Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"If it is not sustainable for women, it is not sustainable."

When addressing gender oppression worldwide, it is critical that women’s voices are at the center of change making.  If we do not design our interventions to include the perspective of women as the guiding force of our action, our change will not be sustainable. While delivering solutions, women need to have the agency to be at the forefront of their own revolutions, not simply vessels by which we impose ungrounded aid.

An overarching theme that I noticed during my sessions today was the importance of continued community input throughout the process of eliminating gender discrimination. This is a theme that I have come to learn from my studies, but to see that so many interventions to combat gender based violence and discrimination really put the voice of women first was incredibly uplifting.

I was incredibly impacted to today by a session called “The Importance of Mental Health and Sustainable Development.” This session really solidified the connection between mental illness amongst women and the various forms of depression that they face in their day-to-day lives. The first panelist, Nancy Wallace from the World Federation on Mental Health, emphasized that social, political, and economic structures, as well as environmental factors, all greatly effect women’s mental health outcomes. It was clear that Mrs. Wallace is a strong champion for women’s mental health, having founded the World Mental Health day program, and having advocated for mental health to be included in the SGDs for 2030. However, Nancy emphasized that in order for mental health outcomes to improve, especially in under resourced communities, we need to build local capacities for mental health care and coverage. I was extremely moved by Nancy’s talk, and have new perspective on how mental health care has a myriad of effects on other health outcomes, and how dangerous it is that mental illnesses like depression affect women more severely. I aim to include monitoring mental health outcomes in my future global health endeavors, making sure that the emotional and social wellbeing of women is at the forefront of health interventions.

The forms that gender based violence and discrimination take are varied. Therefore, our solutions need to be as well. This can be accomplished not only by addressing problems in a holistic manner, but by first and foremost placing the voices of women in girls at the center of the conversation. Sustainable change for women is only possible if we champion the women in question.  

"If it is not sustainable for women, it is not sustainable." -Joanne Wetzel, World Federation on Mental Health

Source: Center for Disease Control.

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