Westward Independent

When Inclusivity Hurts: The Exclusion of Straight White Women from Doula Scholarships

by Westward Independent
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A local woman contacted the Westward Independent to share her disappointment that she was unable to get a scholarship to help her further her dream of becoming a Doula. We looked into her claims and found that she was indeed excluded from any ability to get financial help from this well-known group that trains new Doulas internationally.

In the pursuit of inclusivity and diversity, some organizations unintentionally create barriers that exclude certain groups. One such example is Doula Training International (DTI), whose scholarship program’s exclusionary criteria raise questions about fairness and equality. The issue at hand is the restriction of their scholarships to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), trans, two-spirited, or gender non-conforming individuals, thereby excluding straight white women.

DTI’s website states: “Issues of gender and identity are still received with much confusion and discrimination within the birth culture.” While it is crucial to address these issues and support marginalized communities, the exclusion of straight white women from scholarship opportunities is problematic. These women, especially those from low-income backgrounds, face significant barriers in accessing education and training programs. By excluding them, DTI is perpetuating a different form of discrimination.

The scholarship program aims to offer a minimum of 60 scholarships per year, funded through a pay-it-forward model where 25% of all full-paying members’ tuition fees contribute to the scholarship fund. However, the criteria for eligibility explicitly state: “Our scholarship program is for anyone who is BIPOC and/or trans, two-spirited or gender non-conforming.” This clearly excludes straight white women, regardless of their financial status or personal circumstances.

The term “birthing community” used by DTI is another point of contention. It is a broad and somewhat vague term that seems to encompass a wide range of individuals involved in the birth process. Traditionally, the focus has been on mothers, as they are the ones giving birth. By using the term “birthing community,” there is a shift away from acknowledging the unique experiences and needs of mothers, who are central to the birth process. This change in terminology can be confusing and may dilute the specific support and attention that mothers require during childbirth.

Adding to the confusion is DTI’s claim of commitment to inclusivity. Their website states: “We are also committed to inclusivity. Birthing people and birth workers are women, trans, nonbinary, or other genders. We know that everyone who gives birth deserves quality care, but issues of gender and identity are still received with much confusion and discrimination within the birth culture.” This statement underscores the hypocrisy in their scholarship policy. If DTI truly believes in inclusivity, their scholarship program should reflect this by being open to all individuals who face barriers, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. Excluding straight white women from the scholarship program contradicts their commitment to inclusivity and undermines the goal of providing quality care for all who give birth.

In striving for inclusivity, it is essential to avoid creating new forms of exclusion. Doula Training International’s scholarship program, while well-intentioned, fails to consider the needs and challenges of low-income straight white women who aspire to become doulas. These women deserve access to education and opportunities to support their communities. Instead of creating divisions, scholarship programs should aim to support all individuals in need, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation.

It is time for organizations like DTI to rethink their approach to inclusivity. True inclusivity means providing equal opportunities for everyone, without excluding any group. By broadening the criteria for their scholarship program, DTI can ensure that all aspiring doulas, regardless of their background, have the chance to pursue their dreams and contribute to the birthing community.

While the intention behind Doula Training International’s scholarship program is commendable and may help them reach their DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) goals for possible funding, its execution is flawed. Excluding straight white women, especially those from low-income backgrounds, is unfair and counterproductive. Furthermore, the use of ambiguous terms like “birthing community” instead of “mothers” can create confusion and detract from the specific needs of those giving birth. Inclusivity should not come at the expense of fairness, and it is crucial for organizations to find a balance that supports all individuals equally.

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