International Women's Health + Human Rights

We are a global community dedicated to education and collaborative action on issues of International Women's Health & Human Rights. This is the Tumblr page for the massive open online course (MOOC), featuring Anne Firth Murray, the founding president of the Global Fund for Women and an educator at Stanford University. Visit for more information.


Meet the World’s Oldest Yoga Instructor

aka: This is what a 95-year-old with a hip replacement looks like.

He was acutely aware of the multiple dimensions of HIV spanning science to society and had a heart of gold. This is a huge loss for the field


Salem mayor Kim Driscoll donates money to LGBTQ youth charity in wake of bigoted phone calls

When Mayor Kim Driscoll ended a contract with Gordon College to manage a historic building in Salem because of the school’s violation of the city’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance, she started to get pummeled by national media personalities like Glenn Beck, which, in turn, led to more than 50 angry phone calls to her office from people out-of-state. And she expects even more.

But rather than merely fielding the inflammatory comments, which Driscoll described as “patently offensive views regarding [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transexual] individuals,” Salem’s mayor decided to flip the negativity on its head.

“We are keeping a tally of these telephone calls,” Driscoll said in a recent letter that she shared with constituents on both her Facebook page and Twitter account. “For each one we receive, I will be making a donation of $5 to nAGLY [the North Shore Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth].”

The “people’s pledge,” phones calls, and attacks from “right-leaning” blogs like Beck’s came after Gordon College’s president filed for an exemption from federal regulations that bar employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Driscoll said. The Christian school’s president was one of 14 religious leaders who signed and sent a letter to request the exemption to the White House, according to the Boston Globe.

The school’s stance on the LGBT community, which included policies for students to abide by that were anti-gay, violated a city ordinance. Because of that, she abruptly terminated the contract on July 9—the city already had plans to sever ties in August as part of a public art initiative—that put Gordon College in charge of managing the Old Town Hall facility, a historic site built in the 1800s.

“It saddens me to curb our contractual relationship in this manner, despite a long and positive relationship with Gordon College over the years,” Driscoll said when she announced she was ending the deal with the school. “However, not doing so would be a violation of our Non-Discrimination Ordinance and even more troubling, allow a contractual relationship between the city of Salem and an institution that enables, and now advocates for discrimination against the LGBT community. As Mayor, I most certainly cannot let that stand.”

When posting her follow-up letter prompted by the angry phone calls, Driscoll encouraged others to make similar donations matching her contributions as the city continues to keep track of the vitriol from what she jokingly called “‘friends’ in Texas, Georgia, and similar locals looking to connect.”


WHO | Female genital mutilation

  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
  • The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
  • Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
  • More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where FGM is concentrated (1).
  • FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
  • FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.


Into a New World: Young Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Lives

Depending on the actions of richer nations and individuals around the world, AIDS may soon surpass the Black Death as the greatest plague ever to devastate humanity. Its prevalence reveals the deeply ingrained inequalities of our societies, as it strikes hardest at those already systematically deprived.
Anne Firth Murray, in her book From Outrage to Courage: Women Taking Action for Health and Justice (via intlwomenshealth)


Isha Daramy

This week Anne Firthy Murray interviews Isha Daramy, a nurse midwife from Sierra Leone, on womanhood and Female Genital Mutilation in Sierra Leone.

From the Global Women’s Leadership Network:

Organization: Magbil Mother and Child Health Centre (Sierra Leone)
Role: Director, Founder and Midwife
Vision: To help reduce the infant and maternal morbidity and mortality rate
Inspiring Challenge: Build another health center that will serve pregnant women and their newborn from surrounding villages.
Millennium Development Goal: Reduce Child Mortality (4); Improve Maternal Health (5); Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases (6)

Recipient of UK Midwife of the Year award in 2008
Improved the lives of women in the communities of Sierra Leone



Be louder, be clearer and bring the voices against female genital mutiliation or cutting into the public sphere, says a new UNICEF report. Priyanka Pruthi reports on the most comprehensive compilation of data and analysis on this issue to date.

A groundbreaking new report by UNICEF finds that, while much progress has been made in abandoning female genital mutilation/cutting, millions of girls are still at risk – and sets out key steps needed to eliminate the practice for once, and for all.

NEW YORK, United States of America, 22 July 2013 – “I don’t want any part of my body to be cut. I don’t want to be circumcised,” says 10-year old Kheiriya Abidi from Boorama town, North-West Somalia.

Kheiriya is terrified of the blood, the pain and physical torture she will have to suffer if her genitals are cut.

The pressure on her to be cut is mounting every day, and she is often ridiculed and insulted by her friends for being ‘different’. Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is rooted deep in Somali culture; the practice is nearly universal. Girls and women are made to have their external genitalia removed fully or partially– some when they are just infants, others when they hit puberty – in the name of preserving female honour, chastity, beauty, ensuring their marriageability.

UNICEF Image © UNICEF/NYHQ2009-2260/Holt Fatima, 7, sits on a bed in her home in Afar region, Ethiopia. She was subjected to FGM/C when she was 1 year old.

But Kheiriya refuses to be one of them. She is standing strong in the face of criticism with support from her family and community health workers who are part of a larger movement to eliminate FGM/C.

Increasing opposition

A groundbreaking new report by UNICEF shows that more girls like Kheiriya, as well as women and men, are saying no to FGM/C than ever before, and more communities than ever are abandoning the centuries-old tradition.

In Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change, UNICEF compiles and analyses data from 74 nationally representative surveys that were conducted over a 20-year period in 29 countries across Africa and the Middle East in which FGM/C is practised. 

“This report is the most comprehensive compilation of statistics and data analysis on FGM/C to date,” says UNICEF Statistics and Monitoring Specialist Claudia Cappa. “It’s extremely important because it illustrates, for the first time, what we know about how widespread is the practice is, the attitudes surrounding the practice and the reasons why this practice is continued. It’s also the first report that includes data for countries like Iraq for which we didn’t have national figures.”

The findings of the report point to a sharp decline in FGM/C in numerous countries in which it is practised. Prevalence has dropped by as much as almost half among adolescent girls in Benin, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Liberia and Nigeria. “In most of the countries surveyed, majority of girls and women who have undergone the practice do not see benefits to it and think that the practice should stop,” says Ms. Cappa. “More mothers are aware that FGM/C can lead to their daughter’s, or a girl’s, death. So, there is a better understanding of the consequences, which, in itself, is very important progress.”

“We don’t talk”

Perhaps one of the most striking revelations is the degree of discrepancy between the low support for FGM/C and the high prevalence of its practice. Even in countries in which most girls and women are cut, a significant proportion of the population opposes the practice.

UNICEF Image © UNICEF NYHQ/ 2013/Asselin Josephine Akissi Coulibaly, a former FGM/C practitioner, in her traditional ceremonial attire at her home in Katiola, Côte d’Ivoire. She abandoned the practice, thanks to advocacy work by UNICEF partner organization OIS Afrique.

“It confirms that there is a social obligation, that the practice is relational,” explains UNICEF Senior Child Protection Specialist Francesca Moneti. “I do what I do because I know that you expect me to do it, and vice versa. The clear programmatic insight from the report is you have to make visible the fact that people in their private sphere don’t support the practice. So, I may not support cutting, and you may not support it, but I see you cutting your girl, and you see me cutting my girl, and you think I support it because you see me cutting my girl – but we don’t talk.” 

The report sets out some key steps needed to eliminate FGM/C – one of which is finding ways to make attitudes that favour abandonment of the practice visible, so families know they are not alone. Ms. Moneti emphasizes that increasing visibility would generate a chain reaction against FGM/C that would lead to a relatively quick end of the practice.

“By that, I mean decades before it will completely disappear in a population group… but that’s not a very long time in development terms, especially if you think that the practice has been around for over 1,000 years,” she says.

Speaking out loudly and clearly

More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to FGM/C in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East in which it is concentrated, and 30 million girls are at risk of being cut within the next decade. 

“FGM/C is a violation of a girl’s rights to health, well-being and self-determination,” says UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta. “What is clear from this report is that legislation alone is not enough. The challenge now is to let girls and women, boys and men speak out loudly and clearly and announce they want this harmful practice abandoned.”