Nicolle Gonzales, a Navajo certified nurse midwife and the Founder of the Changing Woman Initiative, a health collective dedicated to reviving cultural birth knowledge, is featured among InStyle Magazine‘s list of 50 Badass Women. Check out the venerable cast of women “who are leading the way toward a better world” in the magazine’s August 2019 issue here.
As InStyle reports, Gonzales is working to establish the first standalone Native American birthing center. Until then, she’s attending to house calls, often traveling hours to deliver a baby on a reservation. “Bringing awareness to the challenges Native American families face around birth, motherhood, and personal autonomy when it comes to health care feels like success to me,” she told InStyle.
Her nonprofit, Changing Woman Initiative, officially became a 501c3 in spring 2018, though the project took its first breath in fall 2014. It was formed with the intent of creating a freestanding birth center that reflects Native American healing and wellness frameworks. Today Changing Woman Initiative operates from Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Gonzales and her team and working to secure the full $7 million in funding it will take to construct their birthing facility.
The business-minded nonprofit has embraced various tactics to raise funds to support its worthy cause, including creating an online boutique that supports its mission. In addition to leveraging grants and corporate funding, the nonprofit also participates on “Amazon Smile.” Users can choose “Changing Woman Initiative” as their charity of choice, and every time they shop on Amazon Smile, Amazon will donate .05% of the purchase price to the Changing Woman Initiative.
With the cost of U.S. childbirth the highest in the world — averaging $13,000 for a vaginal delivery and $17,000 for a C-section — few rural Indigenous women can afford conception to post-partum care, Gonzales previously told Native Business. This has contributed to an infant mortality rate of 8.3 percent overall, second only to Non-Hispanic Black Women. Gonzales believes that providing culturally focused birth experiences, training Indigenous midwives, and advocating for health policy specific to Native women will go a long way in turning the tide on these dire statistics. Changing Woman Initiative’s birth center would cut not only delivery costs, but provide perinatal and other women’s health services to defray costs for Native mothers.
In coming months, the Changing Woman Initiative will host its first Indigenous Doula Training at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona, October 23-26. Facilitated by Melissa Brown, Anishinaabe-Dine midwife, and Candace Neumann, an Indigenous doula, the Indigenous Doula Training has been one year in the making, conceived alongside Zaagi’idiwin and the Navajo Nation Breastfeeding Coalition.
“Recognizing that healing ourselves begins with returning to our cultural life way teachings is the pathway to wellness and is the work of Changing Woman,” Gonzales states.