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    The Target Program and FAWCO's Global Issues

    FAWCO is committed to improving the lives of women and girls worldwide, especially in the areas of education, the environment, health and human rights. Every three years, FAWCO initiates a new Target Program based on one of these four focus areas. The current Target Health Program focuses on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for women and girls. While health is at the core of this program, we will also be exploring how the other three focus areas play a role in women's and girls' health and well-being.

    Education plays a major role in the health of a population. Possessing the knowledge of how to take care of your body, mind and spirit is vital for good health. Educating men and women about women's health issues is necessary to overcome cultural biases and taboos that affect the health and well-being of women and girls. In many cultures, menstruating females are considered to be impure, and are sent to a menstruation hut once a month. These huts are often isolated, decaying, poorly ventilated and lacking sanitation. Women and girls sent there are vulnerable to attack, dehydration, smoke inhalation and bites from animals, among other things, resulting in unnecessary illness and death. Educating women and girls about their bodies is also a first step in combating unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

    The environment plays a large role in the health of everyone, but some cultural practices mean that women and girls are more exposed to dangerous or unhealthy environments than men and boys. For example, in many countries women are responsible for cooking, often doing so over an open fire or employing other unsafe cooking fuels. This gives rise to a greater exposure to smoke and pollutants, resulting in higher incidences of respiratory and other diseases. In addition, young girls are often given the role of collecting fuel for the fire. Excessive forestry clearcutting practices mean that girls must travel further and further from home in order to collect wood. This journey alone and unprotected results in vulnerability to attack and possible death. 

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    Human rights for women and girls have a strong correlation with health. The more rights that women have, the more educated, prosperous and healthy they are. In 2007, the Women and Gender Equity Knowledge Network of the World Health Organization Commission on the Social Determinants of Health published a landmark report on Gender Inequity in Health, concluding that “[g]ender inequality damages the physical and mental health of millions of girls and women across the globe. Taking action to improve gender equity in health and to address women's rights to health is one of the most direct and potent ways to reduce health inequalities and ensure effective use of health resources. Deepening and consistently implementing human rights instruments can be a powerful mechanism to motivate and mobilize governments, people and especially women themselves.” Working toward gender equity results in more educated women who are able to stand up for their rights, make changes in government, the workplace and the home, and support other women suffering from gender inequity. This can lead to changing cultural practices that promote negative outcomes for women, such as menstruation huts, misinformation about health which inhibits compliance to care, spousal authorization practices, lack of rights to privacy and confidentiality, and gender-based violence.

    It is evident that the Target Program: Health is intimately connected to all of FAWCO's focus areas. Over the next 2½ years, we will be exploring these relationships and their impact on women's and girls' health. Having such a wide mandate means that the next Target Project could come from any of these areas, so if you are involved with or know of an organization whose work could be suitable to be the Target Project: Health, please request an Application Packet to find out more. We look forward to raising awareness and having an impact on the well-being of women and girls with you! 


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    The above article appears in the Fall 2019 issue of Inspiring Women, which features women who are involved in the fields of Health and Well-Being: Nurses, Doctors, Therapists, Researchers. Sign up here and join the growing Inspiring Women community ‒ and perhaps feel inspired yourself! Anyone can subscribe, whether they are a FAWCO member or not ‒ and it’s totally free.



    WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health, Women and Gender Equity Knowledge Network


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