Your Voices to Washington DC

Araceli
Posted April 18, 2009 from Spain

I have been recently granted with a Fellowship by the Center for Health and Gender Equity to go to the United States Congress in Washington DC to talk to legislators about building a model of comprehensive reproductive health for women around the world. I WOULD LOVE to take this terrific opportunity to bring your voices and the voices of the women who live in your communities, in your countries, to Washington DC with me.

Legislators know how to create policies, and they try to make them work, but they know very little about the needs of real people for whom they are developing these policies. All the organizations I am working with to advocate for women's health and women's rights are taking advantage of the wonderful political moment we have in the United States with President Obama to push further and create a healthier present and future for girls and women all over the world. We know that when girls and women are healthy, their communities are healthier too.

I know well the reproductive health concerns of women from my community and from other communities I have lived in, but I need your help to learn more about the women in your communities. We cannot create a model of global reproductive health for women if we do not include the voices of women from all over the world in the agenda. I need to know the main concerns of the women in your communities as well as their secondary concerns. My aim is to include men within this model of reproductive health because it is not enough to educate and empower women if they need the consent of their husbands in every decision making.

I am leaving May 2 to Washington DC, just ten days before I travel to Uganda and Kenya to work with women and reproductive health; the time couldn't be more appropriate.

I still have two weeks to read your comments, to take your voices and bring them with me to the Congress of the United States.

Blessings and gratitude Araceli

Comments 15

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Maria de Chirikof
Apr 18, 2009
Apr 18, 2009

Reading this part : My aim is to include men within this model of reproductive health because it is not enough to educate and empower women if they need the consent of their husbands in every decision making. makes me feel like real progress is being made in this area. So I will offer my thoughts as a way to start the discussion since it seems like everyone is thinking about it and waiting for someone else to start.

The facts are that the world is overpopulated. But it can happen that a woman with the best intentions ends up having 4 daughters when her plan was maybe 2 at most. One reason I think this is a very hard thing to talk about is I do not like having "1 thing" since I believe each culture has the right to choose how they live. Of course, within that culture both men and woman ideally have equality even if there are 'traditional' divisions of things.

I often find myself thinking that instead of talking about 'reproductive health' what we should be discussing under that category is things like abuse, rape, lifestyle choices since these are the areas that need to be talked about more then "how to get birth control to woman in other countries in a way that their men and society agrees with."

Just as I want it plainly understood that Jewish/Christian/Islam is not the only religious base nor necessarily the norm they they are often the most vocal, it is the same with this type of thing too. It will be wonderful if the woman from 'indigenous' places and views joins in to get a real sample of voices. I also want to hear from the woman where they have been silenced too long.

Maybe if you provide a sort of vocabulary thing where it shows what you mean by certain words it will make it easier to understand each other. For me, I can not separate my whole value system from my reproductive rights but since I believe in a woman's right to choose for herself it is easy to just say that.

It is important that this is discussed and I look forward to the opinions of the amazing woman on here sharing their views since I am so often impressed and left to think seriously about how I see things that I would like this effect taken to Washington!

Maria

Araceli
Apr 18, 2009
Apr 18, 2009

Thank you so MUCH, Maria, for your comments. I really appreciated. What I mean in my post by "reproductive health" is not only reproductive rights because I totally agree with you. Reproductive HEALTH means, as you suggest abuse, rape, lifestyle choices, and much more than that. In my mind, and in my work, reproductive health to have access to health care to prevent uterine cancer, to detect breast cancer in its early stages, education on sexually transmitted diseases, harmful traditions for women's health. And much more than this, for me reproductive health also include having access to clean water and nutritious food to feed your children. For me reproductive health has nothing to do with birth control alone; reproductive health is also the possibility of having as many children as we want if and give these children the best care. Violence against women is of course included in reproductive health. If a woman dies of abuse, she has no life, if she has no life she has no health. The policies I envision are comprehensive, not for birth control, but to create healthy girls and women and hence healthy communities. Men should be involved in all of this, but not because of birth control but because many times it is the man who detects the cancerous lump in the woman's breast way before she does. He is also the one who should need to be educated on sexually transmitted diseases because he might be the one who is infecting his partner thinking that he has no symptoms and he/she are safe.

I hope this explanation helps a little. What I envision is too good to be true, it is universal health for all and much more than that, it is the right to be healthy in body and mind. Thank you again, Maria, I am making a journal with all the comments and suggestions I get here and I will take them with me. Ara

Araceli
Apr 18, 2009
Apr 18, 2009

Thank you so MUCH, Maria, for your comments. I really appreciated. What I mean in my post by "reproductive health" is not only reproductive rights because I totally agree with you. Reproductive HEALTH means, as you suggest abuse, rape, lifestyle choices, and much more than that. In my mind, and in my work, reproductive health to have access to health care to prevent uterine cancer, to detect breast cancer in its early stages, education on sexually transmitted diseases, harmful traditions for women's health. And much more than this, for me reproductive health also include having access to clean water and nutritious food to feed your children. For me reproductive health has nothing to do with birth control alone; reproductive health is also the possibility of having as many children as we want if and give these children the best care. Violence against women is of course included in reproductive health. If a woman dies of abuse, she has no life, if she has no life she has no health. The policies I envision are comprehensive, not for birth control, but to create healthy girls and women and hence healthy communities. Men should be involved in all of this, but not because of birth control but because many times it is the man who detects the cancerous lump in the woman's breast way before she does. He is also the one who should need to be educated on sexually transmitted diseases because he might be the one who is infecting his partner thinking that he has no symptoms and he/she are safe.

I hope this explanation helps a little. What I envision is too good to be true, it is universal health for all and much more than that, it is the right to be healthy in body and mind. Thank you again, Maria, I am making a journal with all the comments and suggestions I get here and I will take them with me. Ara

aliĝngix
Apr 18, 2009
Apr 18, 2009

I like how this plan actually involves the opinions of people all around. It seems many programs are done without the slightest idea of what we really want, like you said, that once it's in effect, they don't want to go back because of how much money and resources they already put into it, so then people just live with it like another cloud to deal with.

As for reproductive health, while I am not exactly have to dealt with this sorta of thing myself, what I feel is that woman(and men) should have effective reproductive rights available, as well as other options like vasectomy and birth control pills to prevent future births.

This is my opinion on the matter; direct access to prevention and operations, as well as global funding. Maybe even tax dollars toward reproductive health, so there is a steady stream of available supplys instead of being the first one to go off the list when budget cuts happen and etc. Some obstacles in my mind would be that it would awkward for a culture built on religious morals to sudden find themselves talking to each other on reproductive health. But, since it happens anyway, it does need to be discussed sometime.

So, thank you for creating this to journal to share opinions. Its things like this that are positive for the futures development of woman and the world ultimately.

Oh, and you know the sentence: "My aim is to include men within this model of reproductive health because it is not enough to educate and empower women if they need the consent of their husbands in every decision making" ... I got confused as to what you meant by that, so my mom explained to me, when I called her over, is that in many countries, that it is normal for a woman to ask their husbands, and even be accompanied by at least a five year old male to the clinic, as another woman put it in her journal. She said that I grew up with this feminist view, that it is your right to get get responsible reproductive health, and for you to be taught it right. So, I guess one of the other things is for them to hear that, be told that they have the right to do as they please. ...yeah. Nice article.

Araceli
Apr 18, 2009
Apr 18, 2009

Thank you for your comment aliĝngix, I'll take your voice with me.

If you have the chance to read my previous post, you would see that I was a little more clear on the meaning of reproductive health since it is much more than having or not having babies.

Thank you again, aliĝngix. I appreciate your collaboration a lot. Ara

aliĝngix
Apr 19, 2009
Apr 19, 2009

Oh..whoops. Sorry for not seeing that in tine to correct my post... But I think you got it pretty much covered...it's pretty much the same, to have the people taxes pay for these areas....Though I guess it is the people themselves that need to change before they can accept any outside efforts... So...I guess volunteer speakers, stations where they can wait for people to come to them...Just basically get messages out, like advertising, that an all around lifestyle for full healthy reproduction, raising...life... Ah...thank you for considering....

katea
Apr 21, 2009
Apr 21, 2009

I can only say something very specific that I know of. With young people, we try to find our on way, mostly doing research on the net as to how to take care of ourselves in terms of sex and reproductive issues. We have problems with young people, especially from a less privilege class, who are very vulnerable when it comes to these issues. I believe, there is a need to mainstream sex and reproductive education. But the thing is, who's gonna teach and how it's going to be taught?

There are many misconceptions about sex and reproductive issues especially when religion gets in the way. Religious groups have a big say when it comes to policy making especially in my country. When it comes to women's sex(uality) and reproductive issues, religious groups are on guard. Sometimes, I don't get it when bishops, priests and cardinals are so against reproductive health rights of women, when they don't even understand the need. Our President who's a woman will not approve the sex and reproductive health rights because of the pressure from religious groups. Say the words condoms, birth pill and abortion and the dialogues for sex and reproductive issues will end right away.

Both women and men, girls and boys, need to understand what is at stake when we talk about reproductive issues. Youth and adult may have a different take on the issue. But I think, it's also good to support financially the youth and women's organizations who have been doing education, training and support in the field or on the grassroot level. I remember when I talked to this nurse. She was telling me about this sex education her colleague did for this rural area. Due to lack of model (male genital), the nurse used her fingers to demonstrate how condom was used. A month or two after, a guy went back to the nurse and complained to her that the use of condom wasn't effective cos his wife still got pregnant. He said he did exactly what the nurse said. When the nurse asked what he did, he said he put the condom on his finger. This sounds absurd but it happens to so many people. Sometimes, even health staffs/officers are embarrassed to talk about sex which gets in the way of proper education.

My observation is that communities who have over-population have the highest unemployment rate. It's not because they are over-populated that's why they have less jobs and more competitors. It's actually the other way around. They are unemployed/ under-employed that's why they are over-populated; this is my own understanding of the adult world. I asked some couples who have children more than they can afford why that many. Their answer, "we have nothing else to do." Incest rape is also prevalent in these communities when the mother is at work and the husband is at home waiting for the wife, or spending their afternoon with drinking buddies. When you interview these men who raped their kids, their answer would be sum up to two things: (1) the devil possessed me (which, I think is very religious in nature, if not a pathetic excuse or psychological problems); or (2) my wife is not at home and my sexual urge is too strong to conquer. Sometimes, a mother only finds about the abuse when her daughter's belly starts to grow big, and society blames the mother for her ignorance. Sometimes, even if the mother knows incest rape is happening at her own home, she keeps quiet cos her husband is the one earning, and having him arrested will only make all of them hungry and in a more difficult situation. On the other hand, it seems different with young people as employment is independent of their activities. But I want to make it clear that this is just my observation. I have not gained proper training to write a scientific research, I would if I had the knowledge.

HIV and AIDS should also be tackled when we talk about sex and reproductive issues but of course it's a more specific issue too.

I'm just wondering if reproductive issues cover ovarian, breast and prostate cancers?

Reproductive health involves economic, psychological, religious, political and social issues, to think of the more obvious ones. No single model is good to all communities/countries and my suggestion is to make the model appropriate for a specific community. But I also believe that there are meeting points too that will be beneficial to all.

I hope, I get to contribute something. Thank you for the opportunity.

sincerely, katea

Araceli
Apr 22, 2009
Apr 22, 2009

...is terrific! and I appreciated it very much. This time I need observations, as you provide. I need observations more than scientific research, observations founded on real work and first hand experience. Everything you say is very appropriate and I will break it down into categories to think about it and analyze in detail. Thank you very much, Katea. Araceli

katea
Apr 22, 2009
Apr 22, 2009

I will write something else if something comes to mind or if I get to interview other people. But I totally agree with you that both women and men (girls and boys) should know about these issues. Both of them need to be properly educated about their rights and responsibilities, cos a lot of people blame women for giving birth to so many babies when, as people say it, "she should know if she's fertile or not during that time."

Also, in matter of health, young women are afraid to go to the doctors (OB-Gyne) cos a lot of them are male too. So, I mean, for some people it really does not matter if your doctor is male or female but I think if you are living in a very conservative society and your body is "thought to be this way", then it's going to be traumatic to spread your legs in front of male doctors and male nurses. And if you are in a public hospital, you really have no choice of doctor plus there is no privacy. Probably, for male doctors and nurses, they don't care because it's not their body but for women, especially for young women, it matters a lot. I think, hospital services are very much connected to women's health and reproductive issues too.

I really want to thank you for the opportunity to speak my mind on these issues. I'm just doing my personal research to understand my own society. But for young people, we really need guidance on the issue; and we also need to be consulted in case policies are made, and I'm glad that through this, I am able to share.

katea

Araceli
Apr 23, 2009
Apr 23, 2009

Dear Katea, Your comments are extremely helpful. I started organizing them by topics and you cover an incredible range of important issues on reproductive health. If something else comes to your mind, please write it down. You are right, women are blamed for having too many babies (and too many is an arbitrary cultural concept), but they are also blamed for not having the "right" amount of babies; infertility is also a very important reproductive health issue for women, regardless of who is the infertile one in the couple, she is usually the one who gets the blame and the stigma. Thank you Katea, I valued your comments tremendously. Araceli

katea
Apr 24, 2009
Apr 24, 2009

Hi Araceli, I completely agree that "too many" is culturally bound; in the same way that infertility and even impotence are mostly blamed on women.

I am also thinking if "artificial insemination" and "test-tube babies" should also be taken into account. Because, surely, rich couples can afford to have these things done for them but what about those couples who cannot afford to have these things for them but are equally competent in rearing children? Sometimes husband and wife separate only because they cannot produce their own children. I'm thinking if there should also be a set fund for this, and be made available to more people? I mean, it's not only gender equality on reproductive health but also class equality. (I'm not really sure, if this should be included in reproductive health)

In the Philippines, it's very common to use anesthesia when delivering the baby. We even have the "painless" births that the mother won't even feel any slight of discomfort before, during and after she delivers the baby. But my cousin, who gave birth in Sweden said, anesthesia wasn't used and she wanted to die that moment because it was that painful. She said, the doctors said that anesthesia might cause paralysis on the mother and that's why it's not being practiced. I mean, maybe they should also be given an option? Here, it's been practiced for so long, even mid-wives use anesthesia (delivering birth at your own home and not in the hospital), and there's hardly I know or heard that was paralyzed because of anesthesia. A visitor from Netherlands who stayed with my family also told me she would not even think of giving birth only because anesthesia is not used.

I'm thinking (again and maybe, too much) that there should also be "exchanges" among doctors from West and East, North and South, like how we do it in school-- student-exchange programmes--so that both of them will learn the different practices. With this kind of programme, we might find solutions to some reproductive health issues, even health issues in general.

That's all I can think of as of now. :) Katea

Marietta
May 01, 2009
May 01, 2009

This is your comment: Hello Marietta, Yes I would like to be your friend. I read your profile and found it VERY interesting, not only for your involvement with women's rights such as the ratification of CEDAW but also for your interest in occultism. I LOVE occultism and energy therapy, the study of the chakras, the praying to the spirits, the blessing of Mother Earth... I feel a strong unity with nature, with the universe, and I am very sensitive on human connections. I wish I could have more time to develop my own skills and to nourish my sprit with positive Karma.

Welcome to my club. Araceli

Which is your club,because i have offered here to create a group - may be we can do somethg together? Marietta

Araceli
May 01, 2009
May 01, 2009

Sorry, I meant "Welcome to my club of friends" since you requested me as a friend.

I am open to create groups, communities, clubs, etc.

From now until August, I will be out of town, first in Washington DC and later in Africa for two months, and in Spain for a few weeks.

Best Araceli

Rachel C
May 20, 2009
May 20, 2009

Dear Araceli:

Since we last "spoke" over WorldPulse, I have become a volunteer writer for the site, and my first assignment is to share success stories with our readers/members. The WP team was very excited to hear about your communication and potential meet-up with Dr. Edonna during your trip to Africa. I know you are there now.... What is the update? Have you been able to meet yet? If so, it would be wonderful to hear about the meeting and what came of it... even if the experience was purely an emotional one. Each story we plan to post on the homepage will be quite short: about 300 words.

I hope yours can be on of them!

In the meantime, I am curious to hear about your FGM video project and other activities. Be in touch! (And I invite you to check out the video I just posted on my World Pulse Journal.)

Hope to hear from you soon, Rachel

Kizzie
Jun 08, 2009
Jun 08, 2009

Hey ladies,

Katea,

I really agree with what you said. In countries such as Egypt and Sudan, farmers or low-income families have a lot of children. In my opinion, the government encourages it by not providing senior citizens with much-needed health care and so on. Parents feel that by having a lot of kids. 1- their kids can work with them, so they don't have to hire anyone 2- their kids are going to take care of them in the future. People have kids as a way of securing their futures.

I have a few comments Breast Cancer:- we should have more support groups for victims of breast cancer in this part of the world. There is still a stigma, some women I know/ I know of risked their lives because they didn't want their husbands to know about it or worse, "lose their hair and risk divorce". Some men are supportive, but others resort to divorce in this case. Medical attention is not enough, I think couple counseling should be taken into consideration because it's a difficult time for women and their family.

2-FC:- most of the "research" done on this topic is advocacy research, I feel that more research should be done on the prevalence of this practice and its persistence. Also, research can not be generalized, it's very case-specific.

I will let you know if you have more thoughts.

Good luck!