We are worthy of more than broken promises
Dr Eleanor Nwadinobi (Nigeria) is a medical doctor and women’s health activist. She is the International President of the Medical Women International Association and the Founding Cochair of Every Woman Treaty.
COVID-19 is a war we did not choose to fight with several other battles intertwined such as the battle for our lives and livelihoods, and the battle against the twin pandemic – that of violence against women and girls. Pre-COVID, this was already affecting 35% of women worldwide. With COVID-19, these numbers have risen exponentially. As members of the workforce obliged to work from home in close quarters with domestic abusers, women have become more imprisoned than they ever were. They face intimate partner violence from which they would normally have a buffer of protection from going to workplaces outside the home and access community services. They are the unpaid caregivers. They are the leftbehind widows vulnerable to abuse. They are the survivors seeking support for mental health issues that face reduced access to experts. They are the exposed, facing female genital mutilation due to restricted movement of human rights defenders. The challenges are many, but at the root of every crisis is opportunity for creativity and for building trust with the community; to band together in sisterhood and let our resilience shine through our collective efforts. The Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria is responding to these circumstances by leading an innovative, grassroots campaign focused on women’s rights to health information – the WORTHI campaign. We are giving women who are the bearers and carers in every home, access to life-saving health information in an easy to understand format. We use simple, pictorial formats as well as local languages to ensure that women are able to use this information to make the best health decisions for themselves and their families. But the battle is bigger than this, and beyond WORTHI we are insisting that governments must incorporate women’s voices in their emergency response and in global health governance in general. At a global level we want to see them commit to a treaty to end violence against women and girls, and we will no longer accept broken promises.