Education, Health and Community sector service providers came together for the CALD Women's Sexual and Reproductive Health Forum at the Mantra Parramatta for the launch of the 'Research Report and Recommendations for Healthcare Providers and Community Workers.'
The report explored how, if at all, women from migrant and refugee communities accessed sexual and reproductive health services, and their level of education on sexual and reproductive health more broadly.
Speaking to the audience, Community Migrant Resource Centre (CMRC) CEO Melissa Monteiro said, "preventative sexual and reproductive health is something that is not well known among CALD women. Services are very under-utilised by their communities, and this means they lack the education to make positive and beneficial decisions."
The CMRC was key to connecting researchers with the CALD communities, which included a total of 169 women from Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka (Tamil), India (Punjab) and Latin America.
Jane Estoesta from Family Planning NSW spoke of what the diversity of culture and customs within these communities entails for service providers working with them. "The need of CALD women is not homogenous but diverse, we (need) to value and respect diversity without judgement. We need to build the capacity of doctors, nurses and health professionals across board to be able to positively impact these communities." She highlighted that 15% of clients who visited Family Planning clinics across the state spoke languages other than English, "this highlights the importance of providing resources that reach out to these communities."
Revealing some of the findings of the research report, Professor Jane Ussher from Western Sydney University's (WSU) Centre for Health Research spoke of why women and young girls didn't access sexual and reproductive health services and their lack of knowledge. On the issue of menarche and menstruation, Professor Ussher said "we found it was associated with shame and secrecy, when girls went through their first menstrual cycle, they didn't know what was going on, they often hid it from their parents. They would think that they were dying, or that they had some illness, they didn't know about menstruation at all."
Professor Ussher further highlighted responses to questions around contraception, sexual activity, attitudes around sex and female genital cutting. She revealed that "there's a real need, a thirst for information out there. Mother's play a huge role in educating their daughters, and they feel as though they don't have the tools in order to do it, it shows they want sex education for themselves and for their daughters."
Director of NSW Refugee Health Service, Mitchell Smith said "the input and engagement of men is key, at all levels men need to be engaged and working in partnership (with women), otherwise we will keep running into barriers. Teaching young women and men about personal development, about health - and it's not just about sex - it's really about health, this is in my view the right of everyone, to have access to this information."
An electronic copy of the report can be downloaded from the following link: Sexual and Reproductive Health of Migrant and Refugee Women