Last week, I had the honor of attending the 10th Annual Regional Meeting of the Eastern Mediterranean Region in IFMSA and it was special for many reasons. Firstly, it was my first IFMSA meeting as an official, and for it to be in my region where I served as Regional Assistant just last year made it all the more special. But more on this later.
Secondly, it was the first time we carry out an Ipas Training on Maternal Health and Access to Safe Abortion in the EMR region. I was lucky enough to be the facilitator of this workshop and boy was I nervous. But my nerves quickly calmed down when I got to meet the amazing participants and see their enthusiasm for a subject that I thought would have been impossible to speak about in our region. Also thanks to the surprise addition of SCOME officers (one Liaison Officer and one Regional Assistant, you know who you are) in our workshop, we got an outside perspective that was fresh and completely unexpected seeing as both had had minimal SCORA experience or interest in the past. Still they came back and that was a testament to the spirit of the sessions which was meant to be inclusive and understanding of differing points of views, and to allow for meaningful discourse where there had been none in the past. At the end of our workshop, evaluations were extremely positive with many saying they wanted to go back home and read more about this subject in the hopes of finding ways to advocate for their patients’ rights! Also, many loved the idea that this topic had never been spoken about previously in their medical schools or IFMSA for that matter, and wished we would speak about other topics that are often not openly addressed in SCORA due to their “controversy”. And all of this from a region that is often deemed too conservative to even make an effort to speak about such issues.
That’s the thing, many people are surprised when I speak about the SCORA work that goes on in my Region, often saying how is this even possible? How can someone speak openly about HIV and AIDS in the Middle East? How can one speak about women’s rights? About LGBTQI issues? About female cutting (formerly known as FGM)? How can we do anything when there’s so much to be done? And that’s precisely the point!! My Region has so many areas that are unchartered with respect to SCORA work and that is why our work is so amazing. From Jordan to Iran, Egypt to Lebanon and Iraq, medical students are noticing that there’s something wrong in how sexual and reproductive health rights are being dealt with and their doing something about it,with a full understanding that small steps can later make a big difference! And boy are they making a difference! Whether it be through educating over 1000 peer educators in Egypt or getting over 200 women to get checked for breast cancer in Jordan, or fundraising over $10,000 for CD4 count tests in Lebanon, EMR SCORA is shining.
Which brings me back to my first point, of being an official who’s work started in this Region. Having seen my region grow over the past 4 years truly makes my heart swell to a size I never knew it could. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a million times, hearing of all of the amazing work that is happening in my region makes me feel tiny in comparison. Yes I happen to be an International Official in IFMSA, however, my job is simple: to make sure the work of every SCORAngel shines! And having been lucky enough to see all of the amazing work in the EMR on display last week makes my job all the more simple. So hats off to you EMRians for inspiring me everyday! And a special thanks to the lovely people in Kuwait who helped organize this amazing Regional Meeting, as well as my lovely Regional Assistant Sanam, you’re truly heaven sent! And lastly, all of SCORA does amazing work, I was just lucky enough to be able to witness the work in this Region first hand and identify with the struggles these SCORAngels face on a daily basis. So they have a special place in my heart, but IFMSA-SCORA, you are an amazing beast so let’s see what else this year has to bring!!