Health challenges faced by female refugees

6 March 2014

Migrants and refugees often face significant challenges settling in another country and can even be denied access to the most basic health care services.

As part of International Women's Day, the University of Sydneywill co-host Displaced Women, Double Challenge, with humanitarian medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières on Saturday 8 March.

Displaced Women, Double Challenge will address the health needs of women refugees from their country of birth or origin through to their arrival and settlement in Australia.

The forum will cover topics including:

• What are the health issues that women face in their home country?

• How do women access health care when their country is torn apart by conflict?

• Does the lack of access to health care drive the decision to leave a country?

• How does health care differ in Australia from the refugees' home country?

• Are the health needs of women refugees being met now they are in Australia?

• What cultural barriers exist that prevent refugee women accessing health care in Australia?

These issues will be discussed by University of Sydney's Office for Global Health along with Médecins Sans Frontières and other NGOs and refugee health practitioners.

University of Sydney Associate Professor Lyndal Trevena said: "The event will be a great opportunity to hear many different perspectives on this important topic and help to bring some understanding to the broader issues that women face globally."

Associate Professor Trevena teaches the Masters of International Public Health program at the University, is a general practitioner (GP), and has worked extensively in international public health.

"I've seen and heard stories both abroad and here in Sydney of how displaced women struggle in the face of conflict and persecution," she said.

Dr Trevena also provides pro-bono clinical services at the Asylum Seekers Centre (ASC) as she heard that they had no female doctor and offered her services so female clients had the option to see a female doctor if they preferred.

"Certainly I find that as a female doctor and researcher I can connect with women across many different cultures which is a real privilege.

"At the moment we are working to implement a low tech cervical cancer prevention program in India, and we are looking at barriers to accessing family planning in remote communities in Timor-leste," she said.

The Displaced Women, Double Challenge forum will consist of two panels, with one addressing the health needs and access to health care for women once they have arrived and resettled in Australia. The other panel will highlight the international issues such as access to health care for women in their home country, whether health needs are a determining factor in leaving a country, as well as cultural issues.

The event will also feature three special guests sharing their personal stories as refugees.

Following each panel discussion there will be 'Question and Answer' time with the panelists.

Panelists include:

• Dr Tane Luna - Médecins Sans Frontières Australia

• Dr Lyndal Trevena - Associate Professor, School of Public Health, University of Sydney

• Naomi Steer - Australia for UNHCR (United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees)

• Dr Mitchell Smith - NSW Refugee Health Service

• Dr Nooria Mehraby - STARTTS (Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors)

• Bronwen Blake - RN, NSW Refugee Health Service

• Moderator - Fenella Kernebone, ABC Journalist and Presenter

Event details:

What: International Women's Day Forum Event

Date: Saturday 8 March 2014

Time: 2:00pm to 5:00pm

Location: New Law Lecture Theatre 101, Camperdown Campus, University of Sydney


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