Women and health

Health Exchange returns

Health exchange returns

Cover photo: Kate Eshelby, Merlin

Welcome to the first issue of Health Exchange since May 2006.

It’s great to be back! Health Exchange is a forum for practitioners and frontline health workers to share experiences and lessons from the field. It is a quarterly on-line and print magazine designed to have a practical focus on important health topics.

Each issue will have a different theme. This first re-launch issue in Spring 2009 contains a variety of articles about Women and Health. Ideas for future themes include the social determinants of health, human resources, human rights, medicines, children and many more. [Read more →]

Introduction to women and health

Looking to the future of women's health

Photo credit; Chris Herwig, Merlin

Statistics on women’s health are not easy to stomach. The World Health Organization tells us that every minute a woman dies from complications related to childbirth and pregnancy. For every woman that dies, more than 20 are seriously ill or disabled. That is nearly 530,000 women dead each year and millions with long term health problems.

UNAIDS tells us that in sub-Sahara Africa, 61per cent of newly infected people with HIV are women. Of all the new infections in young people, 75 per cent are in young women. UNFPA say that 200 million women worldwide have no access to contraceptives. One third of all pregnancies are unintended and mostly unwanted. Every year, 20 million unsafe abortions are carried out, with half a million women dying as a result. [Read more →]

Play your part: midwives show Tanzanian reality

midwives show Tanzania reality

Midwives in Huruma (Arusha region) Tanzania: Photo; The White Ribbon Alliance

Five midwives and a doctor in Tanzania made a film in 2006 called ‘Play Your Part’. They documented the appalling conditions in which women have to give birth. Showing the film to policymakers had remarkable effects. The Government doubled the number of new midwives trained each year and placed more midwives in rural areas.

Brigid McConville, Director (UK) of White Ribbon Alliance Global Secretariat tells what happened. [Read more →]

In the right hands: HIV-positive women choose grassroots projects

Women from East Africa region at a treatment literacy workshop in 2005: Photo: ICW East Africa

Women from East Africa region at a treatment literacy workshop in 2005: Photo: ICW East Africa

HIV-positive women in East Africa are coordinating small grants for grassroots organisations working with women and children on HIV treatment literacy, advocacy and women’s economic autonomy. This is development in the hands of those who know the reality of life in the context of the HIV and AIDS pandemic in Africa. The International Community of Women living with HIV/AIDS, East Africa explains.

The small-grants programme has been running since 2005 and is supported by the Tides Foundation – Women and Children’s Collaborative Fund for Treatment Literacy in Africa and the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW) East Africa. [Read more →]

Disabled women leaders: the new face of disability

Photo credit: AWWD

Photo credit: AWWD

The face of disability in South East Asia is changing. Disabled women are becoming more visible in the disability movement and getting their voices heard. Kuhu Das, a disabled woman activist and Director of the Association of Women with Disabilities (AWWD) in India tells of her struggle and how a unique project is training disabled women to be new leaders.

I had polio in early childhood causing impairment in my mobility, so I am disabled. When I started working for the empowerment of women in general, I realised that empowerment programmes did not include disabled women. At every forum I would bring up issues around disability but I was the only person talking about it. Hardly any disabled women would come out and talk about themselves and their rights. 
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The health of older women in Darfur

Photo credit: HelpAge International

Photo credit: HelpAge International

In the refugee camps of Darfur older women’s health needs are often neglected. Many older women are widows and without extended family support. They do not often speak out about their needs, suffer with mobility problems and are less likely to access health care services. Dr Ibrahim Mohamed, HelpAge International’s Medical Coordinator in Darfur, describes the problems they face and what HelpAge is doing to support older women.

The conflict in Darfur is widely considered to be the world’s worst ongoing humanitarian crisis. Since fighting began in 2003 an estimated 300,000 people have died and over 2.7 million have been displaced from their homes.
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Female condoms: a life saving alternative

Female condom stand at the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) 2008 Photo: Ilze Smit

Female condom stand at the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) 2008 Photo: Ilze Smit

Female condom use could vastly reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. So what’s stopping women from using them? Lucie van Mens, of the Universal Access to Female Condom Joint Programme and Ilze Smit, of the World Population Foundation, consider the issues.

The female condom has been around for fifteen years. Today it is the only female-initiated prevention method that provides double protection – against pregnancy and disease. Yet the female condom is still not widely promoted or used. In a world where 200 million women have no access to contraceptives and one third of all pregnancies are unintended (and many unwanted) this is unacceptable. In sub-Saharan Africa where 61per cent of all new HIV infections are among women, this is indefensible. [Read more →]

Memory and hope: a different approach to HIV and AIDS

Memory work helps women strengthen communication with their children and other family members; Photo: Georgina Cranston/Healthlink Worldwide

Memory work helps women strengthen communication with their children and other family members; Photo: Georgina Cranston/Healthlink Worldwide

A memory book is a written and illustrated record of family and individual history, important facts, memories, hopes and messages. It can be written by parents or guardians, with or for their children, or by children themselves.

Fudasia Kishe from Kiwakkuki (Woman against AIDS in Kilimanjaro) speaks of how it makes a difference to women and families affected by HIV and AIDS in Tanzania.

Kiwakkuki is an HIV and AIDS prevention and care organisation. We do things such as home-based care, orphan support, psychosocial support, voluntary counselling and testing. We work primarily with women and young people in the northern Kilimanjaro region. We got involved in memory work in 2004 and it is now one of our main ways to support families affected by AIDS. [Read more →]

Steps to better health in rural Myanmar

A village in Chin; Photo: Merlin

A village in Chin; Photo: Merlin

In Chin Hills, North West Myanmar, life is hard. Visiting a health facility can take two or three days to walk across steep mountains. For a woman experiencing difficulties in childbirth, this can be catastrophic. For health to improve, change needs to happen within the community. Janette Macleod, of Merlin, explains.

Since May 2007, Merlin has been working with the ethnic Chin population in Chin State and Western Sagaing Division. Since December 2007, we have concentrated on primary healthcare, increasing community knowledge about health and supporting an environment where people can take steps to better health. [Read more →]

More articles

Here are some key resources on women and health including recommendations from this issue’s contributors. They are all available online.

Download the ‘Health Exchange spring 2009′ edition (PDF format; 900 KB)

2 Responses

  1. Thanks a lot
    We, Drs of developing countries , are happy the reappearance(return) of the Health Exchange, I especially encourage this huge step for raising health awareness and the exchange of experience among Drs

  2. Glad to see medical care in that part of the world. We need more medical attention over there.

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