The Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund provides small grants for
grassroots projects that empower women and girls in developing countries.
NEWS AND UPDATES
Increasing Access to Essential Surgery
by Oletta Semple
Each day, individuals suffer from complications or die because of injuries that can be cured with simple, one-time surgeries. In fact, statistics show that 180 million individuals live with conditions that can be treated with essential surgeries, yet 5.7 million people die from such conditions every year. As with many health care issues, women and children are disproportionately affected.
On February 6th, I attended an event at the United Nations Foundation that was hosted by the International Federation of Surgical Colleges (IFSC), the International Collaboration for Essential Surgery (ICES), and the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGNO) entitled “Empowering Women and Children through Essential Surgery.” The objective of the event was to emphasize how the lack of essential surgical care is hindering women’s ability to fully participate in society and to propose increased access to surgery as a post-2015 sustainable development goal.
Essential surgery is an important challenge for the next thirty years. It is a basic, inexpensive, surgical procedure that can prevent lifelong disabilities and can be performed by a primary health care provider. These surgeries do not require advanced technology or expensive equipment commonly unavailable in basic hospitals or healthcare facilities. Despite the low cost and basic technology involved, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 2 billion people in the world currently have no access to essential surgical care. This is due in part to a global deficit of 4.2 million health workers. For example, in Burundi, an astonishing fifteen surgeons serve a population of 10 million people.
Lack of access to essential surgeries affect women and girls particularly, as gender-specific health issues, such as uterine bleeding and obstructed births, often prevent them from pursuing education or employment. According to Dr. Michael Cotton, the Founder and Chairman of ICES, millions of women are living with the consequences of obstructed or neglected labor. Furthermore, women are more directly affected when a family member becomes disabled, as women and girls often care for these individuals. This impedes their ability to provide for their family, negatively affects self-empowerment, and can limit education and school completion.
Lack of access to these essential surgeries hinders process on the MDGs, and has prompted ICES to advocate for their inclusion in primary health care systems. Increased access to essential surgery can promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, and improve maternal health, and thus should be included in any health related Post-2015 development goals. While the statistics on the lack of essential surgeries and related health consequences are disheartening, there is also great cause for optimism. The very fact that the topic is being discussed at the United Nations represents the opportunity we have, as a global community, to make a tremendous difference in the lives of women and girls everywhere.
The VGIF parallel event at CSW 58 will be held on March 13, 4:30-6:00PM, "The Transformative Impact of Investing in Women & Girls: Learning from Leaders on the Ground." Please join us to hear the perspectives of women working in Nepal, Nicaragua and Rwanda.
Milly, an 18 year old from the village of Lusenke, Uganda, is equipped with new knowledge about her own body and is better able to make healthy choices for herself, thanks to the Shanti Uganda Teen Girls Health and Empowerment workshop. With VGIF funding, the Shanti Uganda Society is helping young women and girls to empower themselves by increasing their awareness of sexual and reproductive health. This has included a valuable lesson on how to make reusable menstrual pads out of easily-accessible materials. As a young woman in rural Uganda, Milly faces incredible challenges: disease, lack of opportunity, early marriage, and many more. However, Shanti Uganda’s teen workshop enables Milly and other girls in the community to focus on what’s best for them; to explore the future and how to take steps forward. Photo Credit: Shanti Uganda