May 28 International Day of Action for Women’s Health

May 28 International Day of Action for Women’s Health

Health clearly reflects the many inequities of women’s daily lives. Nevertheless, the true extent of these disparities were not understood until very recently when gender perspective explained how the social constructs of female and male account for men’s position of domination and privilege and women’s subordination and unequal access to resources and social services. Furthermore, this asymmetry between the sexes seriously impedes women’s ability to exercise their right to health.

Inspired from the beginning by this new, feminist vision of women’s health care, the women’s health movement demanded that the health sector establish programs which incorporate not only biological differences between women and men, but also gender differences.

In this context, the International Day of Action for Women’s Health–commemorated each May 28- was established in response to women’s urgent need for optimal health care throughout their lives, taking into account the factor of gender.

This Day of Action was established in 1987 in San Jose, Costa Rica, during a meeting organized by the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR). At this gathering, the Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network (LACWHN) proposed the creation of a day for international action.

It was decided that women’s groups in each country would organize local campaigns, highlighting issues related to maternal mortality and morbidity. This day of raising public awareness about maternal deaths has changed over the years to include not only denunciations and protests but also proposals and invitations to those in other social sectors to join in the struggle. In this way, we gained the political support of health professionals and academics who took up the cause of women’s health.

In 1995, after a number of years of WGNRR’s and LACWHN’s joint coordination of the May 28 campaign, it became necessary to evaluate our achievements. WGNRR initiated a global review by region which resulted in a consensus to reformulate the focus of this traditional campaign. Although maternal mortality continues to be a serious health problem for women–above all in certain parts of Asia, Central America and especially Africa–it was necessary to incorporate new issues which had arisen from social and economic transformations taking place in many countries which were having a negative impact on women’s lives and health.

From then on and in accordance with the agreement reached at the evaluation meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean (Cuenca, Ecuador, 1996), women’s organizations in our region began the Campaign for the Exercise of Sexual and Reproductive Rights, taking measures to ensure that this revolutionary paradigm–which largely emerged from the efforts of the international women’s movement–continues in full force.

The broad conceptual focus of the Campaign has allowed for the incorporation of numerous topics, according to the priorities of each country or region. The campaign Calls for Action reflect this diversity.

May 28 Calls for Action, since 1996

* 1996–9th Call for Action: Maternal Mortality and Morbidity, Evaluating Eight Years of Campaign to Keep Advancing.

* 1997–Access to Quality Health Care, A Woman’s Right.

* 1998–Access to Quality Health Care, A Woman’s Right.

* 1999–Access for Adolescents to Sexual and Reproductive Health Education, Information and Services.

* 2000–Access for Adolescents to Sexual and Reproductive Health Education, Information and Services.

* 2001–Women’s Right to Health: A Civil Right.

* 2002–Citizens Speak Out: Health is Our Civil Right!

* 2003–Maternal Mortality: An Issue of Human Rights, A Matter of Social Justice.

May 28 Campaigns: Participating Groups and Countries *

1996 1997 1998 1999

25 groups 25 groups 40 groups 106 groups

11 countries 10 countries 14 countries 15 countries

Argentina Argentina Argentina Argentina

Bolivia Chile Bolivia Bolivia

Chile Colombia Brazil Brazil

Costa Rica Costa Rica Colombia Chile

Ecuador Dominican Costa Rica Colombia


El Salvador Ecuador Ecuador Costa Rica

Guatemala Mexico Guatemala Dominican


Mexico Nicaragua Honduras Ecuador

Nicaragua Paraguay Mexico Honduras

Peru Uruguay Nicaragua Mexico

Puerto Rico Paraguay Nicaragua

Peru Peru

Puerto Rico Puerto Rico


2000 2001 2002

150 groups 119 groups 170 groups

14 countries 12 countries 14 countries

Argentina Argentina Argentina

Bolivia Bolivia Bolivia

Brazil Brazil Brazil

Chile Chile Chile

Colombia Colombia Colombia

Costa Rica Costa Rica Costa Rica

Dominican Dominican Ecuador

Republic Republic

Ecuador Mexico Haiti

Mexico Nicaragua Mexico

Nicaragua Peru Nicaragua

Peru Uruguay Peru

Puerto Rico Venezuela Puerto Rico

Uruguay Uruguay

Venezuela Venezuela

* table prepared by Ana Maria Pizarro, SI Mujer

COPYRIGHT 2003 Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network

COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group