Sharing in Post-2015 Agenda: RI Global and Women’s Groups at CSW60

Last December, a group of women in the village of Chancho, Ethiopia visited the local clinic to give the nurses a much-needed hand.

They changed sheets and tidied up the ten bed-ridden patients. They brought products from the local dairy farm to share. Mostly, they chatted and held hands, comforting the sick women and providing a support system for those who don’t have one.

All of this takes place under the umbrella of the Women’s Health Association of Ethiopia (WHAE), a local NGO established in 2011 to train and unite women in rural communities on issues of health, economic empowerment and social justice. Supported by the Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association (NKS), the two organizations met and shared insights on working together to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals at a recent panel sponsored by Rehabilitation International during CSW60.

“When given the opportunity to change their mentality and be creative, women, I believe can change the whole world,” said WHAE Director Birikit Terefe. “Through my experience in WHAE, I have learned three things: a) women know what’s good for them, even if they don’t think it’s possible; b) when she is in a community, when one woman speaks, she has a chorus behind her; and c) sustainable development is not about providing women with the things they need, but demonstrating belief in their ideas.”

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Solveig Horne, the Ministry of Children, Equality and Inclusion of Norway, kicked off the panel, moderated by RI’s President Jan Mons Bakken, by sharing insights about the issues women have challenged in Ethiopia and the results they have achieved with the partnership, including the reduction of Female-Genital Mutilation and child marriage. Horne advocated for the further ability of women to drive development forward and for the capability of civil society to ensure governments are aware of their responsibilities toward women.

On the celebration of the Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association’s 120-year anniversary, Grete Herlofson, the Secretary-General of the NKS, delivered a “report” to its founder, Fredrikke Marie Qvam, about the achievements undertaken through its solidarity and volunteerism. She also addressed the challenges ahead.

“Fredrikke, Norway has the resources to fight all violence against women and until we do so, true equality will not be reached,” Herlofson told an audience of about 40 people. “While you were training nurses to fight war and the outbreak of tuberculoisis, we are now fighting adverts and attitudes that affect the mental health of our young women.”

The 41,000 members of the NKS are dispersed among more than 650 local organizations, such as the one in Ethiopia, making it one of the world’s largest NGOs. The activities of the associations vary from one society to another, but they fall within the NKS’s mission and adhere to the initiatives embodied in its strategic plan.

Mons Bakken said the NKS “has always been a close partner of RI” in its mandate. “Twenty percent of the women they work with include women with disabilities,” he added. “NKS has contributed to building disabilities and the overall health of women into the Norwegian welfare system; its sister organization, WHAE, can be a similar strength in the Ethiopian society.”