Friday, June 29, 2018

The Epidemic of Widowhood

Widowhood is an emotional crisis that impacts seven to sixteen percent of the world’s population. It leads to social stigmatization, economic vulnerability, and humanitarian injustices. Most importantly it leads to invisibility. This invisibility explains the lack of empirical evidence surrounding this issue and the lackluster goals directed towards this issue in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, the far more comprehensive Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a platform to specifically target economic inequality, poverty, and inequitable education across countries, ages, and genders, unequal employment opportunities, and injustices. The SDG Fund gives organizations, governments, and other sectors of the functioning economy to collaborate together to create greater visibility that is so important to bring about change. As pointed out by Meera Khanna, writer, poet, voluntary social activist, and Vice President of the Guild of Service in India, in order to encourage our governments to create change we must shift the definition of this issue away from the Pandora’s box of social and cultural problems, and to the economic and human rights issues that can be impacted legally through governmental policy making processes. Kristin Hetle, Director of Strategic Partnerships with the UN Women, believes through the correct use and implementation of the sustainable development goals, we can hold our governments and leaders accountable for their actions and the impacts on the social community. 

Identifying the most tangible element of this issue provides the perfect vantage point or locus for change. According to Heather Ibrahim-Leathers, co-founder of the Global Fund for Widows, and supported by all of the panelists at this conference Widowhood: An Economic, Social, and Humanitarian Crisis, “economic empowerment is our solution to sustainable development.” 

Ibrahim-Leathers clearly explains the cyclical nature of this issue that has created an epidemic of poverty. Identified as the epidemic of widowhood and closely tied to cultural stigmatization across culture, this cycle begins with the death of the husband leading to widowhood. Upon his death, the woman loses all household income and, due to social cultural barriers, fear, or shame, she is bereft of her right to claim her husband’s estate. Her economic vulnerability only heightens the social stigmatization attached to the event of widowhood and she is ostracized from society and often blamed for her husband’s death. She is no longer an important part of society. Her opinion is of no consequence and her social standing is displaced, gone. Her social exclusion and lack of skills due to fewer educational opportunities as a woman combined with her continued responsibilities towards her children provides her with minimal economic opportunities and she becomes dependent on others for her livelihood because she does not have enough for proper means of survival. Soon, she may be forced to surrender her children to orphanages, streets, or human traffickers. These children become the lost generation—the generation of children who are no longer a part of functioning society, are stripped of all hope, and lack opportunities for success. As agreed on by Margaret Owen, a barrister specializing in human rights and a major activist renowned for her contributions to the cause of widowhood, with this ensues a cross generational and cyclical phenomenon of poverty, propelled by cultural disempowerment and cultural stigmas. Widowhood is the root cause of poverty across generations.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Afghanistan has half a million widows

KABUL: The burden of life has made Masooma look twice her age. Her life story in many ways is similar to those of several hundred thousand other Afghan women who have become widows since the latest conflict began here more than 40 years ago.
She lost her husband in a rocket attack 17 years ago in Kabul and since then has been feeding and raising her five children, doing jobs such as cleaning and laundry.

Looking frail and exhausted, Masooma is now part of the army of Kabul’s municipality and cleans roads in the city where the gap between the rich and poor is widening, thanks to the flow of foreign aid that has largely ended up in the pockets of commanders and those with links either to the government or foreign troops, as Masooma laments.

“I hate to beg and am proud of my job. I'm happy to earn a livelihood in a legitimate way,” Masooma told Arab News, sweeping a road and wearing an orange gown and a tight headscarf.

Like the rest of her female colleagues, she cleans the streets by braving the attacks, the rising heat in summer and extreme cold in winter.

Her eldest child is a young man now and he is a bus conductor, helping her to pay the rent for the house and sharing other responsibilities.

But her life has been a long struggle in a male-dominated society where women are perceived largely as owned by their father before becoming their husband’s property and widows are often rejected or regarded as burdens.

“You cannot imagine the hardships I have gone through. It is not easy to raise five children without a father, without money and a house,” Masooma said.

Widows are the most vulnerable people in Afghanistan. They suffer violence, expulsion, ostracism and sometimes forced remarriage, often with a brother-in-law, as reported by the UN Mission in Afghanistan in a study in 2014.

Ferooza, another widow, lost her husband 20 years ago during a clash with the Taliban in northern Baghlan province. She moved to Kabul along with her daughter, Habiba. They have similar jobs to Masooma, with no health or life insurance in a country in the middle of war that relies on foreign aid.

“Life is very tough for widows. It is not easy for women to clean the streets day after day, for months and years, but we do not have an alternative. We are content and feel happy that we are working rather than being a burden on others,” Habiba told Arab News with a mild smile.

According to the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled, there are more than 500,000 widows in Afghanistan, most of them war widows. Of these, 70,000 are breadwinners for their families, the ministry said in recent statistics given to the media last week.

Some 15 kilometers southeast of the capital is the “zanabad,” or city of women, built completely by widows. The first women settled on this stony-slope location outside Kabul in the 1990s, hoping to escape the stigma they are forced to endure.

Today it is known as Afghanistan’s "hill of widows," home to a cluster of women who have eked out independence in a society that shuns them.

Ninety percent of them are illiterate, some even taking care of as many as eight children, Hashratullah Ahmadzai, spokesman for the ministry, told Arab News.

“We are in a state of war. The number of women who become widows is increasing. Those who fight on the government side and those on the side of the Taliban and the miltants have wives and mothers too. People on both sides suffer and women on all sides are affected more than anyone in this war,” Ahmadzai said.

War widows who are registered by the government receive some meagre annual help from the ministry, but that does not meet the need of the victims, he said.

Gul Ghotai, head of the statistics department at the Ministry of Women Affairs, said the government lacks any strategy on creating vocational or short-term jobs for the widows.

“The ministry of women has done nothing on this. The government as a whole has failed to address the widows’ problems because it does not have the capacity. It has not even come up with a plan as to how to tackle the problem,” she told Arab News.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

China: Country-specific developments

By any measure, the Chinese government is not living up to the commitments to protect and promote human rights inherent in its Human Rights Council membership. Since the twelve-country joint statement on the human rights situation in China in March 2016, there has been no concerted effort to use the Council space creatively to call for accountability and transparency related to violations in China. This, despite the fact that in July 2017, Chinese security authorities presided over the death in custody of Liu Xiaobo, the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in detention since Carl von Ossietzky died in Nazi Germany in 1938.

ISHR calls on States to take joint and individual actions at the 38th session. Such action is warranted based on the above criteria and should take into account the dangerous environment in the country for human rights and those who defend them, and should serve to hold China accountable to the standards to which the government has committed. Specifically, we urge States to:

Condemn China’s refusal to allow Liu Xia, a poet and activist and the wife of Liu Xiaobo, to travel and communicate freely. She has been under de facto house arrest, and occasionally held incommunicado in an unknown location, since October 2010. Her physical and psychological health has deteriorated significantly, especially since Liu Xiaobo’s death in custody in July 2017.

Demand full access for independent observers, including possibly UN experts, to Xinjiang in order to verify the facts related to the reports of large-scale detentions of Uyghurs and restrictions on fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religious belief.

Continue to call for the release of individuals arbitrarily detained and/or held incommunicado, including Wang Quanzhang, Gui Minhai, Tashi Wangchuk, Lee Ming-che, and Yu Wensheng.
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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Strategies for men in promoting accountability

The following strategies for promoting accountability are targeted specifically at men who are engaged in violence prevention work in both single sex and mixed sex organisations. As men are at different stages of development when it comes to understanding patriarchy and men’s violence against women, the practices involved in enacting these strategies require knowledge, skills and personal reflexivity. They cannot be simply presented as a set of axioms for men to follow. Rather, it is proposed that they should form the basis of a curriculum for men who are new to the movement against men’s violence. They should be the starting point for readings, exercises, presentations and discussions.
Learning about your own privilege as a man
A number of writers on accountability talk about the importance of men being reflective and cognisant about their male privilege (Schacht and Ewing 1997; Macomber 2014; Pease 2010). Schacht and Ewing (1997: 169) make the point that while violence against women is a structural issue, it is not only structural and that men need to work on changing their lives as part of the struggle against patriarchy. Any male ally should adopt four basic practices:
•  Through the reading of feminist works and actually listening to women, he should try and learn about the depth and unjust nature of women’s oppression.
•  He should consider asking himself in what ways does he personally and as a man in general (structurally) oppress women.
•  He should consider ways to reject traditional notions of masculinity that are oppressive to others.
• He should consider ways to put women’s needs as equal or even greater than his own.
The more that men are reflective about their own privileged positioning, and take action to challenge it, the more likely that they can be effective allies (Curry-Stevens 2004). Bojin (2012) argues that men’s capacity to interrogate their own privilege is fundamental for developing effective alliances with feminist women. It has been noted by many feminist activists, that true allies were cognisant of their privilege and also had an understanding of the history of women’s activism against men’s violence (Macomber 2012). Such men were less likely to present themselves as experts and were more willing to take a secondary role in support of women’s work.

Acknowledging what men have learnt from women
It is important when men talk about their work in challenging men’s violence that they acknowledge their debt to feminism and to women who have been working in this area for many years (Messner et al. 2015). When I introduce a workshop on engaging men, I always start by saying that I would not be doing this work if it was not for feminist women in my life who have taken the time to challenge me about my privilege as a man. I acknowledge that almost everything that I have learnt about feminist understandings of gender, I have learnt from women. It is important for male allies to recognise that we are a ‘Johnny come lately’ to men’s violence prevention and that we have much to learn from women.

Listening to women
Members of privileged groups are not used to being in dialogues where their privilege and power is the focus of the conversation (Allen 2002). Men need to adopt a position of moral humility and learn to see themselves as women see them. Men need to find ways in which they can learn to hear the experiences of women. This means allowing themselves to feel in their hearts the pain and suffering of others (Pease 2010).

Engaging in dialogue
Groups to promote dialogue between members of privileged groups and those who are marginalised have been promoted by some commentators (Curry-Stevens 2004). Dialogue between men and women seems to be an essential element of effective alliances. However, we need to know more about how to promote the conditions upon which dialogues can best be developed and to understand how inequalities in power and privilege between men and women create barriers to effective communication (Singh 2001). Men need to demonstrate an understanding that their knowledge and perception of the world is socially situated and only partial, if they are going to avoid oppressive practices in their encounters. Men need also to problematise their own dominant position (Pease 2010).

Developing trust
The issue of men’s accountability to women is connected with trust (Goldrick Jones 2002).  Many women are understandably suspicious and cautious of men who express solidarity with them. Because they have had bad experiences of men in the past, they are not going to offer unconditional support to men. Trust between men and women in violence prevention work has to be achieved; it is not given (Pease 2008). Men have to earn their trust by building up a track record and by walking the walk. Women often complain about the energy and resources they expend in educating men. However, when trusting relationships are established, women are more likely to be committed to working with men (Barone 2007).
Engaging in alliances
Temporary alliances between men and women are an important strategy of developing accountability (Goldrick-Jones 2002). Bystydzienski and Schacht (2001) emphasise the importance of creating shared spaces that can assist participants to engage in alliances without domination. They identify three stages for effective alliances:
1.  An acknowledgement of the impact that social identities have on participants.
2.  A recognition of how privilege is played out in their relationships.
3.  The goodwill to find common ground by honouring perspectives that are different from their own.
In effective coalitions, men are likely to feel threatened some of the time. If they do not, it is unlikely that they are emotionally committed. Alliances between men and women are specific sites where oppressive relations are likely to be enacted. When illuminated and challenged, they become microcosms of the larger struggle against men’s dominance (Pease 2010).

Acknowledging when you make mistakes
One key issue is how men respond when they receive critical feedback from women about their practice. Women often report men becoming defensive in response to feedback; whereas, men should learn to receive such feedback as constructive criticism. Linder and Johnson (2015) refer to feedback from women as a gift to men because it provides an opportunity for the capacity for men to learn.
Often when men are challenged by women about their sexism, they say that it was not their intent to cause harm. Their apologies, if they offer them at all, are framed in terms of being sorry if the person chose to take offense. This lets them off the hook and validates their experiences over those they have offended. Stoltenberg (2013) offers advice to men when their actions have aggrieved feminist women.
• Figure out exactly what you did. Hear what you did from the person that you did it to.
• Acknowledge that you know what you did.
• Apologise without qualification and without rationalisation.
• Make amends.
Thus when men do slip up, it is important for them to acknowledge their missteps without defensiveness.

Holding other men accountable to women
A critical step towards accountability is to for men to hold other men accountable to women, rather than relying on women to call men out when they are being sexist. Challenging other men’s sexism is often difficult for men because it undermines male solidarity upon which men’s relationships are often based.  It is easier for men to walk the walk with women in relation to gender equality than to do so with other men. It is often men’s reluctance to challenge other men that leads women to mistrust male allies (Macomber 2014; Linder and Johnson 2015). When men do challenge other men, they break the bonds that hold men to patriarchal manhood. However, as noted earlier, class and race differences between men complicate this practice. When white middle-class straight men challenge other men, they need to be cognizant of their own positioning within class, race and sexuality hierarchies and well as the positioning of the men they are criticising.

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Infographic on how older people with disabilities are excluded from humanitarian response

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Israel & Palestine – Women Partners For Peace

Partners for Peace is a feature-length documentary film that follows a delegation of women on a journey to Israel and Palestine. Under the leadership of Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams and Mairead Maguire they seek to learn about the decades-long conflict, and to reach out in solidarity to women activists who are forging a path toward peace.. Confronted by the complex and brutal depth of the conflict they are inspired by the commitment and sacrifices of the women they meet, and challenged to ask difficult questions of themselves, and of us all.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Learning about your own privilege as a man

A number of writers on accountability talk about the importance of men being reflective and cognisant about their male privilege (Schacht and Ewing 1997; Macomber 2014; Pease 2010). Schacht and Ewing (1997: 169) make the point that while violence against women is a structural issue, it is not only structural and that men need to work on changing their lives as part of the struggle against patriarchy. Any male ally should adopt four basic practices:

•  Through the reading of feminist works and actually listening to women, he should try and learn about the depth and unjust nature of women’s oppression. 

•  He should consider asking himself in what ways does he personally and as a man in general (structurally) oppress women. 

•  He should consider ways to reject traditional notions of masculinity that are oppressive to others. 

• He should consider ways to put women’s needs as equal or even greater than his own. 

The more that men are reflective about their own privileged positioning, and take action to challenge it, the more likely that they can be effective allies (Curry-Stevens 2004). Bojin (2012) argues that men’s capacity to interrogate their own privilege is fundamental for developing effective alliances with feminist women. It has been noted by many feminist activists, that true allies were cognisant of their privilege and also had an understanding of the history of women’s activism against men’s violence (Macomber 2012). Such men were less likely to present themselves as experts and were more willing to take a secondary role in support of women’s work.
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Education, Training and Health Literacy 6/6. European Plan for Women’s Health 2018

 20. Education and Training Investment Healthcare professionals are vital to maintaining the health and wellbeing of women and their families.  Efforts must be made to sufficiently invest and improve healthcare professional education and training.  Exchange of best practice across Europe should be encouraged to ensure that all healthcare professionals are receiving the best and most up-to-date training and education.

 21. Sex and Gender Integration into Education and Training Healthcare professionals must be taught the importance of sex and gender differences in the prevention, development, diagnosis and treatment of various conditions during their education and training.  Sex and gender considerations should be integrated into training and curricula.  Healthcare professionals should receive further education through efforts, such as symposiums and professional conferences on sex and gender issues. 

 22. Healthcare Professional Sex and Gender Policies Healthcare professional play a vital role in treating, advising, caring, educating and training.  Professional bodies should adopt explicit policies that encourage the integration of sex and gender and age factors into education and training.  There must be a commitment to mainstream an evidence-based sex and gender perspective throughout all the healthcare professional curriculum and continuous education.

23. European Sex and Gender Health Education Coalition A European coalition for the integration of sex and gender into healthcare professional education and training could be established including the representation of the diverse healthcare professionals.  The multi-disciplinary and multi-sectorial coalition could set and drive the agenda within and across European Member States.  The coalition could work to inform students and educators on the importance of integrating sex and gender into healthcare professional education.  The coalition could exchange best practice across Member States to best incorporate sex and gender into education at institutional, local and national levels and include the most recent evidence base in practice in order to improve patient outcomes. 

24. Health Literacy Information Accessible and accurate health information in people’s respective language is a vital tool for both patients and healthcare providers. To empower patients, caregivers and their families this information must be easy to understand and in their respective language.  People who are health literate have lower mortality rates, are less likely to use healthcare services (shorter stays, fewer visits), engage in safer use of medicine and better manage their conditions than are those with low health literacy levels.viii,ix,x  Accessible, free multilingual health literacy information for patients, caregivers, families and citizens must be developed and supported.

 25. Sex, Gender and Age Health Literacy Information on sex and gender as well as age differences in health and wellbeing should be funded and generated.  These materials should be accessible, inclusive, peer-reviewed documents. Materials—such as policy briefings, background documents, reports and other publications—should explain the importance of integrating sex and gender into health using the most recent evidence base.  These documents should be written in clear and basic language to ensure accessibility as well as diffusion. 

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Access, Treatment, Care and Responsive Health Care 5/6. European Plan for Women’s Health 2018

15. Inclusion of Sex and Gender in Treatment Women’s health is more than reproductive health; it is health across the life-span.    The incidence and prevalence of certain diseases are higher among women such as breast cancer, osteoporosis, auto-immune diseases and eating disorders.  Others affect men and women differently, including lung cancer, diabetes, depression and cardiovascular disease.  Women do not present the same for various conditions and respond differently to treatment and care.  Sex and gender differences have important implications for health and healthcare.  Thus, treatments must account for sex and gender differences in order to ensure women and their families receive the best available treatment and care.
 16. Caregiving Support Women play a major caring role in care-giving.  Within the household, women often have little support, which may affect their health negatively. Much of the responsibility for childcare, care of older parents and disabled family members continues to fall on women. The time consumed in caregiving can lead some women to neglect their own health.  Working women normally continue to bear the main burden for childcare and household work, which may create stress and affect both their physical and mental health.  Programmes and policies to support female caregivers should be encouraged and supported.
 17. Family Health Managers Women as mothers, partners and daughters often take on the role as managers of health for their families.  Women are often the main decision-makers particularly for the health and wellbeing of children.  However, these obligations can come at the cost of women’s own health and wellbeing.  Policies and programming should support the role women play in managing their own health and the health of their families. 

 18. Holistic Approach to Health Socioeconomic, educational, cultural and ethnicity differences impact health behaviour and access to resources.  Sex and gender inequities, lack of resources or decision-making power, unfair work divisions as well as violence against women all impact health.  Moreover, women have less financial resources than men, which exacerbate existing health inequalities.  Women in Europe are in lower paid, often less secure and informal occupations than men.  Women earn on average 16% less than men.  Women, on average, receive pensions that are 40% lower than men.vii  A broad view on health and wellbeing - including mental health, employment, justice, education and technology - should be taken in order to reduce sex and gender inequities in health.

19. Healthy Healthcare Professionals Women are also key actors in the health sector not only as users of services but also as healthcare professionals. Often, women receive lower pay, less recognition or have to manage child and elder care as well.  Policy and programmes must support female healthcare professionals in training and employment as well as helping them maintain good health. Women remain concentrated in the lower-level health occupations compared to men, have less status, lower salaries or, to accommodate the care of children and/or older family members have interrupted careers which often negatively impacts their financial situation, pension rights and career opportunities. Women must be recognised and supported in order for them to take a leading role in the healthcare sector.
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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Research, Innovation and Personalised Medicine 4/6. European Plan for Women’s Health 2018

10. Cross-National Data Cross-national data collection across the EU must be improved and expanded.  Data must be formatted in a manner that can easily be processed and interchanged between local, national and EU levels.  Robust, comparable data is essential, and EU Member States should be encouraged to work to standard templates for data collection.  Templates should include common indicators, capturing patterns of behaviour and access to resources, which can be utilised by healthcare delivery organisations and channeled through regional and national statistics to the EU level.   Current efforts like the Cancer Registries should be supported and improved to fix existing gaps.  Comprehensive, longitudinal data is essential for improving health and wellbeing policy, programmes and practice.

 11. Sex and Gender Disaggregation Large differences exist between men and women with regard to prevention, disease development and progression, diagnosis, treatment and care of various health conditions.  Yet, there is a lack of comparable cross-national health data that sufficiently disaggregates by factors, including sex and gender, age and ethnicity.  Robust age as well as sex and gender analysis of data is often lacking, resulting in gaps in evidence-based medicine and research.  In order to improve existing policy and practice, research should be based on sex and gender as well as age disaggregated data.  Harmonised sex and gender-specific data collection across EU Member States should be encouraged. 

 12. Horizontal Integration of Sex and Gender Sex and gender integration into research must be improved.  In a just society, women and men must have equal opportunity to benefit from research.  Over the years, scientific knowledge has increasingly demonstrated that some treatments affect men and women differently. Sex and gender should be integrated into research funding streams.  Applications for funding should be required to include information on sex and gender considerations in research and in health technology assessments.  The inclusion of sex and gender specific disaggregated data should be included in all future EU research programmes as criteria for funding and referenced in the guide for applicants, application forms, and guide for evaluators. The future FP9 Research Programme should include funding for training on sex and gender for consortia who submit proposals.

13. Funding Sex and Gender Health Research Sex and gender is a key determinant of health.  Explicit research on sex and gender in health should be funded at European level.  A sex and gender balance must be promoted, right from the start, throughout all stages of research, including integration into the training and education of health care professionals.  Translating the evidence from sex and gender research into practice will lead to more targeted, effective opportunities for prevention, treatment and care.  Research needs to explore how women and men experience health and health care from a multidimensional perspective across the lifespan.  Sex and gender-based analysis (SGBA) must be systematically included in health technology assessment (HTA).

 14. Women in Clinical Trials Women are generally under-represented in clinical trials.  Women make up the largest proportion of the older population and are the heaviest users of medicines. Yet, women have a 1.5 to 1.7 times greater risk of developing adverse drug reactions compared to men as women as they are not sufficiently represented in clinical  The New Clinical Trials Regulation is a major step forward in increasing clinical trial data transparency. However, the continued under representation of women in clinical trials needs to be urgently tackled, and the regulation must be enforced.  Research must explore the existing barriers for the recruitment and retention of women and older people in clinical trials and to develop a robust methodology for subgroup analysis.  Ethics Committees should develop guidelines based on CIOMS revised guidelines that require the inclusion of women in clinical research.

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Friday, June 8, 2018

European Plan for Women’s Health 2018. Health Promotion and Disease Prevention 3/6

4. Early Intervention Early intervention is key to improve women and family health and wellbeing.  Action must be taken early and at critical points to ensure health and wellbeing from childhood through old age.  Available evidence must be used to best identify entry points for various interventions—both at the population and individual level—specific to girls and women throughout their life.  Health inequities should be reduced by integrating sex and gender considerations into health promotion and disease prevention, programming and policy, devoting special attention to vulnerable and marginalised groups.  Different health patterns between men and women must be taken into account when designing policies and programmes, taking a life-long perspective to support health promotion and disease prevention.  Efforts such as cancer screening programmes, vaccination and promoting healthy lifestyles should be supported at local, national and European levels.

 5. Vaccination Strategy A coordinated and comprehensive life-course immunisation strategy must be adopted to target vulnerable people, such as pregnant women and older people.  Infectious diseases easily cross borders.  Therefore, collaboration and coordination for a common vaccination strategy that protects Europe’s population from infectious diseases must be improved and include all relevant stakeholders.  Robust pro-active communication programmes must also be developed to create a health- and vaccine-literate public that understands the benefit of vaccination for protecting both individuals and society from infectious diseases.  The Joint Action on Vaccination should include a diverse stakeholder pool to support activities, including combating vaccine hesitancy at EU and Member State level. 

 6. Antibiotic Research The growing antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a public health threat that has been steadily increasing over the last decades. In the EU, results in 25,000 deaths annually at a cost of €1.5 billion per year in health costs and lost productivity.ii  Many common infections are becoming difficult or even impossible to treat, sometimes turning a simple infection into a life-threatening condition.  Citizens, patients, healthcare professionals, hospitals, veterinarian and farmers all have a role to play in fighting antimicrobial resistance. Women as the traditional family care givers can help to promote the prudent use of antibiotics in the family environment.  There is a need for clear and accessible information through sustained health literacy campaigns to ensure that the general public becomes more aware of the risks of the over-consumption of antibiotics and the associated dangers.  Research and development on new antibiotics must be urgently encouraged.

7. Maternal Health Maternal health is a vital point for public health intervention to reduce the burden of disease and promote wellbeing through encouragement of and healthy diets, taking folic acid, cessation of smoking and alcohol consumption as well as taking appropriate exercise.  Large variation exists across Member States with regard to preventing maternal morbidity and mortality.  Efforts to improve and share standards of maternal healthcare across Europe should be supported.  There is a lack of information and data about the safe use of medication during pregnancy and lactation for both women and their healthcare professionals, which must be urgently tackled. Research and pharmacovigilance must be improved to ensure safe and effective use of medicines during pregnancy and lactation in order to provide robust information and advice for health professionals, mothers and pregnant women.  Most of the 5 million babies born in Europe every year have been exposed to medications taken by their mothers during the pregnancy.iii  A publically-funded comprehensive European Pharmacovigilance system should be established to collect data, knowledge and close the information gap.

 8. Active and Healthy Ageing One of the biggest challenges facing European societies is maintaining health across the lifespan particularly in light of an increasingly ageing population.  Active and healthy ageing must be a priority on the health and social agenda of the EU and its Member States.  Europe has the highest proportion of older women in the world.  Women are on the forefront of ageing due to their greater longevity than men, their multiple carer and societal roles and their lower financial resources.  Despite women’s increased lifespan, their older years are disproportionately burdened by ill health.  Women outlive men by more than five years, but the difference in healthy life expectancy is less than nine months.iv   A comprehensive and supportive approach, including physical and mental health, must be taken to empower and support women to actively and healthily age in order to reduce inequities, isolation and poverty in old age.  Specific attention should be devoted to important issues that affect older people, particularly cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

9. Healthy Behaviour Promotion Chronic disease is responsible for large part of ill health, disability and mortality in the EU in both sexes, leading to increasingly costly health and long-term care if not treated and managed effectively, particularly diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.  Efforts must be made to promote healthy behaviours, accounting for various factors including sex and gender.  For instance, the frequency and level of alcohol and tobacco consumption among women is on the rise in Europe, resulting in narrowing the gap in avoidable illness and death in women.  Beginning in the 1990s, young girls started out smoking young boys in Europe.  Women also have special nutritional needs that shift for each stage of a women’s life.   Differences between men and women exist with regard to exercise and rising obesity.  Men in the EU are 1.6 times more likely to be sufficiently physically active in a week compared to women.v Thus, explicit programming and policy should encourage women and their families to eat well, exercise and engage in healthy behaviours.
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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

European Plan for Women’s Health 2018. Horizontal Priorities 2/6

1. Sex and Gender Integration A holistic approach to women’s health and wellbeing must incorporate biological, social, economic and political influences.  As a result, sex and gender considerations must be integrated in a range of policies that influence health and wellbeing, such as health, research, employment, justice, education and technology policies. 

 2. Stakeholder Collaboration Diverse, interdisciplinary and cross-sectorial stakeholders relevant to women and family health must be brought together at local, national and European levels to exchange best practice and to advocate together to advance the women’s health agenda.  Strong stakeholder collaboration is vital to the implementation of good prevention and healthcare policy.  Key stakeholders—such as government officials, regulatory agencies, academic institutions, NGOs, industry professionals and healthcare providers—must be engaged to develop effective, efficient and equitable policy and programmes at local, national and European levels. 

 3. Incorporation of UN SDGs The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be integrated into European health and wellbeing programming, policy and practice.  Concerted efforts should be devoted to promoting and achieving SDG 3 (good health and wellbeing) 5 (gender equality) and 10 (reducing inequalities) with a diverse group of relevant stakeholders.
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Monday, June 4, 2018


Women on The Frontline of Health 

  •  "Inequalities experienced in earlier life in access to education, employment and health care as well as those based on gender and cultural background can have a critical bearing on the health status of people throughout their lives. The combination of poverty with other vulnerabilities such as childhood or old age, disability or minority background further increases health risks and vice-versa, ill health can lead to poverty and/or social exclusion.” 

In celebration of the European Institute of Women’s Health’s (EIWH) twenty-first anniversary and sixty-years of gender equality in EU policy since the Treaty of Rome (1957), the EIWH brought together decision makers and thought leaders to review progress that has been achieved in sex and gender equity in women’s health.  Delegates explored existing gaps by employing a crosssectorial approach and devise steps for moving forward together.  On the basis of the delegate discussion from the four policy central policy topics, we have put together the main recommendations from each panel, which went to form this draft Action Plan.

Despite the vital role that women play in their families, communities and societies, women have significantly less financial resources than men.  Women experience a gender pay gap during their working years, earning on average 16% less than their male counterparts in the EU.  Women also face a pension gap during retirement, with women on average receiving pensions that are 40% lower than men.  The gender pay and pension gap varies greatly from country to country; for example, pension gender pay gaps range from a 4% to a 49%. As a result, working and older women have less financial resources.i  This gap gets wider over lifetime and during retirement and is problematic during old age; many women struggle to pay for help with assisted living or long-term care. 

Women are on the frontline of health in Europe.  They play a vital role in all aspects of healthcare as healthcare professionals, caregivers, patients, mothers, daughters and friends, particularly in light of an ageing Europe.  As such, women are key decision-makers and thought leaders.  Yet, research, programming, policy and practice do not sufficiently account for sex and gender differences.  For example, women outlive men but are burdened by more years of ill health.  We must invest in women’s health in order to improve the health of all in Europe.

The European Action Plan for Women’s Health has been developed to outline how we can   advance the women’s health agenda together and drive policy implementation in key areas.  The Plan will be turned into a European Manifesto for Women’s Health 2019.  This manifesto will be given to key Members of European Parliament (MEPs) in the run up to the 2019 election to ensure that women’s health and wellbeing is on the European policy agenda
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Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Bellagio Declaration. Conclusions and recommendations 3/3

8. The participants emphasised that domestic laws should be enacted, reformed or interpreted to conform to the international and regional human rights standards on the elimination of sexual violence.  

9. The participants agreed that members of the judiciary2 at all levels have opportunities to develop or apply the law in ways which are consistent with women’s equality in cases involving gender based violence against women, including sexual violence. The participants noted that the actions of judicial officers in interpreting and applying the law may engage the responsibility of their State under international law if their decision and practices result in the violation of the human rights of women. 

10. The participants agreed that members of the judiciary have a responsibility to be aware of applicable human rights norms as stated in international and regional instruments and national constitutions and laws and apply them systematically. It is crucially important for them to be aware of and use the provisions of those instruments, which particularly pertain to women. In countries with a plural legal system, this responsibility applies also to the customary, traditional and/or religious authorities. 

11. The participants agreed that judicial academies, universities and law schools should be encouraged to develop mandatory courses in human rights, which must include a module on the human rights of women and gender-based violence against women. They also recommended that induction or orientation programmes for new judges and programmes of continuing judicial education should mandatorily include material regarding women’s rights and gender-based violence against women. 

12. The participants recommended that States should carry out extensive legal awareness campaigns in the community in relation to women’s human rights and gender based violence against women. 

13. The participants recommended the development of closer links and co-operation across national frontiers by the judiciary for the sharing of information about good judicial practices on the progressive interpretation and application of human rights law standards as they relate to gender based violence against women, including sexual violence. 

14. The participants recommended that special attention be given to processes, practices and procedural matters in pre-trial and trial proceedings/in court proceedings in order to create a conducive, friendly environment that enables access to justice for women and girls and avoid re-victimisation in cases of gender based violence against women, including sexual violence. 

15. The participants recommended that mechanisms be put in place for the collection of judicial data on the number cases of sexual violence and on related homicide cases or gender-related killing of women per year1, disaggregated by the age and sex of the perpetrators, as well as the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim or victims, type of violence, geographical location as well as other relevant factors. Information concerning the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators should also be collected and published

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Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Bellagio Declaration. Conclusions and recommendations 2/3

1. The participants call on all judicial officers and those involved with the judicial system to implement internationally, regionally and nationally guaranteed human rights norms for the elimination of gender-based violence against women and girls within their jurisdictions without discrimination, gender stereotyping or other prejudicial attitudes. Impartiality of the judiciary and the right to a fair trial cannot be guaranteed to women otherwise. 

2. The participants noted that significant advances have been made in the development of international and regional standards on the elimination of gender-based violence against women and girls including sexual violence, as well as in the development of national laws and policies to eliminate gender-based violence against women and girls. They also noted that despite the normative progress, impunity continues unchanged.

3. The participants acknowledged the important work done by the United Nations human rights treaty bodies and the United Nations Special Procedures to address sexual violence against women. In particular, they noted the importance of the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) under the reporting and Optional Protocol procedures and in its General Recommendations and other statements. The participants welcomed the adoption of General Recommendation No. 35 on gender-based violence against women and noted that the issue of sexual violence had also been addressed in a number of other General Recommendations.

4. The participants also noted in particular the importance of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol), and the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention), and also the practice and jurisprudence of international and regional courts under other human rights treaties.  

5. The participants underlined that States are under binding international legal obligations to take all necessary measures to prevent the occurrence of sexual violence and to investigate and prosecute sexual violence against women perpetrated both by state actors and non-state actors, and to provide effective and transformative remedies and reparations. 

6. The participants reaffirmed the Victoria Falls Declaration of Principles for the Promotion of Human Rights of Women, 1994 as well as those stated in the Bangalore Principles on the Domestic Application of International Human Rights Law Norms, 1988 and in other judicial colloquia. These principles reflect the universality, indivisibility and inter-relatedness of human rights - inherent in men and women. These general principles are applicable in all countries, but the means by which they become applicable may differ. The participants underlined the vital role that an independent judiciary plays in the elimination of sexual violence against women and girls in interpreting and applying national constitutions and laws in the light of those principles.  

7. The participants agreed that, where they have not done so, all States should be encouraged to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), to remove any reservations they have made, to ratify the Optional Protocol, and to take into account the CEDAW Committee’s jurisprudence under the Optional Protocol and its General Recommendations. States should also be encouraged to ratify the relevant regional treaties on violence against women.
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