8 projects to increase vital knowledge about women's health

To mark International Women’s Day 2018, Charli Colegate from our Humanities & Social Science team highlights eight projects Wellcome is funding to explore the health experiences of women from different backgrounds around the world.

We fund a wide range of work that explores women’s health, both contemporary and historical, on subjects ranging from research ethics and women’s role in medical training to abortion stigma, female genital cutting and the health of women migrants and prisoners. This is a snapshot of some of the projects we support.

1.

Mhairi Gibson and team have been developing an important new methodology related to uncovering the prevalence of female genital cutting (FGC). FGC has a huge impact on women’s health and is a major concern for public health policy makers. The team’s indirect questioning method has revealed the extent to which people publicly hide their views on FGC. These insights can be used to help develop more effective interventions.

Mhairi says: "We got lots of positive feedback from global policy makers and practitioners on both the methods and findings, and at a stakeholder workshop last October to the Ethiopian government, NGOs and academics in Addis Ababa. There was lots of interest in the methods being used for policy/intervention monitoring and evaluation."

The team’s new technique could potentially be used to identify under-reporting of another form of gender based violence – intimate partner violence.

2.

Carrie Purcell at the University of Glasgow is exploring the relationship between female sexuality and the stigmatisation of abortion. There is a growing body of scholarship from the USA which demonstrates that stigma, underpinned by health inequalities, creates barriers for women seeking essential healthcare and contributes to the medical and social marginalisation of abortion.

Carrie and her team aim to use existing qualitative datasets to explore manifestations of abortion stigma in the UK.

3.

Maureen Kelley is leading a collaboration between bioethicists, social scientists, and clinical researchers in the UK, Kenya, South Africa and Thailand. Their work addresses critical gaps in practical ethics guidance for responsible research with women, children and families in low-income countries.

The researchers hope to provide evidence-based, creative approaches to research ethics guidance. Their aim is to better support research aimed at lessening the burden of disease shouldered by especially vulnerable women, children and families worldwide.

4.

Janet Greenlees at Glasgow Caledonian University has a Seed Award to do a pilot project as the first phase of a larger project on the international history of antenatal care. In addition to archival research, she has been working with the Poverty Alliance to try to capture maternity stories from women living in poverty.

Janet says: "Women wished they had more information about their bodies, how pregnancy affected their bodies (both physically and emotionally), their healthcare options and their entitlements from the state. Emotionally, they would have appreciated it if a healthcare professional would have raised the issue of domestic violence, the baby blues and postnatal depression and that greater emotional support was available. In short, they felt marginalised as new mothers living in poverty, with assumptions made about their knowledge of maternity and available services, as well as their circumstances."

5.

Angela Davies at University of Warwick has spent the past few years researching the child-bearing and child-rearing experiences of Jewish women living in England and Israel in the second half of the 20th century.

You can read about some of her work in Religion & Gender and Women’s History Review.

6.

Jo Vearey and team at the University of Witwatersrand are investigating migrant health in the Southern African region. Jo and her team use a variety of creative and arts-based research methods to elicit women’s experiences. These include producing ‘Zines with migrant women who sell sex, and poetry writing with members of the LGBTIQ migrant community in Johannesburg.

Jo and researcher Tackson Makandwa have published work based on interviews with 15 Zimbabwean women and their experiences of accessing the healthcare system in Johannesburg during pregnancy and childbirth.

7.

As part of a larger project exploring prisoners and medical care in England and Ireland from 1850-2000, Catherine Cox, Hilary Marland and team have shed light on women’s experiences in the prison system. Rachel Bennet is working on women and maternity in prison.

Their exhibition about Holloway Prison, which was the largest women's prison in England, is touring libraries in Islington, London, from now until October 2018.

8.

Kathleen Vongsathorn has a fellowship to explore women’s role in the spread and adoption of biomedical knowledge in Uganda in the 20th century. While women rarely appear as authors or actors in medical reports from Uganda in this period, in reality women medical professionals outnumbered their male counterparts in most early colonial medical institutions. Women were responsible for, and helped with, the medical training of Ugandan women and men, and also for educating the broader Ugandan public about health.

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