Women and Health: Why Doctors are urgently needed in Kurdish Villages

By Kurdstan Rasul, Wadi-Arbil, 10.08.2017

Many nights my tired body clashes with my busy mind  as I think of the women who need to see a doctor but cannot afford one, or don’t have a health clinic in their village, or their husband doesn’t take them to a doctor, or because of their husbands poor treatment they get sick. My heart hurts when these women tearfully ask me to bring them a gynecologist for treatment, because sometimes I am unable to provide what they need.

volunteer doctor

Dr. Sharzeh, one of the volunteer doctors

Recently (due to medical issues) a doctor instructed a woman: “You must not sleep with your husband”, but she has little chance to follow the doctor’s orders as her husband savagely rapes her. Social stigma causes many women to feel that they cannot discuss their illnesses with male doctors putting their health at risk.

Also worrisome is that many women cannot share their emotions, or medical issues with their partners because they scared of a rough response. Sometimes women cannot ask their husbands for help, as they would be called names and mocked, or there is always the looming threat of their husbands getting a second wife. “Women can’t show their pain because their husbands will take advantage of this and get a second wife. Therefore, their wives show fake smiles to please them”, I heard one women complain.

Many women complain that due to not having health clinics and being far away from the city they cannot reach the doctors. There are many girls who face many reproductive issues, but due to social stigma they are unable to talk about it and get treatments.  The situation can quickly become tragic, as in the case of  R. who is only 27, and was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago; her relatives said that R. does not know as the doctor dismissed her. As she got help too late, she cannot be saved.

After seeing all this, in July 2017, I decided to start a volunteering campaign regarding health awareness in Erbil. I want to decrease the suffering and pain of women and for doctors to learn more about volunteering, to make it a phenomenon and for others to follow their steps.

I want doctors to engage with their patients in their houses, not only behind their desks. I want patients to feel respected, to feel that doctors value them and travel many kilometers to help them, unlike their husbands and relatives who do not help even though they sit centimeters away.

This is Wadi’s message:

“When your women are not heard, you have no value as humans and citizens. Doctors must come to you and provide their services.”

After collecting detailed data regarding the health situations, I visited the Minister of Health, and presented the data.

The Minster thanked Wadi for always bringing good ideas to serve people: “We will try to send female doctors to the villages and sub-districts. If supported, we can have this medical mobile team. We realize women are in bad health conditions. But the Ministry’s help is limited.”

Fortunately a couple of young doctors heard the call and joined this campaign, but this is just a drop on a hot stone, if things do not radically change.