Medical Anthropologist Examines Islamic Women's Health Issues

Article excerpt


Dr. Soheir Stolba, president of International Health and Development Associates, spoke on "Women's Issues in Islamic Culture Today" at the San Francisco World Affairs Council on March 30. Egyptian-born Stolba, a medical anthropologist and professor at American River College in Sacramento, discussed her work in the areas of women's reproductive health, contraception, and poverty alleviation in 22 countries, including Jordan, Indonesia, Sudan, Yemen, Morocco, and Egypt.

Stolba began her presentation by noting that "Islam interprets itself somewhat differently" in each country in which she has traveled, in accordance with varying local customs and tradition. She then described her recent work in Yemen where, because many women in small villages have no access to hospitals, she developed a badly needed midwifery program last summer. She believes making available family planning and birth control advice will save the lives of newborns and of many women, who in some Islamic countries have their first child at age 14.

She said her personally most rewarding program was the one she conducted in Yemen several months ago. To her surprise 30 local male tribal leaders attended a workshop she conducted on "gender," which she defined as the relationship between men and women. After overcoming initial resistance to her ideas on respect and equality in marriage, in the generally candid discussions the men eventually were impressed with her ideas and wanted more workshops in the future. …


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