Media Release: Voices of Change-Marking International Zero Tolerance Day to Female Genital Mutilation

Women from countries where female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is practiced are the best agents to put an end to the harmful practice.  This is the message at the core of the ‘Voices of Change’ event being held today to mark International Zero Tolerance Day to Female Genital Mutilation.

Women’s Health in the North, Mercy Health, Monash Health, North Yarra Community Health, Doutta Galla Community Health and Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health (MCWH) have worked together to stage the ‘Voices of Change’ event.

Executive Director of MCWH, Dr Adele Murdolo said that it is important to recognise the pivotal role women from affected communities play in preventing and eliminating FGM/C.

‘The global evidence is quite clear that community-based approaches are the most effective.  Our event is a rare opportunity to listen to and learn from women who have been working very hard with their communities to stop the practice.’

Dr Murdolo said that women affected by FGM/C, as the group most directly impacted by the practice, are at the core of successful programs.

‘We rarely hear about the good news stories and successes of the work being done in relation to FGM/C and it’s our intention to celebrate and recognise the tireless activism and engagement of women from the community, who are leading the way for the rest of us.’

Juliana Nkrumah AM, one of the guest speakers at the event, said that any effort to put an end to FGM/C should be motivated by the need to help women in affected communities speak for themselves.

‘It’s essential that we support women and girls by investing in awareness-raising as a way of increasing their decision-making power.  It’s the only way cultural change will come about.’

 

Media Release: International seminar highlights invisibility of abortion as a federal election issue

Variation in abortion law among the states is not the only issue at stake for women in Australia.

Today MCWH will host a visit by Dr Anu Kumar, Executive Vice-President of Ipas, a global nongovernment organisation dedicated to ending preventable death and disability from unsafe abortion.

Dr Kumar’s visit marks the beginning of MCWH’s partnership with researchers from the Social Sciences and Health Research Unit, Monash University on a research project investigating the contraceptive and reproductive choices of immigrant and refugee women.

Executive Director of MCWH, Dr Adele Murdolo said that while abortion law continues to be a matter for the states, both state and federal governments need to ensure that abortion is accessible and available to all women.

Twenty six per cent of the world’s population still live in countries where abortion is generally prohibited, so in that regard Australian women are in the fortunate position of living in a country where induced abortion is legally available. However, access to abortion is still restricted to different groups of women in various ways. It is already well-known that immigrant and refugee women have limited to access to sexual and reproductive health for a range of reasons including visa status, economic reasons and lack of access to culturally sensitive programs.

A recent report has found that living in a rural or regional area can also severely restrict your access to abortion because of the lack of services in certain regions. There’s a triple disadvantage then if you’re an immigrant or refugee woman living in one of these regions.

In many respects there are overlaps with the human rights work being done at an international level. In Australia, immigrant and refugee women’s access to abortion is still determined by such things as visa status and other policies, which can indirectly impact on women’s right to free choice.

Women’s rights aren’t just a matter for the law, although legal reforms are crucial – we’d like to see government make the necessary policy changes, and fund appropriate services, to improve women’s access to abortion.

Media Release: National project to assist communities affected by FGM/C

MCWH is focusing its national efforts on improving support and assistance provided to women and girls affected by female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). The development of a national website and best practice guidelines for the abandonment of FGM/C are at the core of MCWH’s latest initiative.

Executive Director of MCWH, Dr Adele Murdolo said that the National Education Toolkit for FGM/C Awareness (NETFA) Project will ensure a more targeted approach to community education that will help communities affected by FGM/C move toward abandonment of the practice.

The NETFA Project is one of 15 projects funded through the Federal Government’s Health System Capacity Development Fund FGM Support Targeted Round and will be carried out over the next twelve months.

Read the full media release …

Media Release: Poverty report highlights the challenges for migrant and refugee women

The Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health (MCWH) commends the recent release of the ‘Poverty in Australia’ Report by the Australia Council of Social Services (ACOSS) and responded to the report’s implications for immigrant and refugee women.

‘The report makes clear both the multidimensional aspect to poverty and the triple jeopardy many migrant and refugee women face ’, said Dr Adele Murdolo, Executive Director of MCWH.

‘As the findings point out, if you are a woman or if you come from a non-English speaking country, your risk of poverty is significantly higher. And we know from the work we do at MCWH that migrant and refugee women also face higher risks when it comes to health and their overall wellbeing.’

‘The link between poverty and ill health is well-known, yet there is still very little comprehensive research about immigrant and refugee women’s health status.
‘Immigrant and refugee women are at significant risk from, and are already over-represented in, an array of preventable illnesses such as diabetes and diabetes-related deaths, maternal deaths and perinatal and neonatal deaths.

‘The report’s release is an important reminder to us all that poverty is not just an economic problem or about an individual’s financial resources, it’s also very much a social issue spanning many life domains, including health, employment, education, social connections and personal safety.

‘Being income poor is not the same as also being socially excluded and for many immigrant and refugee women, the concept of social exclusion is a reality and a risk they face on a daily basis.’

‘The concentration of migrant and refugee women in a range of low-skilled occupations and contract positions, for example, makes women more vulnerable to exploitative and discriminatory treatment and increases their risk to negative health outcomes.

‘In order to reduce inequalities, we need to invest in the appropriate early intervention and prevention policies that assist the health and wellbeing of all Australians, regardless of their birthplace or ethnic origin,’ said Dr Murdolo.