Women’s Empowerment for Health

Short Seminar

September 20–22, 2007

“Worldwide, women’s health is jeopardized because of social, political, and economic discrimination,” wrote Melissa Smith, chair of September’s short seminar on women’s empowerment for health. “Inequitable distribution of food for women and girls in the household, inadequate access to safe water, sanitation facilities, and fuel supplies, and deficient housing conditions all severely affect women’s health.”

Smith was the medical editor for the Hesperian Foundation’s landmark health manual, Where Women Have No Doctor (WWHND), published in 1997 and translated into 35 languages. “This book is considered a ‘required reference’ in community projects aimed at improving women’s health and empowerment, particularly women in poor communities. It provides essential health information, as well as basic strategies for promoting social change and gender equity,” said Smith.

The seminar at SAR brought together six women representing Partners in Health, the Hesperian Foundation, and the Arab Resource Collective who work with grassroots groups around the world to promote women’s health within a framework of social justice, using WWHND. “We created the conditions necessary to transform an idea that had been incubating for years into a concrete plan: to develop an Action Resource for Women’s Health and Empowerment,” Smith said.

The group articulated a clear, two-pronged vision of a companion volume to WWHND that will compile the decade of lessons gleaned globally from the efforts of on-the-ground groups that have developed training, community organizing, and advocacy, as well as a website where materials and experiences will be posted for easy access by groups around the world. “The website will include an interactive and dynamic web-based organizing space through which groups and individuals can share challenges, successes, failures, and solutions,” said Smith.

Melissa Smith, Chair Medical Consultant, Hesperian Foundation
Lucy Atkin
Jill Hackett
Jane Maxwell
Pallavi Patel
Sarah Shannon

Sponsored by The Annenberg Foundation

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