“Be Louder” – Women Deliver Conference

#NotWithoutACervix side event at Women Deliver conference

“It is a moral imperative. A challenge that has come at the right time.” – Dr. Princess Nothemba (Nono) Simelela, Assistant Director-General, World Health Organization

3 June 2019 – Cervical cancer kills more than 311,000 women each year, outpacing maternal mortality as a cause of death.  Yet at large global conferences to discuss women’s health or gender equality, conferences like Women Deliver, it has often been nearly absent from the agenda.

Not so last night.

Effective Cervical Cancer Response

Amb. Sally Cowal of the American Cancer Society leads a discussion among Dr. Princess Nono Simelela, Dr. Marijke Wijnoks, and Dr. Shannon Hader.

Yesterday, experts, advocates, frontline health workers and implementers gathered at “Not Without a Cervix! Advocating for an Effective Cervical Cancer Response,” a Women Deliver side event organized by TogetHER for Health in collaboration with the Union for International Cancer Control, the American Cancer Society, Jhpiego, Pathfinder International, Project Concern International and Population Services International.

There was a powerful call for cervical cancer prevention to sit within a comprehensive, woman-centered approach to healthcare delivery. Dr. Nono Simelela spoke of WHO’s ambitious call for the elimination of cervical cancer and called upon those present to reject “the boxing up of women’s bodies.” The risk of doing so was underscored by Dr. Marijke Wijnoks, Chief of Staff of the Global Fund, when she stated, “Women are alive because of HIV treatment, but dying of cervical cancer. That makes no sense.”  The message was clear. Stopping needless deaths from cervical cancer, a preventable disease, will require that the response be integrated into HIV, family planning and primary healthcare programs wherever, however, and whenever a woman accesses services.

Speakers and participants also spoke of the need for a strengthened advocacy response. Dr. Shannon Hader, Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, highlighted civil society’s powerful role in the HIV response and called for similarly engaging members of civil society in cervical cancer prevention. That engagement has the power to influence policy at country and global levels, unlocking opportunities for accelerated progress, including increased funding. Again the message was clear. As Dr. Wijnroks said, “The HIV community is louder. Be louder.”

Over the course of 2 hours, we kept those messages in mind as we explored the current state of the cervical cancer response, delved into the programmatic realities of prevention work at the country level, and spoke with senior leaders in the global health community about how to leverage policies, funding and advocacy to make true progress in eliminating cervical cancer as a public health threat. Visit TogetHER’s “Presentations” webpage to view presentations from this event.

Effective Cervical Cancer Response

Effective Cervical Cancer Response

Help us take the conversation forward. If you’re at Women Deliver, use our Cervical Cancer Roadmap to identify events that may not address cervical cancer, but should! Then go and ask the question, make the comment. Be louder. Don’t allow conversations about gender equality and women’s health to progress without addressing the devastating impact of cervical cancer. And if you can’t be with us here in Vancouver, make your voice heard on social media using #notwithoutacervix.

We can achieve gender equality and strengthen women’s rights.

But not without a cervix.

Byline: Petra Stankard