GENDER APPROACHES – HERD GROUP PHARMACY DIVISION

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Pharmacists, more commonly known as chemists in our country, are healthcare professionals who practice in a pharmacy. It is a field of health sciences that focuses exclusively on the safe and effective usage of medications. As health care team members they are directly involved with patient care. To be able to do this they have to undergo university-level education to understand all about biochemical drugs, drug uses, therapeutic roles, side effects, potential drug interactions as well as be cognizant of monitoring factors for using medications.

It appears to be a good idea to staff pharmacies with women team members, particularly at the store counters. This would be especially useful to interact and respond to women customers walking into the medical store. It has been seen observed that women customers are generally more comfortable to talk to women on the workforce team. Such suggestions have been going around in the sector, emanating from several quarters. It’s been given to understand that the presence of a lady makes female customers (already be troubled by disease and patients back home) instantly comfortable.

Aside from it being a great idea to increase the sales process, it would also work for enhancing the much needed gender equity in the pharmacy sector. In our country very often advice is sought from pharmacists regarding medications to be taken for general ill- health conditions. The best of us may have done so at some point. Since most medical stores are run by men there are hardly any women present to quell doubts arising for women customers. So it’s a good idea to have women pharmacists to tackle issues faced by female visitors.

More often than not in case of mild ill-disposition like common fevers, cold, coughs, and headaches, it is quite common for pharmacists to be quizzed for suitable remedies. If a pharmacy is closer at hand than a doctor many people simply walk up to the medical store and seek guidance as to what medicine should be taken. In the case of women customers having female pharmacists across the counter may be a sound idea to counsel such women as to the best course forward.

By and large, although sizeable numbers of females pass out of pharmacy education each year, a pharmacist’s job is not yet considered as an ideal job for women. Such conservative thinking and traditional opinions continue to plague the sector that keeps women largely out of it. HERD Pharmacy plans to recruit women with the aim to induct willing female pharmacy staff to enhance their diverse roles and to make the best use of their skills. We are keen to make our pharmacies women-friendly so that women customers may approach comfortably and be able to share whats on their mind.

“The feminisation of pharmacy is a fascinating insight into the overall make up of the pharmacist workforce…” ~~ Anas Hasan

May 8 – World Ovarian Cancer Day

Ovarian cancer affects about quarter million women all over the world! It kills about 140,000 women annually. Surprisingly it does not distinguish between women of developed or developing countries! Hence it is essential to know all there to know about this dreaded disease. All of us must know the symptoms, risk factors, family history regarding ovarian cancer.

Sadly, ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate among all gynecologic cancers. Also it is characterized by lack of awareness of symptoms and late stage diagnosis. This is why May 8 got marked out in 2013 to observe World Ovarian Cancer Day. The day focuses on ovarian cancer and many of us educate communities about ovarian cancer. It is also a day to build solidarity for women fighting the disease.

Largely overlooked in terms of awareness creation and funding, it is time to tell all about it. Ovarian cancer symptoms are quite similar to other less serious conditions. Further absence of early detection tests results in late diagnosis, often leading to few survivors who may advocate or draw attention to the disease. It was therefore decided to draw worldwide attention and gladly the idea was accepted by participating countries that now offer good momentum.

It is really important to spread awareness about the disease, especially about its symptoms that often get confused with less serious conditions like gastrointestinal disorders! Most victims are identified only in advanced stages when the disease becomes difficult to treat. Hence it is critical to create awareness about the risk factors, signs and symptoms. Also, family history plays a definite role in identifying the disease.

Experts opine that frequency and combination of symptoms help in identifying ovarian cancer from other conditions. Anybody with the following symptoms on most days within a three week period must consult a doctor immediately:

  • Increased abdominal size / persistent bloating
  • Difficulty eating/feeling full quickly
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Needing to pass urine more urgently or more frequently
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Unexpected weight loss or weight gain around the abdomen
  • Fatigue

Early diagnosis helps in improving chance of survival. When the cancer is confined to the ovary then up to 90% of women are likely to survive for maybe more than five years, under specialized treatment. Women with symptoms of ovarian cancer should find a specialist so that an accurate diagnosis is made. Later they should go to a gynecologic oncologist who would be the best expert to manage the disease.

Most times ovarian cancer gets diagnosed when the cancer is already at an advanced stage. Many women delay seeking help in the false belief that the symptoms are related to their period, menopause or other ailments. With modern day tests and examinations it is possible to arrive at well deduced diagnosis. It is to be remembered that a cervical smear test or Pap test does NOT detect ovarian cancer. It only detects pre-cancerous changes to the cervix that is treated more successfully than ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer in women, worldwide, and is the most serious gynecological cancer. For women without a family history, the biggest risk factor is age. It therefore becomes essential to talk to doctors to determine personal risks. A family history of breast or ovarian cancer requires genetic counseling. This is really important and we can show our love, support to women we cherish in our homes – mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and friends.

Every woman in the world is at risk of developing ovarian cancer, the most serious gynecologic cancer. May 8 is therefore the day to spread the word on World Ovarian Cancer Day to provide an opportunity to raise awareness of this disease. HERD Foundation joins in this global movement to ensure all the women know about ovarian cancer.

 

A Pashtun Joan of Arc

Malala - Pashtun Joan of Arc

Malala – Pashtun Joan of Arc

The world watched with pride as Malala from Pakistan and Satyarthi from India jointly received the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”. It was an awesome moment. Accepting the award in Oslo on December 10, all of seventeen, Malala clearly stole the show. One was humbled by her gesture of giving away the award money to the fund for building schools.

This proud Pashtun displayed such magnetism and confidence – she had the audience delighted by her lovely acceptance speech. She is the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Born on July 12, 1997 in Pakhtunkhwa province of Pashtun ethnicity,  as she elaborated on the stage yesterday, her name Malala means “grief-stricken”! She speaks flawless Pashto, English and Urdu. In the wake of tragic attempt to kill her, over 2 million people signed the Right to Education campaign’s petition that led to ratification of the first Right to Education Bill in Pakistan.

World outpouring continued unabated after the dastardly act. Malala Yousafzai first drew the public eye when her cry for education became known through the diary published on BBC Urdu. But when she was shot in the head in October 2012 by Taliban she captured the international imagination. Surviving the dramatic assault when a militant shot her in the school bus in Swat her home town, she was badly wounded.  Since then her she has had a fan following like no other. If the standing ovation at the ceremony is anything to go by, Malala yet continues to set sparks afire. And with such utter humility.

Besides the Nobel Peace Prize, she is the recipient of Sakharov Prize, Simone de Beauvoir Prize, National Youth Peace Prize and has an honorary Canadian citizenship. Malala Yousafzai is now turned to be a Pakistani activist for female education. She has become an icon for the fight for children’s education rights. “I had two options – one was to remain silent and wait to be killed,” Yousafzai said. “And the second was to speak up and then be killed. I chose the second one. I decided to speak up.” Her incredible speech will be remembered in a long long time.

Safety First for Our Women and Girls

Safety First

Safety First

While the state owes responsibility for safety and security of its citizens, looking into the current scenario of crimes against women it now appears we need to instill self protective measures to keep women prepared from nefarious eventualities. The political will to tackle this menace defies explanation. It is beyond comprehension what the government has in mind when it comes to addressing critical safety issues. Stringent capital punishment is the only way to contain this crime. It is mind boggling that the utilization of Rs. 1,000 crore under the Nirbhaya Fund remains untouched! What are we waiting for when every day we witness occurrence of assault and fatalities among women of all ages.

The latest incident involving the rape and victimization of a woman financial analyst by a taxi driver in Delhi brings all the angst and worry back again. Plans to make the One Stop Crisis Centers for women operational have not found their mark. Perhaps the files have not moved. We read reports stating “the various schemes were yet to be finalized”. Does the government still think this is non-serious business and hopes to dust it under the carpet? Or bicker over it during zero-hour? It is time now that women followed some safety precautions to avert and allay these kinds of sinister events.

A planned personal-safety approach would be good for women who have to go outdoors on their own. Women are of course constantly targeted the moment they step out of homes. Be it the domestic help, college student, office worker or tourists – they become the cynosure of molesters and rapists. The incidents of harassment and aggression happen right there on roads, buses, metro trains – in fact everywhere. Precautions may be taken to outwit offenders and to ward off unwanted advances. Safety training should be routinely drummed into minds of young girls.

Women should follow a set of common-sensical tips to train their minds to circumvent such incidents. They should keep family members aware of their activities who should check on them constantly. Next, your demeanor should appear to discourage advances. Always walk with confidence since predators seek out timid and vulnerable looking victims. At all times be aware of immediate surroundings and listen to your gut feeling. Do not draw unnecessary attention to yourself so as to unwittingly attract a predator’s interest. If confronted by a person look him straight in the eye and question his behavior loudly. Most predators avoid public attention. Avoid being alone after dark and stay away from isolated areas. It is a good idea to enroll for personal defense classes to learn basics of hand combat for women. Find out where you can buy personal alarms, protection devices like pepper sprays and mobile phones with emergency apps.

Cell phones today can be used most effectively in case of emergencies. They are helpful for women who have to travel a lot. Safety apps for women reduce the risk of travelling through unfamiliar territories. These applications can be found on smart phone systems. The most common of such apps allows you to alert your family when you are in danger. Just two taps send predetermined messages to six close friends or relatives. They will also convey your exact location and address. Another app allows you to capture a picture of the attacker to a harassment prevention internet site where he is identified. Another smart phone app sends alarms to multiple guardians simultaneously. While one of them would be receiving a phone call, others would be receiving messages.

As they say self help is the best help. So by the time we wait for state systems to become effective let us teach our women and girls to be mindful of their lives.  A well defined safety plan is the best bet. One does have to go out – study, work and earn livings. And so they best know how to take care. Women today must have the strength and determination to fight back violence without fear, embarrassment or guilt.  Be aware, be prepared and be on guard. Finally check out this wonderful American website http://www.justyellfire.com/. Watch especially the 20 minute video that teaches girls how to fight back against sexual assault and abduction. Since 2006 this website has empowered 1 million girls in 44 countries with getaway skills and the right to live without fear of being a victim of sexual assault.

Be Your Own Vigilante

Be Your Own Vigilante

12 August – International Youth Day

International Youth Day

12 August designated as International Youth Day by UN General Assembly

United Nations earmarked August 12 as International Youth Day. This year’s theme “Youth and Mental Health” for this special day follows the slogan ‘Mental Health Matters’. Youth with mental health conditions do experience discrimination that leads to exclusion. Often this discourages them to seek help, more so for fear of being ‘labeled’ negatively.

Efforts are on to overcome such stigma and ensure that young people with issues can lead healthy lives free of isolation or shame. They are to be encouraged to openly seek the services and support available. HERD Foundation is all set to be part of such efforts. Our focus has always been for youth development and this input will be promoted through approaches that address challenges faced by young people.

HERD Foundation wants to reach out to youth with mental health issues and others to tackle stigma and promote social inclusion of all young people to achieve their aspirations and goals. International Youth Day is a time to reinforce our pledge to bring youth issues to the attention of all and celebrate the potential of youth as promising partners in today’s global society.

This annual celebration of role of young women and men as essential partners in change, sees HERD Foundation take on opportunities to raise awareness of the challenges and hardships facing the youth. We have promoted sports events as a way to assist the youth in overcoming limitations. The thematic campaign has encouraged the general public to understand the needs of young people. We need to also implement policies to help them overcome the challenges they face and to get young people into decision-making processes.

Nearly half of all people in the world today are under the age of 25. Effectively addressing the special needs of  youth is a critical challenge for the future. Especially the youth between ages 15 – 24 make up for over one sixth of the world’s population. However they are seldom recognized as a distinct group for the critical role will play in shaping the future. Add to this the fact that countless youth lack education, skills and job training, employment opportunities, and health services. This effectively limits their future at a very early age.

HERD Foundation reacts to such apathy by first including the youth in societal context as important assets for the economic, political, and social life of their communities.

 

Youth Day Celebrations

International Youth Day – August 12, 2014

Food for Thought – Breaking the Silence around Women’s Ill-health

 

happy rural woman with kid

Happy Through it All

We are really surprised by the show-up by rural women in our medical health camps. They come in large numbers and sit around patiently waiting for their turns. The majority of them suffer from all kinds of aches and pains; from debilitating lower back pain, to aching calf muscles, and even chronic migraines. One would have thought that rural women – work-hardy souls, bent double with domestic drudgery and field work would enjoy deep nightly slumbers to sleep away their pains. Alas this is not so.

Nutrition plays a major role in women’s good health. Psychological well being also positively affects the physical health status. A woman’s health is often dramatically impaired by malnutrition. India currently has one of the highest rates of malnourished women among developing countries. A study in 2000 found that nearly 70 percent of non-pregnant women and 75 percent of pregnant women are anemic. One of the reasons of malnutrition remains gender imbalance in distribution of food resources.

It is an age old tradition for women to deprive themselves of all essential food items. They save it all for the next helping by brothers, sons and husbands. Studies indicate that nutritional intake in early adolescence by girls can affect her reproductive health. Maternal malnutrition has also been associated with increased risk of maternal mortality as also child birth defects. Addressing the problem of malnutrition would lead to beneficial outcomes for women and children.

Further our health care system remains skewed. It is a fact that healthcare professionals remain concentrated in urban areas. This results in people from rural areas seeking care from unqualified providers who lack formal training. HERD Foundation realizes that health is an important factor that contributes to human well-being of rural communities. Women do face multiple health problems that need to be compassionately addressed.  HERD Foundation works despite gender, class and ethnic disparities existing in rural areas through a healthcare delivery system that improvises medical services, especially for the women.

 

An Opportunity to Share their Conditions

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Our medical  health camps receive women in large numbers. These women come from the remote villages and isolated communities of the rural terrain. For many of them this is huge opportunity to be given an ear about their health status.

Living in self contained habitats that may not be having amenities that offer advice to women with regard to their health conditions, even the very thought of speaking about their ailments to a proper doctor is a huge relief for them.

The specialist doctors respond with alacrity and care to the woes of these women, and truly for a lot many it may be the first time that they get talking about their physical conditions. The physiotherapy doctors get really busy documenting the aches and pains.

The inferences we draw in the wake of these camps with regard to women’s woes is that many of them are suffering from very many psychosomatic conditions. Living under constant stress and trauma they are not able to decipher that the causes of the aches and pains are related to their mental condition.

The struggle for existence remains a source of worry and daily wagers have to battle it out daily for their employment and sustenance needs. Add to this worries about long term needs – regular employment, housing, education, financial safety nets and so on.

HERD Foundation provides on-going medical camps for health assistance. Looking into the near future we are also working towards developing villages for self determined socio-economic planning through Village Development Coordinators to advance our rural work.