Reflections on the Canadian Partnership for Women’s and Children’s Health Conference

 Guest post by Gautham Krishnaraj, Canadian Red Cross Youth Advisory Committee Member 2016
Last week, I had the privilege of emceeing and providing a youth perspective at the 2016 Canadian Partnership for Women & Children’s Health (CanWaCH) Conference. The conference, held in partnership with McGill University’s Public Policy and Population Health Observatory and Institute for Health and Social Policy (IHSP), drew an audience that was as diverse as it was passionate.
For two days, representatives from the non-profit, academic, private, and government sectors shared best practices on improving global health and rights in fragile contexts. Specifically, the focus was on the health and well-being of every woman, child, and adolescent, and how it is crucial for improving population health and achieving sustainable development.
One of the speakers, a young girl from Malawi, really drove this point home when she spoke about living with HIV/AIDS, and reminded us all that the most powerful policies are those which hold people at their core.
Another speaker, Canadian Red Cross Director General and Vice President, Susan Johnson was in attendance and provided key insights during a panel, which looked at improving health outcomes and understanding all health-related rights for people living in fragile contexts.

 “A reminder – all civilians, including women, adolescents and children, have the right to not be targeted during armed conflict,” Susan says. “But [they also] have the affirmative, internationally recognized right to be protected, and to have their access to humanitarian assistance and health facilities assured.”

As an aspiring humanitarian health care professional, I was particularly interested to hear how high level policy solutions could be informed by experiences in the field.
As I took to the stage to deliver my closing remarks, I found myself reflecting on a passage from John F. Kennedy’s 1963 Peace Speech. He boldly stated that “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” These words, detrimental if ignored and powerful if internalized, continue to be relevant more than half a century later. Neither the health or wealth of any nation, or demographic, can exist in isolation from the rest of society. In discussing the health of our women and children, we were truly discussing the health of all peoples.
Gautham Krishnaraj is a Canadian Red Cross Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) member tasked with engaging youth in international humanitarian assistance. The YAC in an initiative undertaken with the financial support of Global Affairs Canada.  He is also a current RBC Students Leading Change Scholar and MSc Candidate in Global Health at McMaster University.

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