All posts tagged: women’s health

The FGM Conversation has to Change

It’s been roughly 100 days since 2017 began. Reflecting on the past year’s campaigns against FGM and early marriages, it is true that all who are involved have come a long way. There have been moments where the campaign may have faltered and made missteps – but we’ve also seen some significant progress. However, in the course of writing and campaigning, as well as visiting various communities across the country where FGM is practiced, I can attest that activists are increasingly encountering subtle resistance. A revisionist movement is slowly but surely pushing back, challenging some of reasons advanced in campaigns against FGM as well as approaches that do not seem not to fit with their local context. As such, the conversation at the global and national level is not making much needed impact at the community level. How is this possible, given the resources that are being channeled and renewed vigor among activists? To illustrate this, sometime in 2016 during a Rugby 7s event dubbed #EndFGMmaasai in Kajiado, Kenya, a group of elite young men …

What Would You Say to Your 19-Year-Old Self?

There are moments in life when you simply need to remind yourself that you are enough. In order to do that, you have to have enough self confidence to come up with the words that are both comforting and inspiring. I’ve been told that nothing is impossible, but also that certain things aren’t meant for me. I’ve been told to follow my heart, but also to always be mindful of others. I’ve been told to say what I really want and to move in that direction, but also to move with caution. I’ve been told many conflicting things, but I am finding out that the most important words come from within. What do I tell myself when I am not sure of the next step, or when I am scared to articulate my thoughts and turn them into actions? I tell myself to move. Just move. Take a step, and move. Be bold. Forget your failures and mistakes because they are over. Sometimes we have to fail over and over until our failures are no longer setbacks; they simply push us …

International Day for Maternal Health and Rights: A Call for Action

Post written by Serra Sippel and Bergen Cooper. The International Day for Maternal Health and Rights was launched in 2014 by the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) with other global sexual and reproductive health and rights organizations with support growing every year since. On behalf of the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights Steering Committee (including the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Ibis Reproductive Health, Maternal Health Task Force, Pathfinder International, and The White Ribbon Alliance) we are calling on the United Nations to support universal, comprehensive, respectful, and rights-based maternal health by officially recognizing April 11th as International Day for Maternal Health and Rights. Maternal rights violations continue to persist and the United Nations’ recognition of this day would bring much-needed attention and funding to address health and rights challenges so many women face. Approximately 303,000 women die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth each year, and most of these deaths are preventable. Over the past decade the evidence for how women too often experience disrespect and abuse during childbirth has grown. …

Activism in Indonesia: a movement for change

It has been a couple of weeks since I got back home from an intense week in Indonesia. With our project Let’s Talk Equality, my project partner Anna and I visited several organizations and doctors in the suburbs of Jakarta and Bali. The objective of the trip was to gather footage for our documentary on maternal health in Sweden and Indonesia. I was completely blown away by the positive energy present in every office I visited. Despite facing a lot of resistance, people were determined and confident that it was worth all the work. Having tried to understand the slow and difficult process for change in Indonesia, I will try to share some of my observations here, before the launch of our documentary later this spring. Having grown up in Sweden, I was raised under the impression that certain privileges were certainties. Like legal abortions. Low maternal mortality rates. Free contraception. Paid paternity leave. The right to love regardless of gender. In Indonesia, none of these “certainties” exist. In fact, abortion is illegal. As is homosexuality. Parental leave is exclusive for mothers and …

How Martial Arts Helped Me Get Back on My Feet

Content note: this post contains depictions of physical assault  After being attacked on my way home, I decided to start training in martial arts. I wanted to become stronger both physically and mentally, and eventually, I found my way to the Korean martial art of taekwondo. Today, the mental tools taekwondo has given me help me out in all areas of life. In my twenties, I was attacked on my way home after a late shift at work. A man followed me and forced his way into the building where I lived. Luckily, he didn’t have a weapon, and I managed to get out of his grip and scream for help. Even though he ran off when he heard people approaching, I was deeply shaken. What if there wouldn’t have been anyone around? I felt so helpless. The man who had attacked me wasn’t big – around my height. But when he grabbed me, it was like one of those nightmares where your muscles stop working. I was paralyzed by the thought that he might …

Tragedy to Triumph: How sewing lessons are changing the lives of women with fistula

Written by Samantha Bossalini, Development and Communications Associate  The city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania is anything but quiet. An increasingly modern metropolis overlooking the Indian Ocean, Dar is home to 4.4 million people, and is one of the fastest growing cities on the African continent. It’s a cacophony of noises, sounds, colors, and smells; ironic for a city whose name means “Place of Peace.” On one of Dar’s residential streets, however, there is a peaceful haven. Behind a stone wall sits the Mabinti Centre. The simple house hums with the sound of sewing machines.  The women working at the machines range in age from 16 to 30-years-old. They greet visitors with smiles and a warm welcome: “Karibu!” Bright kanga fabric and canvas slips beneath their whirring needles as an instructor crouches down to talk them through a difficult stitch, or to share encouragement. In the garden, ladies gather under a thatched gazebo to practice screen-printing on bolts of fabric. Some are learning to tie-dye, some to stitch tiny dolls made of beads and yarn. …

Raising Awareness of Menstruation and Sustainability in India

During a visit to Auroville, India a couple of days ago I was happy to have the opportunity to chat briefly with Eco Femme co-founder Kathy Walkling in between customers at their busy stall at the market. I had already heard about Eco Femme before I came to India and I was exited to meet the people behind it in real life. I wanted to get to know more about their important work on raising awareness of menstrual hygiene and sustainability among rural women in the state of Tamil Nadu. Eco Femme was founded in 2010 and in collaboration with the Auroville Village Action Group – an NGO working for womens’ empowerment in rural Tamil Nadu – they started to design and produce eco-friendly, washable cloth pads for sale worldwide. The cloth pads are stitched by women in self-help groups who have been trained in advanced tailoring. The women run their own collective tailoring unit and Eco Femme, whose monthly production order alone provides a full time livelihood to 7 women, is just one of their customers. The cloth pads …

Keeping Girls In Sport When Everything Changes

Written by Kristina Pinto. The ubiquitous #LikeaGirl phenomenon took on new meaning with the release of a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, which reported that English girls start to leave sports around puberty and the onset of breast development. It seems that the vast popularity of Run Like a Girl branding may be onto something in the collective consciousness of girlhood as the prospect of running like a woman–in a woman’s body–seems to deter many girls from sport. The New York Times coverage of the study makes the case that this decrease in sport participation isn’t inevitable, and other research points to ways that parents, schools, and even girls themselves can continue to find empowerment through girls’ involvement in sport. These suggestions emerge from the literature: Normalize puberty. My research on girls’ experiences of early puberty, published in the Journal of Early Adolescence and Qualitative Health Research, found that girls with families and friends who talk so openly about puberty that it becomes pedantic do not become self-conscious or intimidated by the changes in their bodies. When girls are prepared for puberty through education and …

The Power of Knowledge in the Fight against HIV/AIDS

Correct information empowers people to make the best possible choices in all aspects of life. Conversely, incorrect or poorly communicated information can cause a degree of harm that can be worse than knowing nothing in the first place. It is time to stop focusing solely on access to education, and start working on improving the quality of education. Rightly so, education is often considered the ‘first defense’ to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. When people know how to prevent transmission and why preventing transmission is so important (ie. there is no cure for HIV), the majority of people will, to the best of their abilities, take action to protect themselves and their families. Knowledge gives people the power to prevent HIV transmission in the first place, thereby eliminating the need for medical interventions to mitigate the effects of the virus. The ‘knowledge is power’ principle has created a focus on simply getting children and youth enrolled in school as a key strategy to combat the spread of HIV. But is getting children and youth enrolled in school …

Liberty and Justice for All

Post written by: Alicia Weigel I believe all people should feel empowered to make their own decisions. I believe all people should have access to health and safety as basic human rights. I believe all women have a right to life. I believe all women must be treated as full members of society. Most feminists would agree with the above statements. Replace “women” with a more specific subgroup, however, and the statements become problematic. I believe all sex workers should feel empowered to make their own decisions. I believe all sex workers should have access to health and safety as basic human rights. I believe all sex workers have a right to life. I believe all sex workers must be treated as full members of society. Although not all sex workers are women, this community includes some of the most marginalized women on our planet. Many face legal repercussions for their line of work in places where it is defined as criminal behavior. They all face stigma in their daily lives, preventing them from accessing sufficient healthcare. Regardless …