Monday, March 8, 2010

International Woman's Day 2010

Today is International Woman’s Day, 8th March 2010. This day is about celebrating our political, social and economic achievements and as we celebrate pause and consider that the measure of success of equal rights is also about health and education.

As women who live in the first world we are provided with many opportunities to be successful and to help other women.

Links Fiji is a not for profit foundation based in Fiji and our aim is to improve health via education. Cervical and breast cancer are the most prevalent forms of cancer in Fiji and there is a real lack of education and awareness. Hospitals constantly run out of drugs, the nurses train themselves on Google and many women are unaware what a pap smear is, how often to have it or how to conduct a breast exam.

Then add to this natural instinct to put care of family first, many cannot afford bus fares to local health centres, are shy or fear discussing “women’s” health issues and as a result when lumps or growths are found it is often too late.

Our foundation is committed to touching as many women as we possibly can from a testing and education prospective. We take doctors and nurses from Australia to work with us in remote areas conducting pap smears, breast exams and other simple health tests such as diabetes and blood pressure. We are working on using local doctors to do the same for us.

The women we work with are often uneducated and completely unaware of terms like equal rights. Every day is a battle for them, life expectancy is low, they put their faith in God and often local/village medicine is what they rely on.

Our foundation runs also runs a program called Bluesky Magic, which is similar to Make a Wish Foundation. I have had the privilege to meet many brave children who are facing certain death and their mothers.

Luisa and Sholene were two such girls. Aged 16 Luisa died of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia – there is no treatment for this in Fiji. I met her mother who held onto me and begged me to find a cure for her daughter, she did not know how she was going to keep living when Luisa died.

Sholene died of bone cancer, her aim was to get to the age of 15 and meet me, sadly she wasn’t able to achieve either. But her will to fight the disease and live was simply incredible. Sholene’s cancer was detected to late and again there is no treatment for this type of cancer in Fiji.

In both cases the women and young girls who never got to be women were brave in how they faced their biggest battles. To them it wasn’t about political or social rights. It was about their health and their desire to simply LIVE.

Both mothers were devastated, neither have received ongoing counselling. In fact in Sholene’s case her family did not tell anyone their daughter had died of bone cancer due to the issues they would face from family, friends and their village. They were too concerned about how people would talk about them to ask for help and support.

As we celebrate international women’s day pause and think about our sisters who live in countries where because you are unable to afford a bus fare it makes a difference between life and death; cultural and social issues prevent you from asking for support when your child dies, the health system cannot save your child; equal rights is not just about the vote, or equal pay, board representation, promotions... it is about basic human rights, basic health care and simply the opportunity to live your life.

Ask ourselves how can we make a difference? What can I do to make sure that these stories do not become the norm no matter where women live.

Did you celebrate this day in your business? Did you mark it by raising funds and donating it to a charity that helps women in 3rd world counteries? If you didn't dont let this opportunity pass you by next year.

Women world over are resilient, resourceful and extremely courageous, it is up to those of us who have the ability to create change and make a difference to ensure those who don't have a voice.

To land a pap smear kit in Fiji costs around $7.00FJD or $5.00AUD. This can save a woman’s life. Many of us spend this on a daily basis on coffee. If you think you can help us contact Sadhana Smiles on sadhanasmiles@realchange.com.au