My IAPO experience: a day at WHO Regional Committee for Europe

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Written by Ziede Mesonyte, IAPO Operations Coordinator, who attended the WHO Regional Committee meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, from 14 – 17 September 2015.
 

After having some delicious Lithuanian pancakes for breakfast, I left the hotel hoping that the smooth beginning of the day would continue and transform into a smooth rest of day as well.

Once we reached the Regional Committee venue, I could not help but notice many dark suits everywhere – sitting, standing, walking, drinking coffee, chatting, laughing, asking questions, getting official working papers printed out or just smiling and looking around before the opening session started. Why do I say ‘dark suits’? Because I was the only one wearing bright colours – a coral dress which stood out among the suits! For the next one I will definitely have to get a suit.

After the opening speech of Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, and the following speech from Princess Mary of Denmark, the main theme circulating around each country’s delegation’s desk, NGOs’ seats and observers’ corner, was ‘Beyond the mortality advantage. Investigating women’s health in Europe’. The discussion started by stating that women in the WHO European Region have better health than most women in the rest of the world, although there are some important issues in the European Region as well. For example, the systematic differences between women and men in the region related to healthcare are rapidly increasing. Not only is this issue avoidable in countries and between them, but it is unfair and is creating negative health consequences and extra social and economic costs.

...the systematic differences between women and men in the region related to healthcare are rapidly increasing. Not only is this issue avoidable in countries and between them, but it is unfair and is creating negative health consequences and extra social and economic costs.

The timing of investigating women’s health could not be more significant. It highlights the progress and transition from the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals, which focus on gender equality and the empowerment of women's rights.

After the general session on the theme on women’s health, we also had a technical briefing with the panel discussion afterwards. During the discussion the global strategy objectives for Women’s Health for Europe were shared:

  • Survive – end preventable deaths
  • Thrive – ensure health and well-being
  • Transform – expand enabling environments
     

NGO policy representatives with WHO EURO Regional DirectorMany people at the briefing were surprised by the high number of men participating in the discussion. This surprised me; over the past several years there have been many discussions on women’s rights, health and well-being nationally and internationally, and some very important campaigns created to support women and girls like HeForShe. It should not be such a shock that more men are caring about the healthcare issues women are facing.

Monday was a great start to the week. I was really interested in the women’s rights to health topic, and had a wonderful evening dinner at the beautiful Palace of the Grand Dukes, where we saw several shows of medieval dances and music performed by Lithuanians.

So whoever is going to the next year’s Regional Committee for Europe, here are two tips for you: get a suit and don’t miss the first day of the session.