It has been quite a year for women in the world. We have raised the #MeToo movement from a hashtag to a force. We have marched, yet again, for rights that are often agreed upon but still seldom given. We have won seats in government, testified in court, spoken out in interviews. We’ve started organizations, and built families. We have persisted.

SOGH members attend the Women’s March in Stockholm. Credit: Giorgia Dalla Libera Marchiori, Sweden

Despite all of these ‘women’s wins’, there are still glaring disparities in literally all categories from economic gaps, to social treatment, to health. There are global programs, data sets, indexes, and statistics to prove and draw awareness to those discrepancies. Recently, the UN released a report declaring that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) gender indicator still leaves “significant gaps to women’s empowerment”, specifically in health areas.

If the big international and governmental organizations struggle to deliver promises for equality, what can we as individuals do?

It can be difficult to know where to begin or which steps to take to create a solution for inequality. The answer is simple: just start somewhere. There is so much each of us can do! At the Swedish Organization for Global Health (SOGH), we start with health. We join together as individuals with different backgrounds and expertise, and commit to standing together, working in solidarity, and fighting for health equality.

If you’re somewhere other than Sweden (Hej, from Stockholm!), we’ve crafted three ways for you to celebrate International Women’s (Health) Day:

First, understand.

Women face different threats than men do, and still must fight for basic rights and protection to their own bodies. The top threats to women’s health globally include: reproductive health problems, maternal health issues, HIV, sexually transmitted infections, violence (intimate partner, sexual, or gender-based), non-communicable diseases (addictions, accidents, obesity), being young, and ageing. Globally, the health of girls and women often become secondary priorities. Women in the United States make 80% of all health care decisions for their families, and tend to prioritize their own health last. Some women are purposefully kept from care, while others may not be able to obtain the procedures they need. Understanding the threats and the issues women face is the foundation to a healthy future.

Second, practice.

When was the last time you went for a check-up? A breast exam? Have you talked to the girls in your life about self-care, safe-sex, health relationships? What have you been doing to ensure that you and your circle are practicing a healthy lifestyle? From food, to decisions, to difficult conversations, we cannot help to create health in others if we don’t first seek it ourselves. Practice what you preach, click around the Girls’ Globe health posts, make an appointment, quit a habit, have a difficult conversation, and check-in with your loved ones to elevate health in and around you.

Third, unite.

On International Women’s Day, we reflect on the status of health for women. Our work must address the uniqueness of women’s health based on circumstance and environment. Some threats to women are universal no matter the context or place. However, issues like gender equality, access to care, and quality services vary intensely based on income or geography. This added layer means that as activists, we not only have to understand or practice, we have to act. Our action can be in towns nearby, in organizations reaching far away, or in classrooms where future leaders are preparing themselves. Wherever we are and whatever we do, we must unite together for all women.

For more information on International Women’s Day, follow hashtags #IWD2018 or #TimeIsNow, and read about the 2018 UN theme: Rural and Urban Activists, Changing Women’s Lives.

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