A Decade of Learning

Throughout the past decade of the International Women’s Health Program, there have been many lessons learned. The celebration of our 10 year anniversary in 2008 spurred some needed reflection, which has helped us develop ideas for the way forward.

Lessons Learned

  1. Professional associations can and do contribute in remarkable ways to the global efforts to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity.
  2. Professional associations, having a keen understanding of the impacts of simple and effective interventions on maternal mortality and morbidity rates, have a responsibility and an obligation to use their influence to promote and defend sexual and reproductive rights for all women.
  3. “By teaching you will learn; by learning you will teach.” As much as we inform our colleagues in less developed countries, we also learn from them.
  4. Diverse teams are better teams. A multidisciplinary group of AIP instructors should be instructing multidisciplinary participants to reinforce the fact that a collaborative approach, inclusive of all health care practitioners related to obstetric and gynecological care, yields the best results in reducing maternal mortality and morbidity.
  5. Do no harm. Practices that work well in a developed setting may not work in less developed countries. It is important to question the practices we promote, and to take into account the participants and their contexts.
  6. There are no cookie-cutter approaches to working internationally. Applying the same model in different contexts does not yield the best results. Adaptability in programming and in approach is a more sensitive and effective way to work.
  7. Not everyone possesses the necessary qualities to be effective in international work: flexibility, humility and an open mind are key to a successful contribution. However, there are ways for everyone to contribute that suit their talents and abilities.
  8. Millions of dollars aren’t necessary to make a difference – though money does help! Small, timely, and focused interventions can make a life-saving impact.
  9. Being vocal about the health challenges facing women around the world is very important. Raising our voices and using the visibility of our professional associations to impact public and policy debates is a vital of component of our action.
  10. We are not alone. We are a part of a global movement working towards the same goals of a better world for women. Working together, sharing resources, experiences and best practices is important.
  11. International work benefits our community at home. A better understanding of the diversity of the world we live in improves the quality of our work, particularly in a society that is more multicultural every day.
  12. Evidence-based clinical practice endures as a relevant approach to bringing information to practitioners in less developed countries.
  13. Canada is not free from violations of sexual and reproductive rights and health. We must remain vigilant and strive to improve our own practices and policies in the ongoing fight to protect those rights.

The Way Forward:

  1. Identifying ways to better incorporate young people and residents into IWHP programs is essential to supporting those programs in the long-term.
  2. It is time to address women’s sexual and reproductive rights issues at different stages of their lives. Safe motherhood and newborn health, while certainly critical issues, are not the only challenges women face in defending their sexual and reproductive rights.
  3. Stronger advocacy capabilities, gained through more work with our national and international partners on advocacy projects, are a necessary tool in the fight to improve the lives of women everywhere.
  4. The creation of an inter-institutional group to further dialogue would be an effective way of exchanging best practices and lessons learned and of building partnerships.
  5. Considering the constant evolution of the IWHP through input from members, partners and contacts with other organizations working on international health issues, it would be helpful to document those learning experiences and make them available to others.
  6. It is important to know what works and what doesn’t. Better incorporating monitoring and evaluation capacities into our program and into specific projects will help make us more effective.
  7. Teaching and training alone are not enough. A more comprehensive strategy is needed to ensure that practices change.
A Decade of Learning