The Way To Advocate For Women’s Health, Rights And Wellbeing, Part II

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In part I of the interview with Tamara Windau-Melmer, a youth programs and advocacy manager at Women Deliver, we asked Tamara a few questions about her previous experiences in advocacy, her position at Women Deliver and the motivation behind her interest in working on women’s health and rights. For the second part of the interview, we asked her a few more questions about the different challenges that women face on a daily basis across the globe, the importance of working on and advocating for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and the Women Deliver Global Conference which will take place 16-19 May in Copenhagen.

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Tamara Windau-Melmer © archive of the Melmers family

What challenges do women in particular face in regard to their health and wellbeing, especially in developing countries?

Women continue to die from preventable causes around the world, because they do not have access to functioning health facilities, to qualified health professionals, or to quality care. Although the effort to provide universal access to sexual and reproductive health is part of a shared global agenda, inequalities persist across and within countries with regard to the realization of these rights, the ability to obtain quality care, and equality of access.

And young people – specifically young women – face significant barriers to accessing information about sexual and reproductive health and realizing their rights. Gender inequality and harmful traditional practices and norms have a disproportionate impact on girls and women, and diminish their autonomy and compromise their access to resources, services, and education.

Many people misunderstand women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights SRHR as well as the concept of “investing in girls and women” and conceive it as some kind of anti-men movements, what do you think about that? 

I understand how some people may misunderstand how the concept of investing in girls and women leaves boys and men out of the equation. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Investing in girls and women is not only the right thing to do, but it is the crucial thing to do as it also benefits boys, men, families, communities, nations, and our world as a whole.

We know that young people face significant barriers to accessing information about sexual and reproductive health and realizing their rights – but it is even more significant for young women. Gender inequality and harmful traditional practices and norms have a disproportionate impact on girls and women, and diminish their autonomy and compromise their access to resources, services, and education. Boys and men are integral to changing this, and we need everyone to play a part to realize the solutions.

In your experience working with WD fellows, how has this program helped girls and women secure greater protection and rights in their communities?

I often find myself overwhelmed by the passion and poise of Women Deliver’s Young Leaders. Whether it is an email that I receive in my inbox, a Tweet I read, or a Facebook post I click on…every single day I am aware of the strength of Young Leaders’ activism, pursuit of justice, and fervent determination to change the status quo of young people’s health, rights, and wellbeing.

Young Leaders are having a positive impact at the community, national, and global level. For example:

  • At the conclusion of the YLP’s first E-Course in 2015, 100% of survey respondents stated that the course developed their ability to think critically about SRHR issues, and 94% stated that they would recommend the course to others.
  • Young Leaders demonstrate increased engagement with key target audiences (private sector, civil society organizations, media, global institutions, etc.) on advocacy issues. Women Deliver has provided hundreds of opportunities to Young Leaders to raise their voices and has assisted other organizations in including young people on their boards and task forces. Women Deliver has placed or recommended Young Leaders to serve on boards and to speak at high-level events:
    • A Young Leader holds a Board of Director position with The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (PMNCH); another is a member of Women Deliver’s own Board of Directors.
    • Young Leaders have recently participated in or were featured speakers at the following events and more in 2015 & 2016: United Nations General Assembly; UN commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the World Program of Action for Youth; World Health Assembly…etc

Have any of the Women Deliver fellows started their own projects in regard to women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights?

Through their seed grant projects, Young Leaders have implemented successful projects that have contributed to their communities and countries. Just two examples of results from some of these seed grants include the following:

A Young Leader leveraged SMS technology to remove barriers hindering adolescent girls from accessing reproductive health information and services in rural Northern Tanzania. A total of 4,310 mobile phone SMS messages were sent.

Another Young Leader’s influenced national laws on abolishing child marriage in Zimbabwe by organizing a national consultation with Members of Parliament, civil society organizations, and other youth, which resulted in a Member of Parliament proposing a change to the Customary Marriage Act which, if adopted, would officially outlaw child marriage.

 

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The WD Global Conference will take place very soon, could you tell us how the conference will contribute to the protection of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and how could young people who are not part of Women Deliver programs and who won’t be present in Copenhagen benefit from this event?

Women Deliver’s 4th Global Conference, taking place 16-19 May 2016, will be the largest gathering on girls’ and women’s health and rights in the last decade and one of the first major global conferences following the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).The focus of the conference will be on how to implement the SDGs so they matter most for girls and women, with a specific focus on health – in particular maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights – and on gender equality, education, environment, and economic empowerment.

Everyone can get involved by signing up for Women Deliver’s “Monthly Delivery” – a once monthly newsletter sent electronically to anyone who signs up with information about the conference and other key pieces of information. Women Deliver will also disseminate a “Daily Delivery” each day of the conference that all are welcome to sign up for too. Women Deliver will also host a virtual conference that will have live streamed footage of the conference as well as unique components just for individuals who are unable to be there in Copenhagen.

You can learn more about the conference at www.wd2016.org. And here are some other key resources:

Go back to part I of the Interview with Tamara Windau-Melmer from Women Deliver

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