Roj Women advocates for Kurdish women’s health rights at European conference

Roj Women joined the 11th International Women’s Health Meeting, held in Brussels, under the overarching theme of “Women, Health and Human Rights. Let’s Build the Future”.

The event brought together numerous advocates of women’s health, feminist activists and academics, as well as funding organisations and other networks working on women’s health from different parts of the world. This meeting, which happen every four years, was first held in Europe in 1975. Plenary sessions, workshops, films, concerts and exhibitions provided an opportunity to exchange information and views, and to question and act on policies and practices regarding women’s health, and more specifically reproductive rights.

At the event Ayse Tekagac and Munevver Dogan, representatives of Roj Women, had the opportunity to raise the health concerns surrounding women in Turkey with a focus on the South East region of Turkey, where these issues are all the more pressing due to an ongoing conflict. Roj Women spoke about infant and maternal mortality rate, pre-natal care and family planning, mental illness resulting from successive wars and disease incidence among other health issues. The root causes behind shortcomings in Kurdish women’s health welfare were also outlined:

–          The displacement and evacuation of hundreds of villages’ inhabitants to larger cities,

–          The limited access to education in general and the lack of provision of health services in mother tongue (Kurmanji),

–          The poor quality of health services and facilities, as well as the poor accessibility of such facilities; often Kurdish women have to travel to other cities to get medical care,

–          The scarce ratio of healthcare providers to the population in the Kurdish regions.

 To tackle these challenges Kurdish women face in South East Turkey Roj Women advocates for:

– The collection of accurate and reliable statistical data which is not hampered by the pervading political situation in the region (including the lack of recognition that the ongoing conflict has on the advancement of women in society, and the unwillingness of families, clans, neighbors and the larger Kurdish community to report or discuss the issue of suicide),

– Access to education in their mother tongue in the Kurdish regions of Turkey,

– The strengthening and increase of the number of mental health services,

– Gender equality education to be integrated into the training of all health professionals,

– The State to provide translation services at social services, hospitals and clinics for speakers of languages other than Turkish,

– Medical advice literacy on women’s health to be provided in languages other than Turkish, including Kurdish and Arabic,

– A monitoring system with timelines for the implementation of Gender Equality Action Plan and National Action plan to combat violence against women in consultation with women’s organisations.

Following its contribution at this event, Roj Women was invited to attend a briefing meeting at the European Parliament where questions and concrete suggestions on the women’s health issues were raised directly with MEP’s. During the discussion with the committee members for the 12th International Women’s Health Meeting, Roj Women’s suggestion to have it organized in Diyarbakir city in the South East region of Turkey was received positively. The event ended with a demonstration to the town in Brussels with “No Violence No” slogans in different languages.

All in all this was an experience where knowledge and awareness were broadened and the importance of working in solidarity and uniting to break the silence around health issues women encounter was stressed.

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