The presence of a skilled birth attendant at delivery is important in averting maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity. It has now shown that even trained traditional birth attendants (TBAs) cannot, in most cases, save women's lives effectively because they are unable to treat complications, and are often unable to refer. Qualified midwives and doctors are often not available in the rural areas and community settings where most women in developing countries deliver. Defining the minimum competency level necessary to meet the definition of skilled birth attendant is important, particularly in countries such as Nepal with limited availability of facility-based emergency obstetric care. Maternal and child health workers are local women aged 18-35 who completed a 15-week course in maternal and child health. As the role of MCHWs has expanded to meet the country's needs for skilled attendance, a 6-week "refresher" course in midwifery skills is offered. The results of this clinical skills assessment of 104 randomly selected MCHWs from 15 districts across Nepal supports the premise that MCHWs with appropriate training have an acceptable level of knowledge and skill, demonstrated in a practice situation, to meet the definition of community level skilled birth attendants. Yet, competency alone will not necessarily improve the situation. To affect maternal mortality in Nepal, MCHWs must be widely available, they must be allowed to do what they are trained to do, and they must have logistical and policy support.