Yesterday’s discussion centered on Reproductive Justice (RJ) and SisterSong, a US-based women of color collective working for RJ. Today’s post features an organization that understands the need for reproductive justice to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds all the time, even in times of crisis and emergency.
The RAISE Initiative-Reproductive Health Access, Information and Services in Emergencies-aims to improve the quality of life of those affected by natural or human-made disasters. Oftentimes, and especially in the wake of a major catastrophe, reproductive health (RH) is overlooked or seen as an unnecessary or secondary concern of governments and NGOs working to help people recover from a disaster.
Numerous case studies have shown that when water, food and shelter are the only concerns of organizations seeking to “help” survivors, harm inevitably comes to the groups with the highest pre-disaster risk factors for vulnerability: basically anyone who is not able-bodied, adult-but-not-elderly, and male. Consider that the number of boy and girl children, adult women, disabled or ill adult men, and elderly men and women combined is considerably higher than the number of healthy, nondisabled men ages 18-55; with this fact in mind it is absurd that what is “normal” and necessary for survival is based on what that minority of the population may need.
Women are at least half of any population, (although, because of socially-constructed gender roles and a lack of survival skills women may have been disproportionately killed in any disaster) and their needs should be taken into consideration when providing any services to an affected population. Women’s needs may include sanitary pads, extra-nutrition if they are pregnant or breastfeeding, well-planned and secure shelter, soap, and birth control. Many people mistakenly believe that life stops for survivors in post-disaster camps, but babies are born and love is made, even in the shadow of chaos.
Much has been written about the opportunity that arises in the wake of a disaster to weaken patriarchy and reinforce gender equality and yet the same mistakes are made over and over again, from Haiti to Pakistan to Japan.
RAISE, which has offices in New York, London, Brussels and Nairobi, recognizes the vital role in overall health that reproductive health plays, and understands that these needs in an emergency setting are even more pressing. “Access to reproductive health care is a basic human right. Yet integrated and fully comprehensive reproductive health services are not the norm in most emergency settings. People are displaced from their homes for many reasons, and an overwhelming number of preventable deaths and illnesses related to reproductive health affect populations in crisis.”
RAISE, as far as I know, is one of the only organizations of its kind. I know very little about the Reproductive Health Response in Crisis Consortium, or the Women’s Refugee Commission. If you know of other organizations that specifically address the reproductive health needs of populations affected by disaster please share them in the comments section. RAISE is unique in its approach, and addresses RH through technical support to partner organizations, clinical training, advocacy, research, and documentation and dissemination of information.
Additionally, RAISE offers resources for advocacy, up-to-date news articles about reproductive health issues, and a large multimedia library with information about sexual and reproductive health in numerous contexts.
“By promoting awareness of the full range of reproductive health (RH) challenges in refugee and internally displaced person (IDP) situations and the consequences of inaction, RAISE Initiative staff and advocacy partners work to mobilise key humanitarian actors – UN agencies, international bodies, donor governments and host countries – to include RH as an integral part of their humanitarian response and action.”
RAISE works on long-term projects in a number of places, including Colombia, two projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Southern Sudan, the Thai-Burmese border, and Uganda. RAISE offers a number of services such as comprehensive reproductive health care, emergency obstetric care, family planning, testing and information for HIV and STIs, and assistance in bringing about an end to gender-based violence.
If you would like to help make RH a priority in both emergency and everyday situations, there are many ways to contribute to or participate in the RAISE Initiative. RAISE offers clinical training in emergency obstetrical care, post-abortion care, and family planning, in addition to offering a multimedia training tool for clinical care for sexual assault survivors. You can also subscribe to their email list for regular RAISE updates and a weekly literature review.
- Day 25- SisterSong (feministactivism.wordpress.com)
- sexual and reproductive health and rights of teenage girls (signoflifekenya.wordpress.com)