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The OBOS Global Network

The 9th International Women and Health Meeting Toronto, August 2002

Womenís groups throughout the world have created their own editions of Womenís groups throughout the world have created their own editions of Our Bodies, Ourselves (OBOS)The individuals who work on these projects collectively comprise the OBOS Global Network. OBOS Global Network members participated in two meetings at the 9th International Women and Health Meeting held in Toronto in August 2002. The first was a morning presentation given by Network members for conference attendees, and the second, an afternoon gathering for those women already involved in translations and adaptations, or planning for the near future. The following is a summary of the morning program and afternoon meeting of the OBOS Network.

Jane Pincus, OBOS, U.S.

Toronto 1

Women from Senegal, Moldova, Bulgaria, Poland, Japan, Turkey, Brazil, the Tibetan Nuns Project (located in India) and a Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Vidas outreach workshop leader spoke about their ongoing projects and plans.

Toronto 2

Codou Bop from the Groupe de Recherche sur les femmes et les lois, Senegal, held in her hands the handsome book she has worked on for so long, Notre Corps, Notre Santť, the first of its kind to come out in Francophone Africa. Inspired by Our Bodies, Ourselves (OBOS), it differs greatly in its social, political and economic contexts. It began as a book written by professionals with medical training. The perspective of these women was very different from the concerns of lay women and their lives and work at the grassroots level. Eventually, a womenís group took over and transformed the book, which now takes into account how African women are shaped from the day they are born. Some distribution concerns are that most of the women in the target groups do not speak French, and that it must reach into Africa and beyond to immigrant women in the U.S., in Haiti and in Montreal, among other places.

Alona Dorosh from the National Womenís Studies and Information Center, Moldova, was proud of her countryís new independence. They translated both OBOS and Sacrificing Ourselves for Love (SOFL), the latter a direct translation, the former adapted, medically focused, and structured to fit Moldovan reality. They were able to give one book free of charge to every womenís NGO in the country. The translation process was pleasant and easy, and they had a good relationship with their publisher.

Joanna Puzewicz from Network of East-West Women - Polska, Poland, hopes their book will come out in 2003. There will be seven sections including medical procedures, sexuality, reproductive rights and older women. The politics will of course be adapted to Polish womenís needs. In this post-communist society, women and girls have little information and have serious medical problems. In this Catholic country, it is difficult to publicly discuss issues such as abortion, so topics in OBOS are sometimes quite controversial. Thereís a great lack of respect in maternity centers for birthing women. Some of the groupís special achievements include the following: By the end of June 2002, a series of leaflets as well as a network of Polish womenís organizations had been created; a popular singing star is donating the equivalent of $1.00 (US) on each sale of her current CD; NEWW is making good use of the Internet for distribution of materials, evaluation, and feedback, with a spectacular website that contains a calendar in Polish and English as a tool for political action. In Poland, even rural women have access to the Internet, supplied by the government, and every year, more people get access.

Marlies Bosch spoke about the Tibetan Nunsí Project in India. There are thousands of refugee nuns throughout India and Nepal. They have had little education and are very eager to learn. Some topics of particular interest to them are: their own culture, issues from the world outside the nunneries, celibacy, growing older, hygiene (it is necessary to cook meals for hundreds of people) and health problems related to their spiritual practice, such as sitting for long hours in zazen. There is a centuries-old history of Tibetan medicine to be learned and assimilated. Some nuns have already been trained to be health workers, and they will teach other nuns. The goal of this project is to create pamphlets on each subject, perhaps with one version for Tibetan women and the other specifically for the nuns.

Miho Ogino from Shokado Womenís Bookstore, Japan said that the owner of Shokado translated and published 6,000 copies of the Japanese language OBOS in 1988. Over a period of three years, about fifty women participated on a voluntary basis. Though itís out of print, itís not out of date or forgotten. Each womenís center and library has a copy. It is encouraging and stimulating for lesbians and for women with disabilities and has become an inspiration for other groups in all areas. Many good new books have since been written. The former atmosphere of shame and secrecy has been dispersed to a considerable degree. Many changes are taking place in institutions, and the individual members of the translation/adaptation teams have been profoundly affected personally, viewing themselves in a more positive and loving way. They have also translated SOFL, another precious experience of participation.

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Thanks to Marlies Bosch for giving us permission to post these photographs. Marlies has many great photos from the 9th Annual Women in Health Meeting, held in Toronto Aug 12-16, 2002. You can see some of her photos at her website www.boschphotography.com or contact her at mar.bosch@freeler.nl.






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