Women's Health Summit at Penn Explores Safe Womanhood in an Unsafe World

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Media Contact:Greg Lester | glester@pobox.upenn.edu | 215-573-6604April 6, 2005

PHILADELPHIA -- In an initiative to generate new solutions to improve the plight of women across the globe, the University of Pennsylvania is convening the Penn Summit on Global Issues in Women's Health: Safe Womanhood in an Unsafe World, April 25-26.   The summit will bring together world leaders in health, human rights, law and education to discuss far-ranging topics that relate directly to the safety and well being of women worldwide.  The meeting is led jointly by Penn's School of Nursing and School of Medicine.

"From wars to disease, from natural disasters to political unrest and poverty, women are expected to care for others and to provide food, clean water, medical care and education for their families no matter how dire the circumstances," said Afaf Meleis, dean of the Penn School of Nursing.  "The purpose of this summit is to draw the best thinkers from around the world to put their knowledge and experience to the task of framing the solutions that will improve the lives of women."

Although women often provide the foundation for societal stability, their ability to contribute productively to their families and society is often compromised by violence, a lack of rights, low social status, marginal health and limited decision-making about their lives and those of their children.  The result is commomplace abuse and sexual predation of women.

"The fact remains that most women have limited access to health care, nutrition, education and employment," Meleis said.  "This summit will confront the most pressing concerns today in women health within the societal context in which it should be addressed."

Among the international luminaries attending the summit are Esohe Aghatise, executive director of Associazione Iroko Onlus, which works to fight the trafficking of women; Unity Dow, author, women's rights advocate and high court judge in Botswana; Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, former UN high commissioner of human rights and current executive director of The Ethical Globalization Initiative; and Stephen Lewis, UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.

The Global Women's Health Initiative and the Penn Summit are being supported by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and contributions from the Carnegie Corporation, Alan and Vivien Hassenfeld and The Hassenfeld Foundation, Stephen and Shahla Raffle, GlaxoSmithKline and Wyeth.  University of Pennsylvania support has been provided by the offices of the President and Provost and by the schools of Nursing and Medicine.

Information on attending the conference attendance along with a schedule and list of speakers are available at www.nursing.upenn.edu/summit.

A press kit is available for download: http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/photos/780/PennSummitpressinfo1.pdf