May 28th has been commemorated by women ’s health advocates and their communities since 1987, when during the International Women’s Health Meeting in Costa Rica, Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network (LACWHN) proposed to celebrate May 28 annually as the International Day of Action for Women’s Health. Being the leading regional network LACWHN took the responsibility of promoting and coordinating the regional actions, while Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) being the global network was requested to spearhead May 28 campaign globally. Both networks worked closely together with the group of core active members in coordinating the campaign efforts.
The first Call for Action, a multi-year campaign on preventing maternal mortality and morbidity, was an immediate success and achieved results on several levels, the first being that it provided women’s grassroots organizations with greater access to information that was previously only available through specialized journals. Additionally, the campaign brought to light significant gaps in the research data on women’s health, which resulted in more face-to-face meetings, seminars and research studies. Most importantly, participation in the internationally coordinated campaign brought the women’s health movement closer together at both national and international levels, strengthening the movement’s impact. Concurrently, international bodies like the World Health Organisation, the Pan American Health Organisation and the World Bank took up the issue under the theme of “Safe Motherhood,” encouraging the investment of funds to improve services and sponsoring seminars, training, and research programmes.
Since its inaugural launch in 1987, May 28th has been recognized as the International Day of Action for Women’s Health by several governments, various international agencies and multiple civil society organizations around the world. LACWHN and WGNRR have maintained the campaign through yearly collaborative Calls for Action, each year focusing on a particular topic related to women’s health. The range of topics throughout the years included:
– Access to Quality Health Care
– Feminisation of Poverty
– Access to Safe and Legal Abortion
– Government Accountability in Prioritizing Health Markets
– Health Sector Reform and Women’s Health
– Women and HIV/AIDS
– International Trade Agreements and Women’s Access to Health
– VAW as a Global Health Emergency
– Young People’s SRHR
– Access to Contraceptives
May 28th is a Day of Action recognized internationally wherein any organisation or individual can mobilise their communities around their own priority topic best suiting the local context. Over the years WGNRR has served the needs of its own members by reflecting their priorities for the focus of each annual Call for Action, equipping them with associated campaign materials. Meanwhile LACWHN has developed its own Call for Action with its regional membership. Other women’s health activists commemorate May 28th independently developing their own themes and materials reflecting the issues important to their stakeholders. Any organsation working to advance women’s health rights is welcome to launch May 28th activities, in the aim of ensuring women’s health and well-being worldwide, particularly in terms of their SRHR.