Reaching out to out of reach women

Dear Loyal Blog Follower…

First patient, a baby needing heart surgery
If only you knew my thoughts and feelings today. If only you knew what I saw, and what I heard. If only…  I went with the START NGO Mobile Medical Team,  aiming to take medical services for women who are out of reach. The NGO had its own equipment and staff, though today the mobile medical bus (I think that is what it’s called) was borrowed from the MoH – but it was not as functional as we thought it would be.
The bus was given to the KRG’s MoH by the Koreans

As the team began setting up, I spoke to the first woman there. She was in her thirties with a baby held in her arms. I say hello and the baby holds my fingers tight. (And me being all spiritual, I interpret this as the baby’s way of telling me ‘I need you Saz!’) I am told by the mother that she took the new born to Erbil a few days back — of course she paid so much money for transport, doctor and medication — then realized the four month old needs a heart surgery after her second birthday. That’s how my day began.

Women in the village waiting to see the Dr.
In less than an hour of our arrival I already had over 40 women’s names in my notebook, I try to give them numbers so they know the sequence to see the doctor, only to realize most of them have not gone through any schooling that they can’t recognize numbers. I feel guilty. I hope I have not caused any embarrassment.
Sitting with the women in the village
The room inside the mosque (where we are based) is full and I sit on the floor outside with a group of women. They are friendly, very friendly and we talk as if we have known each other all our lives. I love these moments. I think to myself: “This is me. this is what I love doing.”We talk of many things as we wait for other women to go in one by one to see the doctor. In this seating on the floor, I make many friends, and I also learn a lot about my own society, a place about 45 minutes outside my capital.
My first new friend, Pura Z.
I learn these women never go to a doctor for a checkup, only when they are in pain. I also learn these women are always in pain: “My knees, my back, my kidney, my stomach, I have a high blood pressure,” Yes, one woman can tell you she suffers from all of these. I don’t know if it is psychological or it is indeed true. I learn women here are also sensitive, I am asked over and over again if the doctor is a male or a female, I also learn they don’t see their local nurses if they are males. I learn that these women don’t get mammogram or pap smear tests. I learn they are not educated enough about any health or hygiene matters, everything from brushing teeth to smoking– yes, many women in this village smoke. My friend Pura Z. said she smokes two packs of a day.
Smoking a norm among elder women
As we sit and talk, laugh and share stories I begin to uncover various other issues in this village. There seem to be many unwanted pregnancies and there is much interest from the women on contraception… after five, six and seven children. I meet a woman who seems to have been pregnant every single year since her marriage. I must also mention women here give birth at home, without the presence of a doctor or a professionally trained midwife. I learn these women all know one another, they are all somehow related, and they like to show off their new buk (bride) in large gatherings — though I also realize they bring them to the doctor early on after their marriage if they are not expecting a few months after their marriage.
I am caught on my phone tweeting

I make more friends. I learn being ill can be costly, serious illnesses means a travel to the capital, transport can be costly, and so are the doctors and medicine. I learn being an older women and being pregnant can be seen as shame. I also realize that coming once as a visit is not going to have much benefit. Many of these patients need follow ups.

Every women, every child, should have access to a great doctor and the best possible medication, without exceptions, without excuses. We also need to educate and empower women like Lami’a (a young woman I met with six kids) so that she can bring up her children in a better, healthier way.

The highlight of my day…
My day is a little depressing. But it was special. Despite the major health crises, I realize once again that I live in a society where people are exceptionally friendly, welcoming, warm hearted, kind and after five minutes of meeting them it feels like a lifetime. As I sit on my bed tonight, I remember the faces I met, and I miss them. I wish to revisit as a friend, I wish to sit down on the ground as they speak of their life and I want to listen, ask questions. I want to laugh with them, and if I can… I want to help. They deserve help.
Hope for the future

P.S. I  am waiting for the return of some of our young Kurds abroad, who are studying medicine or have completed their degrees. I have a belief that the future of Kurdistan is in their hands, and I believe they are passionate, motivated and strong enough to contribute, they will come and save this crises. I know they will… all day today I was thinking of people like Kanyaw, Shak, Tara, Leila and many others.

All pictures were taken for the purpose of this blog only! 
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One thought on “Reaching out to out of reach women

  1. The only words i can think about it after reading this is some big questions:
    Why Kurdish women should go through all this pain in the disputed areas and why our KRG deals with this area as No Mans Land ?
    This effort of START Org. was possible by the generous funding of the France Embassy in Baghdad and the cooperation of the General Directorate of Health in Erbil ,I thank all of them and thank you for your kind participation with the team today dear Sazan .
    Safin Ali
    Director of START

    Like

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