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Offer: Your Voices to Washington DC

This is a need and an offer. A need for me and an offer to all of you.

I have been recently granted with a Fellowship by the Center for Health and Gender Equity to go to the United States Congress in Washington DC to talk to legislators about building a model of comprehensive reproductive health for women around the world. I WOULD LOVE to take this terrific opportunity to bring your voices and the voices of the women who live in your communities, in your countries, to Washington DC with me.

Legislators know how to create policies, and they try to make them work, but they know very little about the needs of real people for whom they are developing these policies. All the organizations I am working with to advocate for women's health and women's rights are taking advantage of the wonderful political moment we have in the United States with President Obama to push further and create a healthier present and future for girls and women all over the world. We know that when girls and women are healthy, their communities are healthier too.

I know well the reproductive health concerns of women from my community and from other communities I have lived in, but I need your help to learn more about the women in your communities. We cannot create a model of global reproductive health for women if we do not include the voices of women from all over the world in the agenda. I need to know the main concerns of the women in your communities as well as their secondary concerns. My aim is to include men within this model of reproductive health because it is not enough to educate and empower women if they need the consent of their husbands in every decision making.

I am leaving May 2 to Washington DC, just ten days before I travel to Uganda and Kenya to work with women and reproductive health; the time couldn't be more appropriate.

I still have two weeks to read your comments, to take your voices and bring them with me to the Congress of the United States.

Blessings and gratitude


Nalubega's picture

Coming to Uganda

I would like to invite you to share some healthy information with the women in Uganda SPACE organisation.Do you intend to visit specified groups only?

Araceli's picture

Thank you for your invitation!!!!

The first week of my stay in Kampala, I will be at Makerere University with a group of medical students and faculty from my university in the United States. The second and third week, I will be working with the Family Planning Association in Kampala, especially seeing how a program the Association launched last year is working for the control of sexually transmitted diseases among the sex workers of Kampala.

I would love to talk to rural women if I have the opportunity. During the first week, I will go to a cyber cafe and check my e-mail, and I can contact you again. I am planning to buy a cell phone when I get there so I can make meetings easier.
Thank you again, Nalubega, for your invitation. Let me know if we can meet in Kampala. The first day I will be free to meet is May 25.

Many blessings.

jap21's picture


I would like to point out an issue that has not been touched here in Bolivia, and I don't know if it has been raised in other countries. I will start with an example. This case is about a woman who worked at my friend's house as a maid. She came in every morning, did the chores and left at around two. She had been working for a month when she told my friend, weeping, that she was sick. My friend took her to a doctor who said: 'She is sick because she is very nasty, so she got an infection'. When the woman was still on treatment, my friend came back home early twice and found a strong sex smell in her bedroom. She blamed her husband. He denied it. Two weeks after, she had the same kind of peculiar smell the maid had. She fired her. My friend went to the doctor, and got THE SAME PILLS. When she asked the doctor about the kind of infection she had, he said 'it is more likely that you have gotten this infection through leaving soap in your genitals than from sexual intercourse'. By that time, my friend realized the first doctor had meant 'promiscuous' when he said 'nasty' and the second doctor had meant 'I don't want to blame your husband' when he said 'it's the soap'.

This is a little example of how doctors don't want to call diseases by their name, because they fear the consequences. In the case of sexually transmitted diseases, I think people, men and women, need to know the bare truth. Otherwise they end up getting infected over and over again because they do not understand the words 'nasty' or 'it's the soap'. And that could happen until they get AIDS, for instance, just because they did not warn themselves that their sexual partner has another partner(s) that they don't know about. So I think one way of making doctors tell the bare truth to their patients is by making laws and policies that protect patients by stating clearly that doctors should give a written notice with a description of the disease, in SIMPLE WORDS, or otherwise they will be punished in some way.

The "Doctors Tell The Truth" movement would have greater effects on STDs accountability than any research being carried out at present. I would like legislators to know that we, the consumers of health services, are in the hands of people who call our diseases by names that are misleading, or words that are just too hard to understand, and we need that to change.

Thanks for your time, and for reading this. Hope it helps in some way.

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America

Araceli's picture

Absolutely right!!!!!

¡¡¡¡MIL GRACIAS, Jacqueline!!!

I am SO GLAD you pointed out the issue and big problem of sexually transmitted diseases because it is one of my challenges in the city where I live and in the countries in Africa where I will be working this summer. Your two examples not only bring the issue of misleading medical information but also the issue of "WHO gets the blame". In the first example, because the patient was a maid the doctor felt entitled to judge her as dirty and nasty, blaming her for her infection disregarding the fact that for an STD to occur it is necessary at least two people involved. In the second example, because the patient was a married woman, probably respectful to the eyes of the physician, she was not nasty. The problem is that from both scenarios the men are totally absent and once again it is the woman, especially the poor and uneducated, the ones who get the blame.

Wonderful and very valuable information!
Thank you VERY MUCH again, Jacqueline!

jap21's picture

Gracias a tí por tomarlo en cuenta!

Estimada Araceli:

Como eres española, te puedo hablar en español, que bueno! Como un marcado favor, quisiera que me envíes algo de tu know how respecto a cómo introducir estos temas en el contexto de instituciones públicas y no gubernamentales que se dedican a ofrecer servicios de salud, ya que como te decía anteriormente, aquí en Bolivia este tema no se ha tocado, pero a mí me parece que es candente mostrarlo. La organización para la cual trabajo, si yo le doy el know how, seguramente podría iniciar alguna intervención al respecto, para comenzar a lanzarlo socialmente.

Puedes utilizar mi email personal y escribirme en inglés o en español, como desees.

Gracias por tu interés, y ojalá podamos dar algún pasito más allá en este tema.


Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America

Nalubega's picture

meeting in kampala

Yes, it is possible to meet in kampala. You may consider meeting the Uganda space women of kampala surburb called Ndeeba when you are in kampala. Many of them need knowledge and support of their health. Hope to hear from you.

Araceli's picture

I would LOVE to do that

I will try to email you once I am in Kampala.
I will also buy one of these cell phones that can used with a card. Once I am in Kampala you can e-mail me your phone number and I will call you and give you mine. You can write to my university e-mail directly.

Thank you so much Nalubega for the wonderful opportunity. I would love to go to Ndeeba and talk to the women.
More thanks

I would like to point out that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is legalized in Sudan. Yes! IMAGINE!
This matter has been officially legislated and preparations for (raising social awareness about the IMPORTANCE of this harmful practice are on the way. It is a type of a harsh domestic violence against women. Please visit the following link and have a look on the the different types of circumcission:

Araceli's picture


Dear Halima,
You have no idea how much I appreciate your post. I've been working on issues of FGM for about six years, and this is one of the important issues that is taking me to Kenya in a month. I am going to record the voices and images of women who are committed to social change in terms of FGM. It is a very difficult and sensitive topic to discuss, especially from the perspective of a European woman like me because many women from countries where the practice is performed think this is a "private"and "national" business and I shouldn't get involved. However, I don't give up. As an anthropologist, I totally understand the strong cultural component of the practice; as a women's rights advocate, however, I would like to see big social change and the stop of this harmful practice; as a nurse I am very concerned about the permanent physical and psychological damage that FGM causes in OUR daughters, sisters, mothers...

PLEASE, Halima, visit our website This is a project I am running with two wonderful colleagues and friends to bring the voices of women, and men, from all over the world regarding this issue. I would LOVE to hear your opinion. The project is not easy because we know that many women are very reluctant to collaborate for the fear of community rejection. We have started filming women in places where they feel safe. Women and girls safety is our priority. If you could collaborate with our project it would be WONDERFUL. Maybe your friends, women you know, men you know... we need a lot of collaboration so this project can become the voices of women and men and not just the voices of western women.

All my gratitude for your message. I would love to keep in touch with you.

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Ready to collaborate

Dear Araceli,
I have visited your web site and and felt so happy, so excited, so sad! Happy that there is a generation who will be exempted such a practice and enjoy the normal life. My daughter's generation. happy because i determine to be the last woman in my family that have been (CUT). Sad because there is no solution to the intractable problems. Period. I hate this blocked future. It is regrettable that, we as a generation who is bearing irreparable physical, psychological damage, resulting from such harmful practice, there is no SOLUTION for our mutilation. What is done is done!! We have to carry these (scars) and their physical and psychological trauma for the rest of our lives.

Araceli's picture

Dear Halima

I apologize for my delay in answering your wonderful message, I just came back from Washington DC. I took all your voices and the experience was absolutely marvelous. As soon as I have the time, I will write a new post with the results of my conversation with legislators.

Regarding your collaboration for our project I AM NOT CUT, I can't tell you how GRATEFUL I am. Your collaboration means the world to me. This is exactly what we need, more women expressing their thoughts about the procedure, women like you who are determined to end the procedure with their own generation. Many girls WILL NOT BE CUT if we do something about it, but this "something" has to come from inside your own cultures. The opposition to the practice must come from the women who have suffered the harm in their own bodies and will not reproduce the system with their daughters just because they have learned that this is "a cultural and religiouls practice."

There are many ways you can collaborate Halima. The easiest one will be to write your anonymous testimony and we'll post it online, you can write your name if you wish and your country. Only write the personal information you are ready to share. If you write your testimony as compelling as you write your messages, it is going to be an AMAZING testimony. You can send the testimony to my personal e-mail.

Writing a testimony and sharing it with others will rise your voice high, very very high. Writing about our own stories empowers the deepest cells in our brain and encourage us to take action and take a stand to defend our beliefs and our health. We only have one body and we must protect it if we want to raise healthy children and create healthy communities. Many practices that we women suffer around the world, mutilate our sexuality, our desires, our dreams, our voices, our souls.

If you would like to share your image saying one of the variations of the I AM NOT CUT, you could say whatever you feel like, it seems that in your case the message could be "I am cut, but my daughters are not cut". We recently recorded the image of a lady from Somalia who was 8 months pregnant who said "I am cut but my daughter will not be cut". very powerful, indeed.

You can record yourself if you have the means, only 10 seconds is enough, in your own language and followed in English. The only important part is that before you speak you count to 3 and then start. When you finish speaking count to three before you move. We need these 3 seconds for editing purposes later.

Halima, we want you TO FEELL AND BE SAFE. If you think recording your image and sharing later online is going to jeopardize your integrity in any way, please don't do it, just write your testimony. On the other hand, women like you who are fearless are the ones who have made a big difference already in the lives of thousands of girls who have not been cut because they have spoken or openly oppose to the tradition.

In a week, I will be going to Uganda and after that to Kenya. I will try to check my email as often as I can but it is not going to be easy. If I don't answer to you, don't think I have forgotten please. Your collaboration is my treasure.

Please, ask me as many questions as you have, I will answer right away before I leave.

Many blessings to you dear Halima, for opening your heart to us and for being very committed to improve the health of thousands of girls.

marietta64's picture


Did you see my hand made things - do you hink that i can teach other women to prepare collages and amulets - it is really thrilling when someone is engaged in beauty process and what is more i am using this process as art therapy as well

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