Returning from the 57th Commission of the Status of Women (CSW), as a representative of Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA), and having presented my work on developing resilience in young women, I want to reflect on the role that women doctors have played in women’s empowerment over the past 60 years of participation at the United Nations.

Medical Women’s International Association has been actively involved with the United Nations since the early 1950’s as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). The organization maintains official working relations with the World Health Organization, Category II Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and is involved with UNICEF’s Immunization Programs. MWIA has Permanent Representatives in all three United Nations Centres and in New York City and Geneva.

Each year. MWIA brings together a delegation of its members to the UN Commission on the Status of Women in early March. All members of the delegation are self-funded and volunteers. This year’s priority theme was the Prevention and Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. Because violence against women and girls is so closely linked to health, as well as empowerment, the contingent of participants was larger than usual and MWIA sponsored three events at the Commission, including one sponsored by the Government of Canada in which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, Suzanne Truppe, participated.

In order to understand the accomplishments of the CSW, one has to be aware that the the final outcome is contained in “Agreed Conclusions” reached at the end of the meeting. Last year’s CSW was marred by the fact that negotiations between the various members never reached “Agreed Conclusions”. Because of this, and because of the importance of this year’s priority theme, the atmosphere was tense among NGO’s, all concerned that the same will happen this year. For MWIA, an organization whose members have been working to prevent violence against women and girls since their founding in 1919, “Agreed Conclusions” would assist our members in many countries to promote initiatives and programs of immediate benefit to their patients.

The work of MWIA in the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls concerns not only the impact of violence on physicial and mental health but also the impact on women’s empowerment. This is of such great importance that women doctors, residents and students presented reports from four of our eight regions to the Commission. The regions included North America, South America, Near East and Africa and the Western Pacific Region. Despite aconomic and cultural differences across these regions, the themes are strikingly similar: the need for women to access good information and appropriate timely care; the need to promote the education and resilience of girls; and the need to combat the significant misinformation and prejudices that still exist with respect to reproductive and mental health. The body of MWIA’s work in these areas can be found on their websie at

Members of MWIA in all regions are powerful advocates for women’s empowerment in reproductive health and, in fact, one could argue that women physicians’ authoritative voice in reproductive health has ensured that evidence is not forgotten when policy is developed. Like other NGO’s, MWIA is discouraged that policy in reproductive health is so often influenced by cultural myths and not scientific evidence.

For those who have an interest in the draft “Agreed Conclusions”, these can be found at

The presentations of MWIA’s participants can also be found on the MWIA website. Those following this blog will recall that I had asked Dr. Pam Liao to talk about the project between MWIA and Next Gen University that she is developing. This project to develop educational materials garnered much interest both times it was presented. MWIA has developed training manuals previously that have been used to assist health care providers around the world to develop their knowledge and this newer educational model will continue to promote better education for care providers.

As I write this, it is not clear whether this year’s negotiations will actually produce a document of “Agreed Conclusions” but there are a number of member states and NGO’s very determined that Violence Against Women and Girls is such a serious problem worldwide that a unified voice is needed. As the meeting began, 41 member states had already agreed that action must be taken to end violence against women and girls. This is a hopeful sign, especially since both the African and South American States are included in the declarations.

Finally, as I am publishing this on Sunday afternoon when you may have an extra minute or two, I invite you to listen to this song, developed for UN Women and International Women’s Day. Puchase it and promote it, please, to help fund UN Women in its work:


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