New York, NY
The Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children spotlights reproductive health for refugees at its annual Voices of Courage awards luncheon. Among the awardees is a Liberian refugee who provides gender-based violence services to fellow refugees, as well as a refugee from Burma who has helped lead efforts to provide reproductive health care to refugees along the Thai-Burma border. Ambassador Allan Rock of Canada will give the keynote address. Leslie Stahl is the event’s host.
Despite the fact that it’s a human right upheld by international law, refugees worldwide lack adequate reproductive health care. These services save lives and dramatically reduce ill health among women, particularly refugees and the displaced. For too long, reproductive health care for refugees was considered a luxury and not anecessity. The Women’s Commission has been part of a coalition of international NGOs that have worked over the past decade to put reproductive health care at the forefront of humanitarian assistance.
Gertrude Garway of Liberia was a refugee in the 1990s in Guinea, where she worked to improve refugee and internally displaced women’s reproductive health. Returning to Liberia in 2000, she continued this work and focused on gender-based violence (GBV). As violence increased last year and expatriate staff were evacuated, Garway led a team of four national staff to find and help women and girls who had been raped. She now leads a team of more than 30 staff and has expanded the GBV program to cover 11 displaced persons camps and many communities, providing reproductive health and GBV services to about 8,000 women.
Sophia, a refugee from Burma, is a leading coordinator of reproductive health activities on the Thai-Burma border, where refugees have no other sources of care. Sophia manages the reproductive health inpatient department at the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand. The clinic has grown from a small makeshift facility to a large multipurpose center with 100 volunteers assisting nearly 30,000 displaced people annually.
The Women’s Commission is also honoring Ortho Women’s Health, which works to improve women’s lives by providing reproductive health products. Ortho Women’s Health developed the first prescription contraceptive in 1931 and introduced the first birth control pill in 1963. The company is a division of Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc.
The Women’s Commission is also proud to honor the Compton Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation who have been committed supporters of reproductive health efforts for refugees and internally displaced people, even as government support has waned.
Keynote: Ambassador Allan Rock is a leading advocate of human rights and UN reform. He has consistently called for more vigorous international action to address humanitarian needs and foster development, particularly in Africa.