After the success of our initial course of three sessions on access to healthcare with a group of migrant women, we decided to invite them back for a further two sessions to go a bit more in depth. We noticed that many of the participants seemed keen to talk about specific aspects of their health or that of their family and they had medical questions that we were unable to answer. So, together with MSF Italy we invited one of their nurses who works in Rome to facilitate these sessions with more of a specific focus on health, rather than just access to services. This also allowed our own staff and other practitioners who work with migrant women to better understand some of the services these women use and what their rights are.
This project was aimed at women and so the two topics we chose were maternal health and family planning. The first of these two supplementary sessions focused on maternal health, taking into consideration the whole journey of pregnancy, including the choice about whether or not to take the pregnancy to term, the tests that are offered, giving birth and the first months of motherhood. Not only did we look at how the local services support women and families through this process, but also how those services work and what is involved, what a woman can expect when she is starting a family.
The second session focused on family planning and female cancer prevention. For many of the women, including some of the practitioners present, it was eye-opening to learn about all the different methods of contraception that exist. All too often women are advised to go on the pill without being presented any alternatives, but the reality is that there is a different solution to suit every person or couple. Armed with this knowledge, these women can now go and talk to their friends about these options or can go to their doctor to find out whether one would be suitable for them.
We found that the all-female group, accompanied by a Nigerian linguistic and cultural mediator, were very open and willing to talk about their experiences, as well as ask frank and intimate questions and laugh together. In the new year, we hope to replicate this success with further groups of migrant women from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, in order to arm as many women as possible with the right information with which to exercise their rights. As the saying goes, knowledge is power, and every woman has the right to take control over her own life and her own body.