or not serve) in exactly the way the membership wishes. That’s midwifery, right? Our service isn’t really about what we want, but about helping others to realize their own wishes and goals. This strong desire is why I helped to create a plan to get MANA firmly back into the hands of the membership, and the reason I called for all board positions to be up for elections this year, including my own.
Let me be frank. I am not interested in spending hours of my life trying to dictate to you what you should or shouldn’t want from MANA. The truth is, I only agreed to serve on this board after having been asked several times by the two most recent Presidents. I had already declined multiple times because I was sure there was someone more appropriate and more qualified than myself, but when it became apparent that no one else was interested in this position, I said yes because I thought it was important to keep this valuable organization afloat. During my time on the board, (and when I wasn’t dealing with COVID response,) I have focused on ways to build a more diverse and robust membership, and on returning the organization to the members via whole-board elections. I am exquisitely uncomfortable with my “appointed” status.
Which brings us to where we are today. There is finally a plan to return the organization of MANA to the members. There is a commitment to whole-board elections. I remain willing to help guide this process, and going forward I am willing to serve, or to not serve, as the membership wishes.”
Sarah Foster (she/her), LM, CPM
Director of Professional Development
Yesenia Guzmán’s Statement
Thank you for your patience as we attempt to move forward. The statements made by the acting interim President have forced us to tease out ethical elements around a public versus a private persona and the individual right to free speech, as well as due process. We have also asked ourselves: “Is there a statement that goes so far against our mission and vision that it requires removal?” Ultimately, the MANA board does not have the right to remove its president, the right to vote is with the membership. Despite the outcome of the vote of confidence/no confidence, it is clear that MANA is overdue for elections. Our membership has rightly noted that we are an appointed, not elected, board. The board is functioning on the bare minimum, not all positions are filled, we have no volunteers for committees. So, please take a moment to read a few of my thoughts.
I originally became a MANA member as a student and was part of the student visioning committee, then part of the MOC section. When I graduated and began practice, I let my membership drop since I couldn’t afford it. I fell into practice and the bubble of my small community. MANA fell off my radar, I didn’t keep up on current events. When I emerged at the Austin, TX Sustain Conference, I felt ready to volunteer and take an active role. This was before I heard about the troubling statement MANA made about not being a social justice organization.
At the conference’s business meeting, I got an earful, and questioned my initial decision. Instead of being driven away by this controversy, I had hoped to become part of a re-visioning of MANA, to bring the voice of a two-spirit indigenous partera to the board.
I originally volunteered to be Treasurer, but there were many positions open, there still are. I fit better in the Professional Development position due to my passion for student involvement and apprenticeship experience, as well as furthering our education as we continue to practice. Almost immediately after being appointed to this open position, everything shut down due to COVID. And the whole world changed.
As I started to attend our board meetings, some of the major decisions to be made had a lot of background and herstory (history viewed from a woman) of which I was unaware. The more I heard about the internal herstory of the board, about the public perception of MANA, the more I thought we needed a clean slate to get anything done. We were battling a perception from previous board decisions. In my eyes, MANA needed rebranding, a way to move into the present. Adelante, siempre. This current controversy makes the need for renewal even more obvious to me.
It is our intent as a board to hold elections for every position. I sincerely hope we are all galvanized to become members, to volunteer our time and envision a MANA that serves the current and future world of midwifery.
As an organization founded to support all midwives in North America, we are meant to be international. But we lost our only board member from Mexico, and I am unaware of a single Canadian board member in our recent herstory. So, what does the future of MANA look like? I invite you all to step up and share your vision. Nominate those you trust to lead and don’t be afraid to self-nominate. There are volunteer opportunities on committees as well, which might put less pressure on “campaigning” and still allow much needed work to be done. We have more leadership in us than we believe and we can rise to challenges in unforeseen ways.
Since my little one is moving away to college, I am planning on taking my license to an international stage. I plan to leave for Aorearoa/New Zealand in a year and will not be running for any board position in the upcoming election. However, until the newly elected member takes office, my commitment to serve in whatever capacity I am needed is firm. ” – Yesenia Guzmán, LM, CPM, Director of Professional Developement (She/her)
Learn more about MANA board positions here.
These statements were intended for MANA members to hear shared information from the current MANA Board of Directors. They are not campaign statements and not connected to the upcoming elections.