Agnes Gereb

Ashoka Fellow
Budapest, Hungary
Fellow Since 1997


This profile was prepared when Agnes Gereb was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1997.
The New Idea
A trained obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Agnes Gereb, has long been dissatisfied with the impersonal atmosphere of maternity wards in Hungarian state-run hospitals. In response, she has developed an alternative-a home birthing project she calls "undisturbed" birth. She has established the first network of midwives, doulas, nurses and doctors who oversee home births throughout Hungary, and her training center has begun to train medical professionals in her techniques, which she believes neither undervalue nor exaggerate the achievements of science and technology.

Agnes' foundation, Alternatal, is currently the only organization in Hungary which ensures professional help for those who would like to give birth at home: Agnes' alternative to hospitalization in Hungary offers women the possibility of giving birth among family members in a healthy, peaceful surrounding.

Equally important, however, is the foundation's other function: Alternatal has extended its birthing practices into a program for advocacy of women's rights. First, it aims to incorporate "undisturbed birth"-through repeated demonstration of its merits and through public pressure-into the Hungarian health care system as an endorsed alternative to institutional birthing. Second, she aims to humanize the births that do take place in institutional settings by popularizing and legitimizing the use of doulas in hospitals. Finally, by producing literature that evaluates health organizations and allowing women to choose birth environments, she aims to empower them as informed consumers in a society that has long stymied consumer freedom.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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