This may be the year of the Dog, but the lionesses advocating for women's health have been in force, with Maven founder and CEO Kathryn Ryder among them.
There are some harsh truths to face, due to the current administration’s continuing efforts to cut funding for women’s healthcare programs.
But there are also some silver linings being created.
Fewer Resources for Reproductive Health and Education
The dangers of misinformation, or total lack of information, have rarely been more blatant than when it comes to female reproductive health.
International non-profit organization, Jhpiego, has worked with Johns Hopkins University to improve the health of women and families in developing countries for over 40 years.
Adolescent health adviser Jane Otai was told by a group of young Kenyan mothers, aged 15 to 19, that menstruation meant they were “ripe” for motherhood, and not producing children would cause their uterus to “rot."
The flow of information doesn’t stagnate in the developed world so much as it is hidden in plain sight by the powers that be. A government cut of $214 million in funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, means less education and birth control access for teens across the country.
Women in major cities with low incomes will be particularly affected without adequate funding for birth control coverage. Thanks to the Trump administration’s ACA roll-back, employers may opt out of providing contraception coverage for female employees based on moral or religious grounds.
Corporate America to Her Rescue?
While the current government continues to stumble toward any sign of stability, a number of private and small companies are beginning to step up in support of women’s health.
Former CARE International director of women’s economic empowerment, Christine Svarer, heads the team at HERproject with the goal of “empower women working in global supply chains through workplace-based programs, capacity building of local civil society, and advocacy with business and government.”
The efforts of organizations like HERproject and Jhpiego are especially encouraging, given the grim report released by the World Bank and World Health Organization stating that health workers will be in even shorter supply in 2018.
Dr. Raj Panjabi, the founder of Last Mile Health, whose 300 community health workers care for people in rural Liberia, said: “As we enter 2018, illness is universal and health care is not."
What the Women’s Movement Means for Women’s Healthcare
Since the rise of #MeToo and its subsequent tectonic shift across all industries, there’s been little discussion over the seed of this movement: the centuries-long disruption of women’s physical and mental health.
These often repeated instances of both verbal and physical violence faced by women, followed by the mental and emotional toll of trying to heal from those experiences, should be front and center of all healthcare discussion.
There is also no longer any excuse for lack of representation. Currently, about 75% of healthcare professionals across the globe are women. Saudi Arabia is training female biomedical engineers. An all-female team from five continents has designed a more comfortable mammogram that’s providing better readings with higher image quality.
The energy that we put towards marching is the same energy we put towards implementing the changes we’re marching for. Except this year, we will set the course for change to occur where we need it most because women everywhere deserve to be healthy and to be heard when they are not.
To echo HERproject: “Ensuring that these women have the information and access to services that they need to prevent and treat disease and maintain their health is vital: It is a key aspect of delivering the basic human right to a healthy life.”