Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Human Rights in Women's Health: A conversation with world leaders

Dr. Samia Al-Amoudi, breast cancer survivor and
 Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology,
King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
The Role of Human Rights in Women's Health forum convened yesterday at the South Lake Union campus of UW Medicine.  The inspirational panel included distinguished speakers from a deep pool of global activists, many of whom live in our region and carry out their work here and abroad.  

I was drawn to the unique forum primarily to hear multi‐disciplinary perspectives that bridge academic theories and practitioner experiences.  My notes reflect a common theme that emerged with each successive speaker: the challenge of balancing the right to the highest attainable standard of health to cultural practices.  How can we create systems that identify and address barriers--domestic violence, discrimination practices, lack of portable water--and result in empowerment with respect to cultural norms and practices?

 UW Bioethicist Maureen Kelley, PhD, emphasized the importance of 'bearing witness to effect change by looking upstream and downstream."  She held respect and integrity for cultural practices front and center, encouraging us to consider this: "Who are the local activists (in the region where you are seeking to effect change) and how can you partner with them?"  Though many stories involving maternal mortality in impoverished communities are viewed as tragic, she implored us to think otherwise: "This is not merely a tragedy; it is unacceptable, fueled by poverty and gender inequality." 

Dr. Nana Twum-Danso, a brilliant, articulate newcomer to the Gates Foundation, balanced personal stories with scientific data.  Her passion for bringing leaders together to improve health care, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, is palpable and uplifting.  Those who organized, lead and participated in the forum are hopeful that this is just the beginning of a long, fruitful collaboration between global health and justice leaders to develop innovative women’s health programs internationally.  

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, in his South African address in June 1966, expressed the fervent hope and faith that such a forum can inspire: 

"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

1 comment:

  1. So sorry I could not join you. It sounds like it was an impressive conference.