Saturday, 19 March 2016

International Women's Day


by Rachel

This post is a little late in coming, but March 8th was International Women's Day (thanks for the reminder, Facebook).  I actually had a patient that day wearing a traditional Burundian dress made out of fabric that featured the words "mars 8" and "la journee internationale des femmes."   I don't think that in the past, I would have paid all that much attention to a day celebrating women.  In my own life growing up, I didn't see that there was all that much gender inequality in the world.  I was able to get into the schools I wanted, the profession I wanted, the job I wanted.  I was able to choose marriage to someone I loved, decide when to have children and how many.  I knew (know) a lot of fantastic women doing a lot of amazing things, so I supposed a day celebrating women was fine.






Then I started living and working overseas, and the idea of International Women's Day has taken on a whole new meaning.  I wrote a post on March 8 expressing my feelings of the day:

March 8 = International Women's Day. Hooray! So glad that I chose to be an OB-GYN 12 yrs ago. At the time I had no idea how perfect this field is for impacting the lives of women around the globe. I am privileged to work with women who have had no advantages yet remain resilient and strong the in face of much adversity and heartache, and I pray that I am bringing hope into their worlds. I wait and work for the day when women won't have to worry about finding food to feed their families, they won't have to bury their children due to preventable diseases, and they won't have to fear childbirth as a likely cause of death. Today I celebrated by helping a woman get pregnant, preventing a woman from getting pregnant 
smile emoticonstopping a postpartum hemorrhage, diagnosing a tubal pregnancy, and delivering a healthy screaming baby. Some days I love this job.

As so often is the case, though, there are many ups and downs in this work.  Several days later I came home dejected and defeated.  The lady with the tubal pregnancy had gone home before her surgery because her husband refused to allow it.  He was too concerned with the potential decrease to her future fertility to understand that she could most likely die if left untreated.  Another lady requested a tubal ligation during her 5th C-section (this time for two dead babies) and the staff strongly advised against my performing it, since her husband wasn't there to give consent.  A third patient came in with a bad infection months after a C-section, and told me her husband had already left her because of the chronically draining pus.  And then later that day, I walked in to the OR to find Jason debriding burned skin off of a little 9 year old girl whose father had pushed her into a cooking fire because he was trying to beat her mother, and she was standing in the way.  

Oh, the stories that we see and hear.  It is amazing that these women will continue to get up and go back to their homes and keep living.  Keep caring for their families.  Keep toiling in their fields.  And even, sometimes, keep smiling.  And I'm realizing that International Women's Day isn't just a day to celebrate women, although we should.  And it's not even just a day to talk about equal opportunities in the workplace and increased salaries for working women.  It's a day to look around at the world, to see where women have been overlooked, abused, taken advantage of, beaten down, and to try to do something about that.  To try to ensure that they receive basic human rights.  To offer love and prayers and hope that it won't always be this way.  It's hard to fathom that somewhere between 1 in 16 and 1 in 20 women here in Burundi will die because of a complication of pregnancy and/or childbirth.  How is that even possible in 2016?  How are we allowing that to happen in this day and age?  I wish I had a good conclusion to these thoughts.  I do know that God sees every woman and her pain and heartache.  And I pray that He would give us the desire and the courage to see those women too, and to work for change both in our own lives and also globally.  Perhaps we will see that in our lifetime.

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