IFMSA at the Commission on the Status of Women

My name is Joelle Reid, a 4th year medical student and the National Officer for Sexual and Reproductive Health including HIV/AIDS (NORA) for the Federation of Uganda Medical Students’ Associations (FUMSA). I had the amazing opportunity to be one of the IFMSA delegates attending the 59th session on Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, early in March 2015. I had this amazing opportunity along with Ruth (from Ethiopia), Wendy (from Nigeria), Wonyun (from South Korea), and Kelly (our liaison officer for SCORA).

The CSW took place from the 9th – 20th March 2015. For those of you who do not know what the CSW is, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. This year’s session focused on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – an outcome of the Fourth World Conference of Women in 1995 which focuses on gender empowerment and gender equality globally – and the achievements and setbacks in implementation after 20 years after its adoption.

For those of you who may not understand how the session at the UN works – don’t worry I was clueless too – the session is continuous throughout the 11 days which takes place in the assembly hall, but there are countless side events that take place throughout the 11 days in many different locations. The side events are organised by various governments, non-governmental organisations, charitable organisations etc. where there is discussion around the theme – many of these side events are open to the public.

Some of the side events I attended that I found very interesting are:

  • Every woman every child: Saving Lives, Protecting Futures, an Every woman every child high-level event hosted by the secretary general
  • Violence against women online
  • Girls at the centre

Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) was an initiative launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit in September 2010; this initiative aims to save the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015. The side event was hosted by the Secretary-General himself and called on all people in all areas to commit to improving women’s health and child health. EWEC believes everyone has a role to play in improving the health of women and children worldwide, including us as medial students and future doctors worldwide.

Another side event, organised by the UK government, Government of Denmark, Plan UK and others, focused on the violence against women online in particular something called revenge porn. Revenge porn is sexually explicit media e.g. pictures, videos etc. that are distributed without consent from the individual(s) involved. They shared some stories on women who experienced revenge porn and showed how government are now developing laws against it.

Girls At The Centre was the most inspirational and emotional side event I attended at the CSW. Girls at the centre was a side event hosted by World Vision UK and is about putting girls’ rights at the centre and giving them a voice to discuss issues affecting them in their communities and on an international platform. They had two young girls from Kenya speaking about their experiences. One girl exuded confidence and seemed so delightful; she was also blind and needed some assistance to get on the stage. But, as soon as she spoke them whole room listen and breathes were held, she was so confident and assertive and composed as she told us a sad story of how she was constantly sexually and verbally abused by her father and finally found refuge in her education, and it was that helped her grow confident and stand tall. Holding back tears we all applauded loudly and proudly.

The UN has 9 major working groups which represent the key sectors of society and these groups ensure the engagement of all people within the intergovernmental processes of the UN, including the development and implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). While at the CSW I had an amazing opportunity to participate in a meeting with the major working group for children and youth. This is something that all of us can get involved with locally and nationally. You can do this by visiting: childrenyouth.org/internal/children.

Entry written by Joelle Reid, FUMSA-Uganda

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IFMSA at the UN Commission on Population and Development

From 13th to 17th of April, 2015, I had a wonderful opportunity to participate in the 48th session of UN Commission on Population and Development at UN Headquarters, New York. The theme for this year was “Realizing the Future We Want: Integrating Population Issues into Sustainable Development, Including in the Post-2015 Development Agenda”. Delegates from the member states, NGOs and other stakeholder organizations attended the meeting.

In the opening ceremony, speaking for the Secretary-General, Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, stated that the commission was meeting at a time of great demographic shifts relating to youth, centenarians and migration. He said that, given the unprecedented number of youths, there must be access to health care, including reproductive health. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), opined that, as post-2015 development agenda was designed, the Commission, by integrating population issues into sustainable development, could turn its principles and commitments into reality. He focused on young people saying that young people, especially adolescent girls, must be empowered to make informed decisions to have control over their bodies and to stay healthy.  It was imperative to integrate population issues into development, as there could be no sustainable development without people, he said, stressing that “we cannot afford to wait, the time is now”. Bénédicte Frankinet, Commission Chair, agreed that with people at the centre of the process, it was critical to understand and account for demographic changes in the coming 15 years when designing and implementing the new development agenda.

The meeting continued for five days. Sharing national experiences, many speakers presented ways in which their countries had worked to advance the rights of youth and incorporate their needs into public policies. They shared progress achieved by their countries amid myriad obstacles. Several delegations highlighted the importance of guaranteeing young people their reproductive and sexual rights. Many speakers underscored the importance of a rights-based health approach, which would ensure that women could decide when and how many children they wished to have.  There was a great bit of discussion on issues regarding Migration, Climate Change, and population dynamics etc. The meeting also heard that the impact of conflict and natural disasters and the often resulting flows of refugees and displaced persons must be included when considering contemporary population trends and transitions and their integration into the new development agenda.

I also attended different side events at the meeting. To mention a few of them, “SRHR for the next decades: what’s been achieved? What lies ahead?” organized by Denmark, the Philippines and DAWN (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era), “Human Rights within Family Planning.” organized by WHO and UNFPA and “Young people in Post-2015 – making 1.8 billion voices heard in the new development agenda.” organized by The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations, together with CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality and dance4life. I shared the activities and involvements of IFMSA and SCORA in the field of SRHR, HIV/AIDS and youth and women empowerment. I put forward IFMSA’s belief that present efforts to improve quality of life of the world population should not jeopardize our vision of creating a future society based on equity, justice and principles of sustainability.

I met Dr. Marleen Temmermen, Director, Department of Reproductive Health and Research, WHO and shared IFMSA’s programs and activities. She assured more support and guidance to IFMSA and the medical students involved in the field of SRHR. The side event “Young people in Post-2015 – making 1.8 billion voices heard in the new development agenda” moderated by Ahmad Alhendawi, UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, was an excellent discussion session which concluded with a common consensus that young people should also be involved in the decision making process to ensure that their voices are heard in the new development agenda.

Closing its forty-eighth session on 17th April, the Commission on Population and Development failed to adopt a draft resolution that was prepared by its Chair after several days and nights of intense and relentless negotiations. By the draft text, the Commission would have emphasized that population and development issues were interlinked with sustainable development at the subnational, national and international levels, requiring a multi-stakeholder and multi-level approach. It would have stressed, among other things, that gender equality, the full realization of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all women and girls, including their reproductive rights, were critical to sustainable development and essential to the realization of social justice. The draft was not adopted after an exchange between the representatives of Groups of States.

To conclude, it was a moment of pride to participate and speak on behalf of International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations, representing medical students worldwide. (Removed In Fact) It was a great learning experience for me in terms of SRHR, Population and development, and Youth issues. I had amazing opportunity to enhance my knowledge of United Nations and to understand the processes within the organization.

Entry written by Prabesh Bikram Singh, IFMSA SCORA Regional Assistant for the Asia-Pacific 

IFMSA Statement on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

Today is May 17th when we celebrate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

During March Meeting 2014 in Hammamet, Tunisia General Assembly accepted Policy Statement “Ending Discrimination to better the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals” in which IFMSA affirms that discrimination on the grounds of sexuality or  gender identity, inflicts negative health impacts on vulnerable populations. Therefore IFMSA call for a co-ordinated response by all interested parties, including WHO, UN member states, service users, caregivers, civil society groups and members of the IFMSA to condemn discrimination on the grounds of gender or sexual identity. The LGBT population face many obstacles when accessing healthcare. This can be due to lack of appropriate medical services, social and institutionalised homophobia and isolation.

More than half of the LGBT population aged 16-25 have poor mental health outcomes, including depression and generalised anxiety disorder. Over 40% of this population have considered suicide, and over 50% have self-harmed.

80% of transgender individuals  experience emotional, physical or  sexual abuse based on rejection  of their identity. Unfortunately, violence is not always  reported by LGBT people due to  fear of being condemned and ostracised by society and because security and healthcare services often  do not take their complaints seriously.

This year we have had successful campaign with story sharing, sexuality awareness week and a photo campaign. The slogan was #yourSexualityIsImportant. We believe that sexual health is an important part of well-being and that there should be no discrimination in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity in accessing healthcare.

I would like to thank all the amazing team who have contributed to the IDAHO Campaign:
Adrian Carrasco Munera (IFMSA-Spain)
Omar Centurion (IFMSA-Mexico)
Fahim Abrar Hossain (BMSS Bangladesh)
Ahmed Taha (IFMSA-Egypt)
Lucas Lopes (PorMSIC Portugal)
Anna Zahlut (AMSA Austria)
Ahmed Atwa (IFMSA-Egypt)
Aziz Mert Ipekci (TurkMSIC Turkey)

For those of you who are interested here is the link to the flashmob video promoting our Policy Statement on ending discrimination to better the health of LGBT individuals –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQSMfJlGHAE

For the upcoming August Meeting 2015 in Macedonia we are proposing the Sexuality and Gender Identity Program which is going to be voted on by the General Assembly.

I hope we will all continue this great work in ending stigma and discrimination towards LGBT people and I would love to see more and more actions and campaigns!

Best,
Michalina A. Drejza, Director on Sexual and Reproductive health including HIV/AIDS