The 2019 RHWG Annual Meeting took place June 26-28, 2019, at the Armada Hotel, in the old city of Istanbul, Turkey. Thank you to all attendees, session chairs, presenters, and our Program Manager and Consultative Committee for their planning efforts and in helping make the event a great success. This year along with our committed members who returned for this meeting, we welcomed 9 new attendees from Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, and Turkey.
The meeting kicked off on Wednesday June 26 with welcoming remarks from Dr. Jocelyn DeJong, Professor and Associate Dean at the Faculty of Health Sciences, American University of Beirut and Coordinator of RHWG from 2008-2019. She introduced and gave the floor to the keynote speaker of this Annual Meeting, Dr. Nükhet Sirman, retired Professor of Sociology at Boğaziçi University in Turkey and more recently co-founder of a research collective called ‘Dissensus’ which seeks to decode public information in an effort to increase social and political awareness in Turkey. In her thought-provoking opening address Dr. Sirman spoke of the spirit of social sciences and the self-reflection inherent to its teachings of qualitative methods in relation to issues of research objectivity, reliability of research methodology and assessing the validity of research processes.
After 30 years of the network’s existence, the group adopted a slightly different approach for this meeting than for previous meetings. Rather than asking participants to reflect on research findings, they were asked to focus on the research process and the nature of knowledge production on health in general and reproductive health in particular in the region during the current time. Presentations took a reflective lens with researchers presenting on epistemological issues, constraints placed on research by funding agendas, navigating research process restrictions in countries affected by political uncertainty, instability or conflict, and their own role or position vis-a-vis their research and the ensuing ethical implications.
Novel methodological approaches to engaging with research subjects were presented, such as participatory action research among people with mental illness, and community-based theater to explore sensitive sexual and reproductive health topics. The issues of qualitative and quantitative research and working across disciplines were thoroughly deliberated on, focusing on the positive collaborations, the challenges, and how to continue actively encouraging links between medicine, public health, and the social sciences across the board.
Finally, RHWG looked towards its future directions and updated its members on the upcoming transition in governance of the network. The RHWG extended thanks to the host academic institution in Turkey, the Social Policy Forum at Boğaziçi University and Dr. Volkan Yılmaz, Geantes Travel for planning the event, and the International Development Research Centre in Canada for their sponsorship.