By Elizabeth J. Clark, PhD, ACSW, MPH
Today we visited The Suzanne Mubarak Regional Centre for Women’s Health and Development (SMC) in Alexandria. This is a special program of Mrs. Murbarak, the First Lady of Egypt, and it is part of the national budget. We met with the director of women’s development. Mrs. Khagida Khashana and her staff and toured the state-of-the art facilities. They have been in operation for two years.
Their posters use the tag line of”Breaking the Silence in Egypt.” Their mission statement is linked to the WHO definition: The mission of the SMC is to promote women’s health and development in Egypt and friendly neighboring countries, health being a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, and is closely linked to women’s development. They emphasized that their definition includes “a healthy sexual and reproductive life.” Their long term goals are to combat illness, ignorance, poverty and to support women’s rights.
Their outreach and community organizing focus is reaching school teachers, social workers, and NGOs to get women referred for their services and as settings for their educational programs which also include skill building.
In addition to routine care in areas such as obesity and diabetes, cancer screenings, bone health and antismoking, they do genetic markers, Microeconomics, and productive skills for refugees.
They have a mobile clinic for breast cancer for women in rural areas, and they are just starting a breast cancer survivorship program. They are partnering with the Susan G. Koman organization from the USA and they were having their first walk at the pyramids later this week.
They told us that AIDS is not a serious problem in Egypt, nor is there much rape because of their social culture and because rape is a major crime punishable by death. However, domestic violence and genital mutilation are both problems. One of the things they try to do is to teach women that neither is a part of their religion.
They said that women in Egypt don’t talk about violence, even to each other. Thus, the tag line above about breaking the silence. They are also training doctors to detect battering, and Mrs. Murbarak has created a Women’s Council to help battered women with legal problems.
In the USA, President Obama has established the Council for Women and Girls. I was pleased to be present when he signed that important order. In Egypt, the Women Center was also established by Presidential decree. It also receives a yearly budget from the Egyptian government to cover the operating expenses. We could use a greater governmental focus on women’s health in the United States.