a multidisciplinary capacity-building network

The Reproductive Health Working Group (RHWG) is a multidisciplinary capacity-building network, founded in the late 1980s in Cairo, Egypt as a regional initiative to bring together research on women’s health in the social context of the Arab countries and Turkey.

Now having been sustained for over 30 years, it is composed of women and men from, or based in, different countries of the region, and includes physicians, nurses and midwives, public health experts, social scientists (statisticians, economists, anthropologists) and a range of other specialists.

a strong committee

It is a flexible operation, led by a part time coordinator from the Faculty of Health Sciences, American University of Beirut (FHS/AUB), a volunteer consultative committee composed of Professor Huda Zurayk from FHS/AUB, the founder of the network; Professor Belgin Tekce from Bozagici University in Turkey; Dr. Hyam Bashour from Syria; Dr. Atf Gherissi from Tunis-El Manar University, and Rita Giacaman from the Institute of Community and Public Health, Birzeit University.

improving health conditions and the health system in the region

The network engages in research for the production of evidence to help in improving health conditions and the health system in the region, focusing on reproductive health. In the process, the network deliberately includes younger researchers, often as they return to the region from doctoral programs elsewhere, and assists them in completing research that is relevant and important for the region.

conceptualizing health

At the annual meeting, members present their work to each other, beginning sometimes with the proposal writing stage, all the way to the presentation of results. This forum is extremely helpful in providing critique to writers in a supportive environment, and has proven to be instrumental in capacity building. Moreover, over time, members have been able to collectively develop more appropriate frameworks for conceptualizing health in the region, based on our research and also our lived experiences, and have been developing measures which correspond to the new frameworks.

OUR themes

Themes are usually derived from discussions of what the researchers themselves and their colleagues in their settings have been working on, or what they are interested in working on in the future. We combine the views from the floor, which are solicited the year before each meeting, with additions from the Committee focusing on relevance, but also on themes that emerge as important in a region that is undergoing major change.

These themes are based on either existing, or sometimes collaborative work among the different countries, as is the case with childbirth; or on new themes with identified speakers. Conflict and political violence as a contextual parameter has been a recurring theme.