Thursday, May 28, 2009

CORK WOMEN'S HEALTH MANIFESTO: On International Day of Action on Women's Health, 28 May 2009

All people in Ireland have the right to the highest possible standard of physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being. Equal access to affordable, quality health care is essential to promoting this right. Women are often more heavily – and negatively - impacted by lack of access to health services, facilities and care programmes, especially in this period of economic crisis. Women from a variety of organisations in Cork City recently gathered to discuss the need to highlight women's priority issues concerning their health and the health of their families and communities. In recognition of the International Day of Action on Women's Health today (28 May 2009), we have identified four main priority issues in relation to women's health in Cork:

Carers — We endorse the Family Carers Manifesto in calling for recognition of the importance of care work and that women do the majority of it with little recognition or support. Family Carers are asking local representatives and MEP’s to lobby for the publication and implementation of the Family Carers Strategy, the introduction of a needs assessment, and a free annual medical check-up for all family carers. Please contact the Carers Association ( for more information on their Manifesto.

Violence — We demand recognition of the health impacts of violence, including sexual violence, domestic violence, child abuse, female genital mutilation, trafficking/prostitution, and the provision of services and facilities that provide treatment, counselling, accommodation, and post-traumatic after-care for victims of violence. For more information on this issue, please visit the Sexual Violence Centre Cork website ( and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre website (

Reproductive Health — We demand access to safe, affordable and legal reproductive and sexual health services in Ireland. The diversity of Irish society should be reflected in policy on reproductive rights. Many women consider that access, not only to effective contraception but also to emergency contraception (the ‘morning-after pill) and abortion are conscientious choices. Abortion is a social reality in Ireland. Over the past thirty years at least 130,000 Irish women have exercised their right to choose in Britain or, more recently, in Euro zone countries such as the Netherlands. The current situation is inequitable as it results in a two-tiered system of eligibility for health care, where abortion services are accessible only to those who are free to travel to Britain and can afford to do so. This impacts not only on women living in poverty but on migrant women and asylum seekers, within whose cultures access to full reproductive choices is considered a woman's right. For more information on this issue, contact Cork Women's Right to Choose at

Access and Information — We demand an end to the two-tier health system in order to provide equal access to health services and facilities for all. Many people, especially women, experience confusion, excessively long waits, and lack of confidence in trying to access the health system. Services and facilities are simply not available, for example a rehab centre in Cork for girls experiencing drug addition, and/or not advertised, such as cancer testing facilities. The government and the HSE must take responsibility in providing better community outreach and equal care to all. We demand better and more reliable information about services and facilities, better communication around health needs in the various communities, and better access to translation facilities.


We have written this manifesto to bring home to candidates in the upcoming European and local elections how essential these issues are to a great many women. Women's diverse perspectives and experiences MUST be taken into account in provision of health care.

We call on candidates to commit to making them a priority in their campaigns in advance of the elections on 5th June 2009 and to highlight those concerns within their parties.

We call on them to listen to their electorate, the users of the health system, and commit themselves and their political parties to promote and enable those changes that are essential to the delivery of fair and equal access to high quality health care for everyone in Ireland.

Health is a human right.