Report from Vice President for North America

Dr. Connie Newman

Connie Newman MWIA Regional Vice President for North America

The UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) convened its 68th session in New York City, March 11 -22, 2024, with the priority theme, “Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective”. More information can be found on this website.

Members of several MWIA country organizations attended UN CSW68, including Canada, U.S., Nigeria, Australia. MWIA Executive Committee members in attendance were Eleanor Nwadinobi, Mariam Jashi, Amany Asfour, Eliza Chin, Bong Ok Kim and Claribel Adams. Several events held by embassies, including Egypt and Canada, invited members of MWIA.

Publication on UN CSW website of MWIA statement (E/CN.6/2024/NGO/151) on adverse health effects of violence against women and girls      

A significant accomplishment for MWIA was the acceptance and publication of an MWIA paper on adverse physical and mental health effects of violence against women and girls.  This paper was published on the UN Women CSW68 Official Documents page. A direct link to this statement (E/CN.6/2024/NGO/151) follows:

Ashna Basu MD, Australia, honored as Global Youth Fellow

Dr. Basu, Chair of young MWIA, was named a Global Youth Fellow by the NGO CSW and received a $1000 award which she donated to young MWIA.  Dr. Basu also had the honor of moderating a panel in the ECOSOC chamber on Closing the Gender Gap in Education.  The panel was co-hosted by the President of the General Assembly and UN Women.

Parallel events hosted by MWIA, AMWA, MWAN, FMWC

The remainder of this report summarizes official parallel events organized by MWIA and its country organizations. Other events that occurred during UN CSW and involved MWIA speakers are also described briefly.

March 12 2024 MWIA parallel event, “Eliminating Gender-based inequities in healthcare to achieve gender equality”         

On March 12, an MWIA official parallel event alongside CSW68 was held at New York University Langone Health Center, and via Zoom.  The event was hosted by MWIA in collaboration with the International Health Awareness Network [IHAN] the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) and the New York University School of Medicine Holman Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism.  The program “Eliminating Gender-based Inequities in Healthcare to Achieve Gender Equality” was developed and moderated by Dr. Connie Newman, MWIA VP North America and UN representative.  Topics discussed in 3 separate panels were violence against women and girls, access to reproductive health services, international law regarding health and healtcare as a human right, and sex and gender- specific differences in diseases.

The speakers were national and international physicians and lawyers: Eleanor Nwadinobi, MD, Nigeria, President, MWIA; Mariam Jashi, MD, Georgia, Secretary General, MWIA; Gabrielle Casper, MBBS, Ob-gyn, Australia, Professor, University Notre Dame; President, IHAN and Past President MWIA; Eliza Chin, MD, MPH Internal Medicine, USA, Executive Director, AMWA, Treasurer MWIA; Ellen Ferranti, MD, Internal Medicine, USA ,MWIA UN Representative; Banafcheh Hejazi, MD, Family Medicine, Canada, Professor, McGill University; Salima Namusobya, Esq, Kenya, Vice President Africa, Center Reproductive Rights; Connie Newman, MD, Endocrinology, Adjunct Professor NYU School Medicine USA,  MWIA Vice President, North America and UN Representative; Fay Parris, Esq, USA, International Human Rights Committee, Women’s Bar Association, NY and Sorosh Roshan, MD, Ob-gyn, USA, Founder, IHAN. 

Dr. Eleanor Nwadinobi and Dr. Mariam Jashi opened the program, emphasizing the critical importance of gender equity in healthcare. Dr. Nwadinobi acknowledged the UN representatives, Drs Newman and Ferranti, the members of the MWIA Executive Committee who were present: Drs. Mariam Jashi, SG, Dr Eliza Chin, Treasurer, Dr. Amany Asfour, President-elect, Dr. Claribel Adam, VP for NE Africa region, and Dr. Bong Ok Kim, VP for the Western Pacific region. She recognized MWIA Past President, Dr. Gabrielle Casper, and Dr. Sorosh Roshan, Founder of IHAN.  She also welcomed the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria, whose members were represented at this event, and had ECOSOC status.  Dr. Nwadinobi said, “Women hold up half the sky and give birth to the other half”. She emphasized that as women and men are not homogenous, it is critical to incorporate into healthcare provider education the impacts of sex and gender on all health conditions across the lifespan. She highlighted the joint efforts of the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Gates Foundation at the Innovation Equity Forum to address the diversity of the population. She commented that the UN Secretary General emphasized the digital divide because of male domination and male-based algorithms. Tech solutions that protect women from tech enabled violence are needed.

Dr Nwadinobi referred to the physical and mental health effects of violence against women and girls (VAWG), and the need for an optional protocol to CEDAW to end VAWG. She called for zero tolerance to VAWG and to harassment in the workplace.  And she highlighted the work of the VAWG SIG led by Dr. Minnie Oseji, to end this violence which currently affects 1 in 3 women/girls globally.  Dr. Nwadinobi announced that at the Berlin Summit in October 2023, MWIA was one of the inaugural members of Equity 2030 Alliance, led by UNFPA, and that in early March, MWIA and the Global Sepsis Alliance released a Statement to address the significant burden of sepsis, which is more common in women. At the end of her remarks she emphasized the importance of investing in our youth, and noted that the Chair of young MWIA, Dr. Ashna Basu, who had been invited as panelist for this meeting, was called away to moderate an event hosted by the UN President of the General Assembly and UN Women, “Closing the gender gap in education”.

Dr. Mariam Jashi emphasized that MWIA has a very long history of advocating for the rights of women and girls. She noted several challenges that we must overcome if gender equality is to be achieved: 1) lack of equal representation of women in government, high level positions in the workplace, and as delegates to world health organizations.  She noted that while women represent 77% of healthcare workers, only 25% are in executive positions. 2) challenges related to fundamental rights to life and health. 3) Need for greater investment in gender related healthcare services.  For example, globally only one third of women are screened for cervical cancer.

In the first panel, Dr. Casper provided an overview of violence against women and girls which occurs in epic proportions (1 of 3 women/girls globally). She stated that in the 50% of women who die by homicide, the killers are former or current partners.  Dr. Caspar discussed harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (cutting), child brides and the hostilities widows face.  Dr. Roshan discussed the work of IHAN, which was founded 40 years ago. She noted that in the last 50 years, we have heard repeatedly that genital cutting is on the rise, and that maternal mortality is very high in some wealthy countries.  She noted that we have monumental work to do—and she asked each of us to contribute: raise one child out of poverty, and advocate for education of women and children.   Dr. Hejazi, on video, outlined solutions to violence.  These included raising awareness, changing social norms (which is a greater challenge than changing attitudes of individuals), social and economic empowerment of women and girls, speaking out against violence against women and girls, and interventions targeting men and boys.

The second panel focused on reproductive healthcare and the rights to health and healthcare. Salima Namusobya Esq, Kenya, Vice President Africa region, Center for Reproductive Rights, reviewed the state of reproductive healthcare services in Africa, which varies among countries.  The Center for Reproductive Rights coordinates legal assistance to women who have been mistreated, or denied abortion, despite its legality in their country.   In a case in Kenya, a 16-year-old girl who suffered a miscarriage, and sought medical treatment was arrested along with her service provider. Opposition groups have been harassing healthcare workers and women who seek abortion services. The key change needed is decriminalization of abortion in all African countries.  She also asked for education of women and girls about reproductive health, and incorporation of reproductive healthcare services in primary care.

Subsequently Fay Parris, Esq, USA, discussed health as a human right.  She noted that international law and the World Health Organization (WHO) consider access to the highest standard of healthcare available as a right. In 1998 WHO and UNICEF said that people have a right to be free of a harmful environment.  WHO requires countries to take specific actions regarding health such as preventative measures including immunization, family planning and maternal healthcare.  She noted that it is up to lawyers to speak to judges to educate them about the specific harms of forced marriage, forced pregnancy, child soldiers and other dangerous practices.

In the third panel, Dr.  Newman provided an overview of sex and gender differences in disease, which is the subject of the textbook that she co-edited, How Sex and Gender Impact Clinical Practice, published by Elsevier in 2021.  She emphasized that symptoms of myocardial ischemia may differ in women and men, leading to delay in diagnosis and treatment of women.  One of her slides showed the differences in coronary artery plaque deposition in women and men. Dr. Eliza Chin discussed the work AMWA in education of medical and other health professional students in sex and gender specific health, including four Sex and Gender Health Summits, and distribution to Deans of medical schools the textbook co-edited by Dr Newman and Dr Marjorie Jenkins, How Sex and Gender Impact Clinical Practice.  Dr. Chin praised the film, Ms Diagnosed, which depicts the harms women with heart disease face when their symptoms are ignored.  She called for public policy about sex and gender specific health education and praised the new initiative of the White House to fund more research in women’s health.

Dr. Ellen Ferranti, MWIA representative to the UN, moderated questions from the live audience and those online.  Subsequently, at the close of the meeting, she read an official Statement (see below) from MWIA, IHAN and AMWA on solutions to  gender-based inequities in health and healthcare.  The Statement calls for centering women in policy discussions; laws and policies to increase access to reproductive healthcare services, and government policies worldwide to commit to increasing the capacity of the healthcare system, education of healthcare providers and the community, as well as programs to support survivors of violence and to empower women economically.  Importantly the Statement asked for more education of medical students and physicians about identification of survivors of violence, trauma informed care, and community support systems; and medical education about the impact of sex and/or gender on disease pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, response to medications and other treatment, attitudes towards disease, and communication between the practitioner and the patient. This Statement was subsequently circulated at the UN and will be disseminated globally.

Fig 1. Speakers at MWIA parallel event, Eliminating Gender-Based Inequities in Healthcare to AchieveGender Equality. From left to right, Mariam Jashi, Sorosh Roshan, Gabrielle Casper, Connie Newman,
Eleanor Nwadinobi, Fay Parris, Ellen Ferranti, Salima Namusobya, Eliza Chin

Fig 2. Attendees at MWIA parallel event, Eliminating Gender-Based Inequities in Healthcare to AchieveGender Equality.

Fig 3. Dr Connie Newman, MWIA Vice-President, North America, and UN Representative, and AMWA PastPresident, introduced the meeting, highlighting the MWIA Statement on health effects of violence against
women that was published on the UN CSW website.

MWIA, IHAN, AMWA Statement on Gender Inequities in Healthcare, March 12, 2024

March 11, 2024, American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) program on gender equity

On March 11, AMWA sponsored a parallel event, “Women physicians working to prioritize gender equality to promote SDGs”. The program was developed and moderated by Drs. Padmini Murthy and Roberta Gebhard. Speakers included Dr. Beth Garner, President AMWA, Dr. Gloria Bachman, Dr Rosy Thachil, Dr Panela Brug, Dr. Roopa Dhatt, Dr. Ramneek Kaur Dosanjih, Dr. Juana Hutchinson-Coles and Liz Bickley.

March 12, 2024, Federation of Medical Women of Canada virtual program on physician advocacy

As a member of the Department of Global Communication, FMWC held its first CSW virtual event March 12, 2024. Co-chaired by FMWC President Dr. Kimberly Williams and FMWC resident representative, Dr. Maria Leis, the event was entitled: “Learning to Advocate for Ourselves, Our Communities and into the Future: Tips from Female Physicians”. The speakers were Dr. Mamta Gautam, Dr. Simone Lebeuf, Dr. Ojistoh Horn, all from the FMWC and Dr. Eliza Chin from AMWA and Dr. Madupe Tunde-Byass from Black Physicians of Canada.

March 13, 2024, MWAN program on gender equality in Nigeria

The Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria (MWAN) held a parallel event, “Promoting gender equality of women and girls in Nigeria by addressing poverty and strengthening health systems”. Dr. Professor Rosemary Ogu, National President MWAN, opened the program followed by Dr. Eleanor Nwadinobi, MWIA President, the guest of honor. Speakers included Barr Uju Ohanenye, Minister of Women’s Affairs, Dr. Professor Gabrielle Casper, Past President MWIA, Dr. Mininin Oseji, Chair MWIA SIG Violence against women and girls, Dr. Zainab Kwaru Mohammed-Idris, President elect MWAN,

March 13, 2024, Global 2023 Alliance

Dr. Eleanor Nwadinobi was a speaker at the Global 2023 Alliance side event titled “Unlocking $12 Trillion of Economic Growth – Investing in Women-Centric Solutions,” organized by the Government of Norway and UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, on the sidelines of the 68th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Dr. Nwadinobi referred to the importance of sex and gender differences in disease, highlighting the textbook co-edited by Dr. Connie Newman, “How Sex and Gender Impact Clinical Practice”.

March 13, 2024, Film Screening: Afghan Dreamers
On the evening of March 13, 2024, AMWA and the Harvard Asian Alumni Alliance presented a special screening of the film, Afghan Dreamers which tells the story of a group of schoolgirls in Afghanistan who challenged gender roles to compete in robotics competitions. The film was deeply moving. Dr. Douglas Chin (AMWA) organized this event and led a panel discussion after the film.
March 14, 2024, Parallel event on harassment, co-sponsored by MWIA

On March 14, an official parallel event of UN NGO/CSW68 on harassment was held. Co-Sponsors were: United Nations Association of New York, Medical Women’s International Association and Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York. Fay Parris organized the session, and Eleanor Nwadinobi served on the panel. The speakers emphasized the initiative to make May 24 an official International Day against harassment and for inclusion of women in the world of work. Information about this initiative can be found below.

Fig 4. Speakers at parallel event on harassment organized by Fay Parris, featured on far left, with DrEleanor Nwadinobi on the far right

March 15, 2024, The World of Work: Best practices in vibrancy

Drs Connie Newman and Eliza Chin were panelists at a meeting organized by Fay Parris, Esq: “The World of Work: A candid discussion about our best practices in vibrancies”. The discussion centered on harassment in the workplace and highlighted the efforts to make May 24 an official International Day against harassment and for inclusion of women in the world of work. Dr. Newman talked about sexual and gender -based harassment of women, explaining how a supportive family and an empowering education at Wellesley College helped her respond to harassment during her career. She also referred to a book chapter that she co-authored, “Sexual harassment in the modern era”, Rutledge 2021.

Fig 5. Several speakers at the meeting on The World of Work: Best Practices in Vibrancy.

March 15, Reception for friends of IHAN

Dr. Sorosh Roshan, Founder of IHAN, hosted a reception at her home, with guests from IHAN, MWIA and the International Council of Women. Attending from MWIA were Drs. Eleanor Nwadinobi, Mariam Jashi, Gabrielle Casper, Ashna Basu, and Connie Newman..

Fig 6. Dr. Connie Newman, MWIA VP North America with Martine Marandel, President, InternationalCouncil of Women and Dr. Rosemary Ogu, President Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria

Fig 7. From left to right, Drs. Gabrielle Casper, Connie Newman, Eleanor Nwadinobi, Sorosh Roshan,Mariam Jashi, Ashna Basu

March 20 2024 Feet on the Ground: Achieving Greater Economic Empowerment for Widows

This program sponsored by WiDO (Widows Development Organization) and moderated by Professor Marie Linton Umeh WiDO UN representative, discussed the needs of widows regarding money, shelter, and stigma. WiDO envisions a world where widows can thrive free of discrimination. Dr. Eleanor Nwadinobi, President, WiDO and President MWIA, was one of the main speakers. She emphasized that many but not all cultural practices have changed since WiDO began 30 years. Yet still in some cultures widows do not inherit and are “passed on” to the next surviving male. Widows may be as young as 9 years old in the case of child brides. This organization teaches widows about saving money and skills useful for living without a husband. Other speakers were Chinwe Iheanacho, WiDO Program officer, Adeyemi Odudimu UN representative, Chaplain (Major) Iheanyichukuchu Sunday, Dr. Sidney Louis Davis, Jr, Lady Vivian Irandi, WiDO outreach founder and Adeyemi Odudimu, WiDO youth representative. June 23 is UN International Widows Day.

Fig 8. This poster shows photographs of the panelists for the parallel event program sponsored by WiDO