Sunday, 18 January 2009

The health of the people is the foundation upon which all their happiness and their powers depend

And with that horribly paraphrased Disraeli quote, it’s time for some shameless shilling. If you’re looking for a cause to benefit from your new year’s civic-mindedness, read the information below on WHAN, a Caribbean NGO. The organization has ambitious goals and an unwavering dedication to health care in the region. It could use your help.

The Women’s Health Advocacy Network (WHAN) is an NGO dedicated to addressing issues of women's health and sexual and reproductive rights in the Caribbean; and educating women on their patient rights and how to be agents in their own health care. WHAN was founded in Barbados in 2005 in response to a perceived absence of civil organization around such issues as violence against women, the feminization of HIV/AIDS, and women’s rights as patients. The founders noted that what little dialogue existed seemed not to make adequate links between state responses such as legislation and budget development, and women’s poverty and health issues. Violence against women was not being framed in policy as a human rights issue, as a matter of economic importance, or as a reinforcer of poverty among women. It was instead being referenced as one of several ‘social ills’ that required no more than micro-level interventions by communities. WHAN is concerned with changing this approach through advocacy and research.

The organization aims to increase women’s knowledge of their rights to demand adequate health care services, thus creating a system of health care that is more responsive to the needs of patients. It seeks to make women agents in their own care by educating them on what information they should seek from their providers, and what role they should play in decisions made about their care.

WHAN also aims to reduce the spread of HIV and other STIs by increasing women’s sexual decision-making power; and to help end all forms of violence against women.

The NGO’s current programme areas are
  • Women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (including HIV/AIDS and other STIs; and sexual and reproductive decision-making)
  • Violence against women
  • All women’s health matters including mental wellness
  • Patient rights and advocacy
WHAN is now preparing for a round of consultations with groups of young people to explore the linkages among gender; sexuality and sexual behaviour; sexual violence and HIV/AIDS. If you want to participate or know anyone who does, or would like to join the organization, email; or check out the brand new Facebook group here: WHAN Facebook group

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